News Cycle

A look at the news, politics and journalism in today’s 24-hour media.

A Touch of Gray in the Post and Times

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My friends who are not in journalism often ask me if newspapers, especially the major ones, confer on an agenda that they want to push on any particular day. Of course that’s nonsense. Matter-of-fact, what The New York Times and The Washington Post are going to publish with their enterprising projects are closely held secrets.

Or are they????

This morning we were treated with not one, but two prominent feature stores about President Barack Obama’s ever-so-slightly increasing touch of gray that he is developing on his scalp. One story was in the Post, the other was in the Times.


Helene Cooper of the Times wrote on the front page:

WASHINGTON — Well, that didn’t take long. Just 44 days into the job, and President Obama is going gray.

It happens to all of them, of course — Bill Clinton still had about half a head of brown hair when he took office but was a silver fox two years later, and George W. Bush went from salt and pepper to just salt in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

But so soon? “I started noticing it toward the end of the campaign and leading up to inauguration,” says Deborah Willis, who, as co-author of “Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs,” pored through 5,000 photographs of the first head over the last year.

Mr. Obama’s graying is still of the flecked variety, and appears to wax and wane depending on when he gets his hair cut, which he does about every two weeks. His barber, who goes by only one name, Zariff, takes umbrage with bloggers who alternately claim Mr. Obama, 47, is dyeing his hair gray (to appear more distinguished) or dyeing it black (to appear younger). “I can tell you that his hair is 100 percent natural,” Zariff said. “He wouldn’t get it colored.”

And for all of his 16 years giving Mr. Obama his “quo vadis” haircut — black parlance from the 1960s for close-cut locks — Zariff said he is not about to start ribbing Mr. Obama. “We do not tease about the gray at all,” he said.

Phillip Rucker of the Post had this to say on his Page C1 story “Obama’s Other Gray Matter”:

Are times so stressful — a plummeting economy and two wars — that our young president is going grayer a mere six weeks into the job?

Maybe 754 days is more like it. That’s how long it’s been, if you can believe it, since a baby-faced senator stood in the winter chill in Springfield, Ill., to declare his candidacy for president. With each debate, after every primary fight, it seems Barack Obama’s tightly clipped hair became just a dash saltier.

“The gray, it’s not a whole lot, but he has a few strands,” explained Zariff, the president’s Chicago barber for 17 years, who goes by a single name. “It’s quite normal for his age group.”

And it’s an article of faith, backed by photographic evidence, that the Oval Office ages the men in it. Look no further than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Obama, 47, foresaw his own arrival at a stage of hair life many men prefer to describe as “distinguished.”

“Seniors, listen up. I’m getting gray hair myself,” Obama quipped at a campaign stop in Indiana last spring.

“The gray is coming quick,” he told supporters a few months later in Colorado. “By the time I’m sworn in, I will look the part.”

Same feature, same day, and even the same source? Has Zariff ever gotten such great publicity on one day?

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Written by newscycle

March 5, 2009 at 3:54 pm

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