by Thomas Phinney
Note that this is not part of my day job, and any views expressed on this topic are my own and do not reflect any position of Adobe’s on these issues.
This is a long one, but the punchline is that Dr. David Hailey has published some new analysis of 2004′s infamous purported Bush National Guard memos, with access to much better copies of them than have previously been available to anyone outside CBS. Although I disagree with his conclusions, having better samples has allowed me to do some analysis of my own, and I do believe we’ve got even more certainty about the typeface: it’s Times Roman (from Linotype, distributed heavily by Adobe and Apple) rather than Times New Roman (from Monotype, distributed heavily by Microsoft).
[Update, later same day: So, I'm reading through the Wikipedia entry on authenticity issues (cited below), and I run into this bit. "Desktop magazine in Australia analysed the documents in its November 2004 issue and concluded that the typeface was a post-1985 version of Times Roman, rather than Times New Roman...." Well, so much for my write-up being a scoop! All I can say is that I don't recall that bit being there the last time I read the entire Wikipedia article... sigh.]
Two years ago, the hot typographic topic for September was a set of memos shown on “60 Minutes” from CBS News, allegedly from the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s, that showed President Bush in a bad light. However, there were immediate concerns from many circles that the memos did not look much like similar documents from that era, and could be forgeries. Indeed, they looked a lot like they had been done in Microsoft Word, using Times New Roman and default margins.
Ultimately, the majority of expert opinions seem to have fallen in one of two camps: the memos are definite forgeries, or the memos are highly suspect. Concerns over how the report made it to air in the first place caused the resignations or dismissals of three CBS News producers and a Senior VP.
When this first came up, thanks to my previous experience as an expert witness in such matters, several people immediately thought of me. I spent the weekend doing some research and came to some interesting conclusions as to why the documents couldn’t have been produced on any of the devices commonly suggested by defenders of the memos’ authenticity.
I rapidly found myself in demand from the media. I was briefly quoted a couple of times in the Washington Post (one example). I also got inquiries from ABC News (who I provided substantial background to on the phone, without an interview) and Newsweek.
But all this is far from breaking news, today. Why am I writing about it again? Well, more typographic evidence has come up, and we can now zero in more tightly on the specific font used in the memos. And like any good type geek, I am easily obsessed with minutiae.
The documents that most third parties have previously analyzed were photocopied, faxed, and then scanned in at low resolution, and converted to PDFs. The image degradation over this process was immense, and probably accounts for a lot of the conflicting speculations about the memos.
But in December 2005, Dr. David Hailey of Utah State University, the most prominent remaining defender of the memos’ authenticity, published a new study (his first study having been widely debunked on a variety of grounds). He had been given access to unfaxed copies of the memos, and did new analysis based on high-res scans of those copies. Although still a couple of steps removed from an original memos, Hailey was much closer to them than most previous researchers.
Hailey’s new analysis is fascinating to a type geek like me, because for the first time we get to see the letterforms clearly enough to really do analysis based on letter shapes – even if it might lead some of us to rather different conclusions than his. Note that while I disagree with Dr. Hailey, I have seen nothing to suggest he is not earnest and sincere in his analysis.
On page 2 of his new study, Hailey declares that the typeface isn’t Times New Roman, because of differences in letter forms. In particular, he cites the relative widths of the E vs F in the memos versus those in Times New Roman. Hailey is 100% correct here – he’s proved that the memos do not use Times New Roman (henceforth “TNR”). However, what he misses is that the details he notes are 100% compatible with the font being Times Roman (henceforth “TR”). See my PDF showing the differences between TNR and TR, and compare it to his.
Hailey also cites (without showing) a number of other letters and numbers as having significant differences between Times New Roman and the memo. I show these same characters in my PDF, and you can see that there are indeed noticeable differences between TNR and TR glyphs for a number of these characters. Based on this, I predict, for example, that Hailey’s high res scans which we haven’t seen yet show that the differences on the 5 are that the memo has a small serif at the top right and a heavier link between the top cross-stroke and the bottom loop, and that the number sign (#) is significantly heavier in the memo (TR) than in TNR, and less steeply angled.
In a future post, I’ll look at a few more bits of typographic evidence in Dr. Hailey’s new analysis, and show which of his conclusions fail to hold up, typographically speaking.