" rel="attachment wp-att-3244Time Magazine cover,9171,2114427,00.htmlThe controversial cover of the May issue of magazine featuring an image of a 26-year-old California mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son had conversations swirling on television, radio and social media. And only days later, Newsweek unveiled its cover, a … "/>

Magazine Cover Images Raise Ethical Questions

Time Magazine coverThe controversial cover of the May issue of TIME magazine featuring an image of a 26-year-old California mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son had conversations swirling on television, radio and social media. And only days later, Newsweek unveiled its cover, a photo of President Barack Obama with a rainbow halo over his head with the headline: “The First Gay President.” That went viral like crazy, too. The question is: How important is it for magazines to accurately portray stories on their covers? Or is it just all about news stand sales and winning the cover war?

The TIME magazine cover story by Kate Pickert was actually about Dr. William Sears, whose book on a term he coined, “attachment parenting,” was published in 1992. Attachment parenting refers to techniques exactly what it sounds like – extended breastfeeding, carrying a baby in a sling, and sleeping in the same bed as him/her.

The mother posing on the cover, Jamie Lynne Grumet, talked to the Today show May 11, saying “I do understand why TIME chose this picture because … it did create such a media craze to get the dialogue talking.”

On May 10, TIME managing editor Richard Stengel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe defended the cover selection, saying, “To me, the whole point of a cover is to get your attention, and this gets your attention.”

Ironically, Hana Rosin at Slate wrote on its website May 10 that TIME took a page out of Tina Brown’s playbook: “This image of hot California mom (who looks a little like Kathryn Hahn) live-breast-feeding her almost-4-year-old will surely make Tina wish she’d thought of it first.” Brown is editor of Newsweek – The Daily Beast and known for creating a slew of controversial magazine covers.

Newsweek cover Brown also defended her magazine’s decision to go with the Obama “Gay” headline on the story written by gay conservative writer Andrew Sullivan describing his reaction to the president’s official support for gay marriage in an ABC News interview with Robin Roberts.

The reference was a play on Toni Morrison’s reference to Bill Clinton as “the first black president” in the 1990s, but how many people will actually remember that?

“I thought it was the simplest. It communicated the idea in a very smart but at the same time subtle way,” she told The Huffington Post. “I thought this was a chic way of doing it honestly, and I thought it did very well.”

She told Politico in an email: “If President Clinton was the ‘first black president,’ then Obama earns every stripe in that ‘gaylo’ with last week’s gay marriage proclamation. Newsweek’s cover pays tribute to his newly ordained place in history.”

Magazine expert Samir Husni told The Los Angeles Times that the TIME cover is “print well done.” “It’s a stroke of genius … the print industry really needed this cover to show they are still the movers and shakers,” he said.

Husni may like the cover idea, but moms clearly do not, according to an AdWeek article. The publication took a look at comments on According to the story, comments included words such as “sickening” and “gratuitous,” and mothers were being clear – while they are pro-breastfeeding, they don’t like the idea of using it to sell magazines. The cover is “totally contrived and unnecessary, but I wouldn’t say ‘gross,’” wrote one poster on “I also don’t think it helps their cause to be so blatantly in-your-face.”

Here is a sampling of comments left on the Newsweek-Daily Beast website beneath its Obama “gay” story:

“Journalism has come to a new low, and all this electronic technology has not helped one bit. Look at what’s on the cover of this week’s TIME and now Newsweek has done no better. Salacious rumors, unidentified sources, market manipulation and covert advertising are the major ingredients of news these days. Technology has made it easier to blackout responsible, dissident opinions, glorify crude jokes, and publish ignorant rants by people who can’t even spell. The gays persecute the BoyScouts, the anti-abortion crowd persecutes Planned Parenthood, while billions of dollars are poured down the bottomless pit of Afghanistan and our middle class, the backbone of democracy, slides inexorably into poverty. Gay marriage? A political smoke scrren, a diversionary issue so we wont wonder where our tax dollars went.:

“The notion of Barack Obama being the first gay President is simply idiotic. He is no more the country’s first gay President than Bill Clinton was the country’s first black President. Let’s wait until it’s appropriate, shall we? Hopefully a day will come that our nation will have an openly homosexual President, and a female President. And then, just like now, the social conservatives of the day will be lighting their hair on fire.”

“I let my Newsweek subscription lapse years ago because I didn’t see much of substance appearing in the magazine. Obviously they’re still carrying on that tradition.”

“Newsweek – Many, many politically active readers are not going to get it. Yes, Clinton was known as the ‘first black president,’ but we knew what that meant without much explanation (and we knew what it did not mean). But that was almost 20 years ago and those who didn’t know about the Clinton nickname are not going to get it.”

“That was stupid then, and this is stupid now. Media should cover more objectively and stop trying to be so cute about everything. There is plenty to discuss in this historic stance the President took, no need to get sidetracked with hipster rhetoric.”

Newsweek also posted six rejected versions of the May cover on its Tumblr blog.

What do you think? Are provocative magazine covers like these smart journalism and article writing services? Or are they a cheap way to attract attention? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!