Longform

FIFE IMITATES ARTTOO BAD HE WASN'T AT THE GRAND CANYON THE DAY THE PICTURE WAS TAKEN

In the newspaper ad, the governor appears to be sitting on the lip of the Grand Canyon, as if he could fall in at any time. But the picture--promoting a photo contest sponsored by the Arizona Department of Tourism--is a composite, a cut-and-paste job. Governor J. Fife Symington III never sat on the rim of the Big Ditch in exactly this way. Which would be no big deal if Symington practiced what he preaches, tourism-wise. Arizona residents for years have been officially encouraged to spend their vacation dollars at home.

But like many state officials (including state tourism director Frank Plencner, the star of a different mock picture in the same campaign), Symington is notorious for taking his own vacation money out of state, to cool places such as Santa Barbara and Hawaii. Leia James, director of public relations for the tourism office, gladly defends the faux photos. "Part of the reason is economics," she says. "This stretches our budget." Obviously, it's cheaper to mail a couple of file photos to a paste-up artist than to fly the governor and an expensive photographer to the edge of the Canyon. The ethics of the composite approach apparently never were questioned by tourism officials. "I think that's real common," says James. "I've done it lots of times."

Only if the governor had never visited the Canyon, James says, would the fake photo be dishonest. "I know for a fact that the governor was up there last week," James said.

Actually, Symington was all over the place last week. Photographic evidence of his ramblings has been discovered, and is displayed for the first time anywhere on these pages. Entries in the state's photo contest--part of the same populist campaign that produced Arizona's lame new tourism slogan, "One grand adventure after another"--were judged last Friday. Winners were scheduled to be announced early this week. Sadly, these photos missed the deadline.

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Dave Walker