dear latimes: this is a photo of Jennifer Egan

Dear Los Angeles Times,

Regarding your headlines* today on the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the photo you posted is not Jennifer Egan. In addition, I would also like to point out that you mention the name of Mr. Franzen’s novel, the one that didn’t win but it’s true was written by a male, while you merely allude to the novel that in fact won the award as “work.” Granted, A Visit From the Goon Squad has more words in it, but it did win. May I suggest the following changes:

Egan Wins National Book Critics Circle’s fiction prize

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad bests Jonathan Franzen’s work. The nonfiction award goes to ‘The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.’




cross-posted on The Contrary Blog

36 thoughts on “dear latimes: this is a photo of Jennifer Egan

  1. Pingback: Dear Los Angeles Times, this is a photo of Jennifer Egan — Contrary Blog

  2. First time on your blog and I really appreciate your LA Times letter–I hope you sent it! I look forward to checking back, and sharing a table with you at VCFA again in the summer.


  3. The only consolation I take from this is that the photo of Franzen is of poor quality. Especially compared to the clear and pleasing one you’ve posted of Egan. I hope you will send your corrections to the LATimes and that they will publish it.


  4. During International Women’s Week (or whatever it is called), no less. I truly hope you sent it to the LA Times. Obviously, they have balls, but enough to print it?


  5. Haven’t read j egan’s book yet and I liked franzen’s BUT have to agree w/ offensiveness of headline. body of article seems ok though. NOTE appears headline has changed!


  6. Hear hear! You are awesome for raising it with them, and getting the photo changed.

    I also loved Freedom, and have not yet read Egan’s book (but plan too). I’m very sensitive about gender disparities right now though. The last few weeks I’ve been noticing a LOT of it in my academic work.


    • Who knows what got them to change the photo, but at least they did. Too bad they didn’t see fit to call themselves on it or make the other adjustments. A Visit From the Goon Squad is brilliant. I hope to have time to write a post on it tomorrow. Thanks for your comment, Cherry. Wonderful recent post : )


  7. Congratulations.

    There’s a post on the LA Times about the change:

    I love the “mistakes were made” backpedaling from the photo editor.

    “Online photo editor Jerome Adamstein gave a possible reason for the use of the Franzen photo, which was taken by a Times photographer in September. There were no Times photos of Egan. And, he said, “AP has a single posed portrait from 2006 that was publisher-supplied.” There was nothing more current available.

    However, Adamstein conceded, “It is odd not to see the winner, even if it’s an older image.”

    He then swapped out the photo of Franzen for the 2006 photo of Egan along with the cover of her book.”

    Possible reason?

    No one is willing to own this screw-up, but they fixed it so I guess that’s enough.


  8. Thanks to Fred, who posted the link last night to yesterday’s LATimes Blog post about their original announcement of the Egan win:

    The LATimes printed comments from three letters they received, one of which was mine–very cool.

    If you have time, take a look at the post for the great points made by the other two readers.

    In 2 lines, the post agrees that the readers have a point. “Why show an author who didn’t win?”

    A full paragraph then defends the omission of the title of the winning work of fiction as a “lesser offense” because it was “intended to point out the upset victory over a more widely known work.” Freedom, the post states, has been on the LATimes Bestseller List for 27 weeks as opposed to A Visit From the Goon Squad’s 5 weeks. Perhaps if we used the words A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD a little more often, it would have more weeks on the Bestseller list. Perhaps if Egan had been on the cover of Time Magazine, her book would have more weeks on the Bestseller list.

    The Blog appears to be representative of the paper. I assume the LATimes pays Deirdre Edgar, who wrote the post. Yet there’s no apology to Egan for showing a photo of the loser on the day after she wins the award. I hope Egan wins many more and that that paper in LA has a chance to make it up to her.

    In any event, it’s good to know that the author of the original article, to which I had no objection, neither writes the headlines nor chooses the photos.


  9. I am late to this but no less appreciative than anyone else of your wonderful calling out, Cynthia. That LA Times, they really are still stuck back in the days of the Chandler family despite being out of it for a long time.

    How could anyone there write that headline without seeing what it really said? Idiots. Yet another in a long line of examples that show why what was once one of the top newspapers in the country is a laughing stock that becomes more of a bad joke every day.


    • Thanks, Lauren. It’s amazing to me that anyone in journalism would not be sensitive to this issue. That ignorance proves just how much we need to keep pointing out such incidences until everyone is aware.


  10. What I glean from this thread: it’s so important to take the extra step and speak out. Good job, Cynthia. This is literary citizenship at work. I look forward to future posts on Jennifer Egan and her well-deserved success.


  11. Looking for something Egan said about revision, I came across an interview posted on April 2 on’s Shelf Life, in which Stephan Lee asked her about her response to this controversy:

    There was a bit of an online outcry when an LA Times article ran a story about your NBCC Award win but pictured Jonathan Franzen instead, as if his loss were the bigger story than your win. What was your response to that?

    It was funny; by the time I knew of the brouhaha, it seemed to have taken on a life of its own. In a way, whatever aggravation I might have felt was preempted by the fact that so many other people were incensed on my behalf! I did think that the Times’ excuse — “We didn’t have a picture of her” — was a bit Old Media. I mean, there are lots of pictures of all of us out there, and it takes all of a millisecond to find them. The outcry points to the intense frustration many people feel on behalf of female writers, and I’ve certainly shared that frustration at times. I think that all discussions of this sort are useful — messy and awkward though they may be. I guess I’m a believer in open airing of collective grievances, rather than private seething.

    For the entire interview:


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