Hook Publishes Playboy Photos

The Hook has a montage of tiny nude photos in its current issue, Liza Palka points out for CBS-19. The article is about UVA students who wound up in Playboy (such as in their “Girls of the ACC” feature) and how their future careers panned out. (Which turns out to be as successful attorneys, generally.) Palka does seem to be attempting to gin up controversy—she says that the image “has Charlottesville buzzing” and and is “causing controversy,” but the only reader who appears to care is a UVA student, who describes the appearance of the nude female body as “horrendous”—though it is fair to point out that featuring full frontal nudity in a Charlottesville newspaper is a bit unusual.

The image in question includes twenty images containing nudity, fourteen including breasts, three bottoms bared to an extent that probably wouldn’t be permitted on network TV, and six instances of more-or-less exposed genitalia. The images are pretty small—the biggest bits of nudity I see are 4mm of pubic hair and a pair of 1cm wide breasts—so this doesn’t exactly constitute an anatomy lesson. Another image features tastefully-placed flowers (though the flower doesn’t quite cover the girl on the left), presumably because those images are significantly larger—and thus detailed—than the montage. Palka asked Hook editor Hawes Spencer what the thinking was behind including the images, who said that they help to illustrate the article, and that the paper’s staff didn’t regard them as inappropriate for their own children to view in the paper.

This isn’t quite a parallel, but a personal media pet peeve is stories about an offensive word—such as the lengthy federal court case over U2’s Bono declaring at the Golden Globes that winning an award was “fucking brilliant”—in which the media outlets refuse to utter the word in question, which often leaves the audience wondering what, precisely, we’re all supposed to be so upset about. There’s certainly logic in showing images from Playboy in an article about UVA girls posing nude in Playboy—otherwise it’s tough to assess what, exactly, they’d gotten themselves into—though whether that logic trumps standards of decency for a publication will surely vary from reader to reader.

57 Responses to “Hook Publishes Playboy Photos”


  • What’s sleezy about this is the story at CBS-19 not the reporting in the Hook.

  • Was that a question or a statement?

    The prudes need to “get over it.” It’s a whole lot about nothing.

  • Self-Appointed Expert on Everything

    Hawes Spencer’s act is getting tiresome. So much vanity journalism. Here’s a picture of the bonfire in my backyard, here’s a picture of the pond in my neighborhood, here’s an article about dredging the pond in my neighborhood…I mean good lord, enough already.

    Now he has graduated to shock value: gratuitous comments about jet planes diving into Scott Stadium and using his high school collection of Playboys to needlessly illustrate an article.

    The shame of it is that The Hook does some terrific reporting; they don’t need all this garbage thrown in alongside.

  • “…but the only reader who appears to care is a UVA student, who describes the appearance of the nude female body as “horrendous”…”

    Wait… what??? I’d say those pictures are gorgeous. What kind of odd standard of aesthetics are involved here?

    Oh, nevermind, prudishness trumps appreciation of what is natural.

    *facepalm*

    Nudity is nothing shameful or harmful. Can we please, as a society, move on?

  • Well this doesn’t surprise me. UVA went to hell in a handbasket years ago. Oh, where is Jerry Falwell when you need him???

  • I was actually offended (or more accurately- grossed out) by the cover photo of a skinned pig head in C-Ville a few weeks ago. My question is this…if the editor didn’t think the photo would offend- or may be inappropriate for kids- why did he choose to run it so small?

  • Hey, they’re the best thing to come out of UVA in a long time.

  • Falwell was last seen drinking Campari in an outhouse with his mum.

    Oh, wait, wrong magazine–that wasn’t Playboy. ;-)

  • I’m afraid Waldo the angry vocal minority will win out on this one and force the article to come down and try to raise havoc for the Hook and probably you too for putting the picture on YOUR web-site. This is an age old battle, and as an artist I’ve seen it play out many times, and in our country, unlike Europe the prudes usually win out because they cause such a fuss and we elect prudish politicians to support them. All in the name of protecting children. Just think all the good they could do if they put this energy into causes that truly protect children– health care, ending hunger, and poverty, and violence both in and out of the home.

  • This isn’t the first time there’s been a “controversy” about nudity. Remember when the photo was published of the girl streaking the lawn? People will be shocked for all of a week and then they’ll forget about it.

    As for Falwell, his minions know not to mess with Charlottesville anymore…

  • Is anyone else having trouble getting the online article at the Hook to come up —maybe just my computer ?

  • Yes TJ, the link is suddenly not working.

    “Recent Comments” is not working.

    “Breakings News and Features” is also not working.

    They might as well take their site offline until they get the bugs worked out.

  • This may be an attempt to limit free expression –call in the Rutherford Institute . We must not let this happen !

  • What’s next for The Hook, Enquirer-esque headlines? Oprah hits 250 lbs.? I say Charlottesville should be proud and embrace its…ahem, assets.

  • I’m afraid Waldo the angry vocal minority will win out on this one and force the article to come down and try to raise havoc for the Hook and probably you too for putting the picture on YOUR web-site.

    Me? I can’t see what the point would be. :) I have no advertisers. No distributors. I’m not running for any office. Clearly I’m not shy about protecting my right to free expression. It’d be a big ol’ waste of time.

  • Found this comment at the DP site. Excellent point, and if Harris Teeter and CVS are pulling the Hook off the shelves let’s all boycott them. As this reader says they better start searching the titles and pictures in all their publications.

    Posted by ( mistymoon ) on September 18, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I see nothing wrong with the photo’s. Playboy is a tasteful publication. If a child does pick up the Hook they have seen this before. The internet is there for the taking. Kids send pictures like this through their cell phones.I have two I know. Did I like it? No, but I am an informed parent who does not keep her head in the sand.The American culture is really quite prudish when it comes to nudity. Like the other posts, cosmo headlines say do this for great sex….whats the difference. I support the editor of the Hook for this publication. You can’t please everyone. I was not offended by this publication at all.

  • Someone also blogged that they were upset there was a Shenanigans Ad across from the photos–to tell you the truth I would never have seen that ad, but now that I know there’s a Fall sidewalk sale there I’m heading over to do my Christmas shopping –let’s all do the same and say we’re here thanks to the Hook !

  • And all the people trying to protect their children are doing the opposite by making this a big deal, bet every kid in town whose never heard of the Hook is running out to get a copy –and by the way, if you don’t have a copy yet better hurry this will be a collectors item some day and may pay your kids college education

  • Hey Nancy- do you work for the Hook, or does it only seem that way?

  • “Now [Spencer] has graduated to shock value: gratuitous comments about jet planes diving into Scott Stadium” … I beg to differ on this one. I was at a Tuesday afternoon meeting near Alumni Hall when one of those flights went by overhead so loudly that it scared the crap out of us. When I lived near Miramar Naval Air Station I expected that now and then, but not in C’ville… so some explanation was welcome.

  • Not nearly as offensive as the Hook’s deference to their advertiser, ACAC, in their “reporting” on McIntire Park.

  • Most offensive: we talk much more about this than about closing three elementary schools or the county’s (next) revenue shortfall.

  • This might be a good time to (re)read some Lenny Bruce. I recommend the bit called Blah Blah blah for starters.

  • Most offensive: we talk much more about this than about closing three elementary schools or the county’s (next) revenue shortfall.

    Amen to what Oniss wrote!!!

  • After removing the Hook from the shelves of Harris Teeter– look what’s still there ( see pic # 7 )

    http://www.readthehook.com/galleries/galleryShow.aspx?galleryURL=http://www.readthehook.com/galleries/2009/09/Artthroughtheages/

  • On the one hand, I just don’t care in the slightest. I am not remotely offended or shocked by any of this.

    On the other hand, it all looks like kind of a, dare I say, naked attempt to stir up attention for the Hook. A paper which I generally support, but this week will not bother to read on account of not wanting to reward desperate attention seeking behavior.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB-wmOYelnM

  • As I believe someone pointed out, the Hook had the same thing happen a few years back, when they ran some full-frontal pictures of female streakers.
    Harris Teeter pulled that issue too.
    Also remember Cville ran a picture of a nude male/female couple using an ATM machine- don’t recall whether there was any flap over this couple “mooning” the reaaders.

  • I don’t think anyone (sorry, almost anyone) is objecting to the photos themselves or any nude art, but there is some objection to the Hook including it in its content. As parents or observers, nobody (including Hawes apparently) knows what that thing is trying to be. I probably agree with those who say society is harmfully too prudish on this issue but why have the debate unannounced in a publication with Shenanigan’s ads, suduko, and other generally childish and child friendly material?
    I, for one, will not be advertising in there until I have some clue what it is.

  • How many children are reading this publication ? Are you also upset about all the other nude adds that regularly show up under the guise of lingerie, alcohol, car and perfume sales in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, Cosmopolitan and I could go on and on. Do you read any of these publications ?

  • why have the debate unannounced in a publication with Shenanigan’s ads, suduko, and other generally childish and child friendly material?

    To be fair, though, there’s nothing about The Hook that says “hey, kids, read this.” Shenanigans’ ads are clearly not targeted to children, but to their parents. Suduko is popular among adults–I don’t think that newspapers across the country have started carrying it in the past decade to get more children reading it. :)

  • the day that the hook shows some full-frontal male nudity is the day that the hook can make a claim to breaking some sort of prudish boundary. The female body has long been used and abused in the media and society at large. Playboy, the hook, hustler, etc., etc., etc.

    Hawes Spencer could well grow a pair and show a pair, but that will be the day someone actually pays money for the hook: never.

  • you know, “show some balls,” i was thinking the same thing… women’s bodies are everywhere. the football season has begun, and i’m sure those GoDaddy ads will be in full force before you know it. not exactly groundbreaking stuff by the hook. i mean, it’s photos of other photos anyway.

  • The Hook and the editor are just always wanting antention. I’m not against the nudity even with the free distribution of the newspaper. It’s the desparate attempt by the Hook to be relevant or noticed. The advertisers of the paper should be ashaimed to support a paper that published based on questionable journalism.

  • Anthro,
    I am not upset, and no, I do not read Cosmopolitan. I am quite sure there is a difference between the photographs in Playboy and the advertisements (1 “d”, by the way) in the NY Times and Washington Post. That’s what Playboy’s fans are purchasing.

    I, for one, know several kids who do the soduko in the Hook regularly. Kids routinely look at accessible items that do not shout “look at me, kid” because those items give them a window into mommy and daddy’s world. The Hook is squarely in this category. Now parents will play defense at Bodo’s or wherever – not necessarily b/c this particular article was so terrible but because it’s clear that the Hook does not know what it is. Thus, parents can’t possibly know what might be in it from week to week.

  • I, for one, know several kids who do the soduko in the Hook regularly. Kids routinely look at accessible items that do not shout “look at me, kid”

    And I wouldn’t claim otherwise. But your assertion was that The Hook is a publication with advertisements and features designed to interest children, and my point is that this is not so. It looks like we agree. :)

  • Sort of Waldo. Designed to attract children and very likely to attract children are 2 different things. I have no idea what the Hook is designed to do and do not assert that anything in the Hook is designed to interest children. I do know that children read it b/c I SEE them reading it as it is available for free at the Little Gym, Bodo’s, the Grocery Store, the Downtown Mall.
    That’s kind of the problem with a lot of things these days: if you say that was not the design, or the intent, then you’re immune to any responsibility for the very predictable unintended consequences and collateral effects.
    Excuses, ideology, and wants can shamelessly trump responsibility even among people who voluntarily take on position of responsibility (e.g. the owner and publisher of the Hook).

  • Thanks Frank…my sentiments exactly. You can’t tell me that the powers that be at the Hook didn’t know full well that there’d be the outcry that would come as a result of their decision to publish these photo’s. The conversation is a good one for this community to have…but that doesn’t mean Hawes should be commended were he to put a sheet over his head and parade around the downtown mall carrying a racist placard in support of free speech. What would kids think? It’s simply a case of maturity. I’m not equating racism with nudity- the point is freedom of speech can have intended consequences and this entire episode is a good example. Most adults have seen Playboy magazine at least once in their life and we all sort of knew what the story was about without having the photo’s there. I do think that parents of some younger children (like under 10) who inadvertantly saw these “provocative” poses have a reason to be upset.

  • I’ll bet there is a miniscule proportion of the population parents or otherwise who would find the article in the Hook upsetting. The photos are tiny and they are there to illustrate the text which is a story about the achievements of these women.

    Unfortunately, we are living in an age where the fringe groups are using any issue to get attention and most poeple couldn’t care less about this and find the Hook both entertaining and informative and probably didn’t even notice the photos until the other news media made a story of it .

  • Self-Appointed Expert on Everything

    So Anthropologist, are you saying that Hawes Spencer and others at The Hook are a fringe group? Because it seems to me they are using any issue to get attention.

  • Anthro:
    Maybe that’s the issue – you find the Hook both entertaining and informative.
    Like many others, I happen to have connections and information regarding 3 or 4 topics repeatedly covered by the Hook at different times over the years. Their reporting was entertaining and grossly misinforming. As to my stake in those topics, the misinformation either helped or was generally neutral. It was, nonetheless, an uncomfortable feeling to know that there was a publication that might report on individuals, organizations, children that is so lacking in basic fact checking, self-critique, or patience.
    If I was you I would be more skeptical of the information I get from a source that is intended to entertain me and, even on occassion, sell ads to people involved in the topics they are reporting about.
    From the little I’ve seen, this blog takes a more responsible approach, as does Cville Tomorrow, and, thank goodness, word of mouth.
    Any particular article, cover or whatever from the Hook might be an entertaining, whimiscal look at a topic or it might be their opinion, stance on a topic, or it might be their alleged reporting. They feel no responisbility to say what they claim it to be and seem to have found an audience that does not mind. We’re all lucky Haws has the right to do it and should be glad he takes the initiative to do something in this arena. But we’re also lucky to have the right to criticize the Hook. By the way, that right and its value does not depend on whether we’re in the fringe or not. That’s kind of the point.
    Sorry for the civics lesson and preaching.

  • This is how Hawes works: Whatever suits his short-term needs or whims goes into his newspaper. The Hook is his vanity project, his vehicle to get back at the C-Ville for firing him years ago. If Hawes wants to nurse a grudge, tilt at a windmill, run a joke into the ground or beat a dead horse, or, in this case, get people talking with some tittie pictures, he’s going to do it. The Hook has no interest in a cohesive idea of “journalism” or “editorial mission.” I agree with Frank… the point is not whether we are offended by boobs or not. The point is, what is the point of the Hook?

  • We can beat Tech in this sport!

  • “Whatever suits his short-term needs or whims goes into his newspaper. The Hook is his vanity project [...]. If Hawes wants to nurse a grudge, tilt at a windmill, run a joke into the ground or beat a dead horse, or, in this case, get people talking with some tittie pictures, he’s going to do it. The Hook has no interest in a cohesive idea of ‘journalism’ or ‘editorial mission.'”

    Of course you can replace “The Hook” and “Hawes” with the title and editor/publisher of almost any newspaper published in the United States from independence through the mid-nineteenth century (at least) and the statement is accurate. One reason why Mark Twain had so much fun as a journalist in Nevada and California. Though the the C’ville weeklies really wanted to take us back to the early days of American journalism, there should have been duels or at least horsewhippings of editors on the downtown mall long before now. :-)

  • A fit female body is and will probably always be more aesthetic than the male’s: it’s beauty versus the beast. Get it? Now, get over it.

  • Agree completely David, luckily we have an editor/publisher with Mr. Spencer’s talent to enliven and inform what would otherwise be a steady stream of press releases from bureaucrats and elected officials. Sadly, there are few truth telling news outlets of any form left, and we are fortunate to have the Hook and Cvillenews in Charlottesville.

  • I think there’s another angle to this: people don’t want to be surprised by a publication. If I picked up the Daily Progress one day and discovered a centerfold in it, I’d be upset. Not because of the centerfold, but because I have come to expect, well, the Daily Progress. There’s no contract that says they can’t include nudity, but if they did, they’d break an unstated promise: we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

    My dad dropped The New Yorker decades ago for similar reasons. After being the same forever, they got new management and included a Calvin Klein ad, the now-famous one of two apparently teenage kids apparently copulating. They didn’t get another chance with him.

    Perhaps some people feel betrayed because they’ve counted on their favorite publication to be “safe” for their comfort level, and suddenly found out it isn’t so any longer.

    Of course, there are many comments here from those who haven’t formed that unspoken assumption, and don’t feel betrayed as a result. How many of those people are “loyal” readers of The Hook? Are they representative? I’d guess not; I’d guess most of the paper’s regular audience are people who like what it’s done in the past and use that as a predictor of future performance. This unspoken relationship between publisher and audience is probably best for The Hook not to take lightly.

  • just my humble, but i have to think that your most loyal and steadfast cover-to-cover readers of the Hook are NOT, generally speaking, your offended prudes. my sense of the demographic is that Parson Whomever is just not making a point every Thursday of checking out the new Hook. so it’s my sense that the readership is generally on the same page, so to speak, as Hawes.

    for the record, i read it every week, i don’t particularly care about the nudie pix, i have a nine year old son, and i am not particularly terrified that he’ll see these pics.

  • “I think there’s another angle to this: people don’t want to be surprised by a publication. ”

    The same is true of most all media. That’s why we have crap commercial radio, Fox, and many other equally vapid sources of brain damage for the middle of the road public at large (NPR almost made my list too. I mean come on, Garrison Keeler?).

    Thank god for Hawes’s “vanity project.” It’s the little things like that that keep us from being Fairfax II.

  • It was a teeny-tiny picture. Sheesh. Kids see more than that when they hang out at a friend’s house and find their dad’s stash.

  • Baron, since when is life/art/literature/criticism supposed to be “safe?”

    Alternative weekly newspapers and magazines like the New Yorker are sources of news, critiques, art, potentially offensive cartoons, etc etc. Why this need for safety? I mean yeah, lock your doors to keep out the burglars, but what about an image or a word can cause you active harm? It’s a breast, or a thigh, or a bloody soldier, or a Mamet play. It can’t kill, or even maim.

    This is a concept I’ve never understood.

  • Sounds to me like someone is jealous and needs to get over themselves…I’m sorry no one wanted to post nude photos of you or write an article about how successful you’ve become because of it…

  • To clarify, I’m not objecting to the photos myself, just sharing some thoughts I had about why objecting is a reasonable thing to do from some points of view. I thumbs-up what “show some balls” said.

  • FWIW, Baron, I think you make a compelling point, really the most insightful that I’ve heard on the topic. Whether or not one believes that a publication has an obligation to adhere to larger societal norms, there is (you posit, and I agree) an obligation on the part of a publication to adhere to its own norms.

  • I what if its norms are to NOT adhere to any norm? Doink!

  • Since I personally wasn’t surprised to see the pictures in the Hook, to me they were not out of the “norm.” As I said, alternative weeklies cater to a different audience than mainstream press. Both the Hook and the Cville skew to a more adult crowd. Now if they’d appeared in the DP, then that would have been a shocker!

    Cville runs Lulu Eightball, which is decidedly mature in both its subject matter and use of four-letter words. It’s a cartoon, therefore could “trick” innocent little children into reading its salacious content. However, I don’t hear anyone crying over that.

Comments are currently closed.

Sideblog