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The cover of the August 22, 2007 issue of Creative Loafing Tampa was a doozy. Under the guise of a “newbies” guide to Tampa Bay, the alt-weekly fronts a nude photo of editorial interns Ted Scheinman and Brian Reed. The interns stand in the sparkling depths of a man-made waterfall, their hands posed jauntily on their hips. They wear no clothes. Covering their genitals are two triumphantly checked boxes that, to the untrained eye, could appear to be representations of erect penises. Observe:

After finishing their tenure at Creative Loafing Tampa and graduating from Yale, Scheinman and Reed came to work at the Washington City Paper (Scheinman remains as CP‘s Online Producer; Reed has since moved on to a Croc Fellowship at NPR). Before my new coworkers even arrived in the District, I heard tell of their cover-boy exploits down South, but I hadn’t actually set my eyes the cover until last week. When the newspaper was unceremoniously dumped in my cubicle, I approached the cover as I would the site of a terrible collision: Not knowing what else to do, I simply stared, wondering why the tears were not coming.

As with any unexplained tragedy, the image piqued my curiosity; I needed to know how and why this had happened. In an interview, Scheinman detailed the genesis of the cover. “It was [Editor-in-Chief] David Warner’s idea. There were a bunch of half-assed ideas being kicked around about the cover, and then [Warner] asked us if we would do this,” says Scheinman. “He clearly was not joking.”

Scheinman and Reed—-who had penned an essay for the issue on the “Caliente” nudist resort and community of Land O’Lakes, Fla.—-were interested. “We thought about it for a moment, and no one could think of any reason not to,” says Scheinman. Though Reed admits he was nervous the night before the photo shoot—-“like the night before the first day of school”—-he was comfortable with the idea. According to Scheinman, the pair had become accustomed to lounging together naked while undergrads at Yale. “Oh, yeah, yeah. There’s a seedy subculture In the Ivy leagues of naked, Dionysian revelry,” he says. “There were naked parties.”

Scheinman clearly was not joking.

On the day of the shoot, Scheinman and Reed, both 23, disrobed at Caliente in front of another Creative Loafing reporter, who took their photograph, and an advertising rep, who simply “wanted to come along,” says Reed. After posing for about 100 shots, the Creative Loafing editorial team narrowed the selection down to a few possibilities, which were sent to the newspaper’s Atlanta office to be finalized for the cover. “We knew, obviously, that the key areas were to be covered up,” says Reed. “That was implied.” After the digital insertion of the check marks, Reed and Scheinman were told that all copies of the nude photos would be destroyed, save for one CD of the photographs which remains in Reed’s possession.

But while Scheinman and Reed were comfortable with their nude photo experience, I am not particularly comfortable with it. I generally am not opposed to the display of nude art in the workplace, but I do find saucy nude photographs of my co-workers moderately disturbing. I am not alone: In the aftermath of the issue, Warner wrote in a blog post, “the manager of a sports bar told us it was ‘inappropriate for a paper featuring naked boys on the cover to appear at a family establishment.'”

Or, you know, in your office environment. Scheinman and Reed’s essay, admittedly, is soaring:

They took a moment to look at us, lounging decadently in big, reclined patio chairs, sipping our drinks, smiling, feet up on the table, naked and spoiled as the day we were born, our cranberries dangling papally.

So soaring, in fact, that the image of papally dangling cranberries will forever be seared into my brain each time I approach our Online Producer with a modest question concerning our Web stats.

Even more unsettling is the inside photo. The second shot shows Reed and Scheinman, again naked, this time embracing an unidentified woman (also naked):

I may have just lost my naked lunch.

Am I right to be disturbed by this? Or is the nearly-naked coworker a sight we all must endure in the Internet age?