Something strange is happening behind the scenes at the Globe and Mail web site. On the weekend there was a photo story called Catwalk Slideshow (highlighting the best of Paris fashion week).
The photos accompanying the piece included some rather wacky ALT tags.
So what’s an ALT tag? This is a piece of optional code that is attached to an image, providing a textual description of the photo or graphic. It’s often included for visually-impaired web browsers in an effort to extend accessibility. Normal web browsers don’t display the code if the image is available, so usually the only way to view it is by scanning a web page’s source code.
So what’s the big deal? It seems that a Globe web programmer decided to do a bit of editorializing in these seemingly invisible ALT tags. Hidden in the source code of a Chanel photo (pictured) is the comment, “Is getting your sweatshirt stuck halfway over your head the new look? Because I can totally pull that one off.”
Other photos include text such as “Fashion models know all too well the pain of the wedgie” and “Apparently, throwing on your husband/father’s white shirt is now high fashion.” One image that shows a model’s nipple is accompanied with the text, “Is it chilly in here, or is it just me?”
Torontoist contacted someone at the Globe and Mail, and they came back with a rather surprising response: That the commentary on these photos was not the work of an opinionated programmer, but rather an intentional decision on the part of the editorial team. It seems odd that Globe editors would purposefully write snippy comments into the source code of their own web pages, particularly when they’d only be readable by the visually impaired… but hey, who are we to question their motivation?
Torontoist also noticed that some of these ALT comments have been re-written since we contacted Globe and Mail staff. The original comment of “Little Bo Peep was never quite the same after Tom Cruise introduced her to Scientology” was not removed, but instead changed to the apparently less-offensive, “Little Bo Peep was never quite the same after she saw those strange bright lights in the sky out in that sheep pasture one night.”