Magazine Cover Images Raise Ethical Questions

Time Magazine cover

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!

This Week’s Headlines: Time Magazine Cover Makes Headlines, Judge Rules on Facebook Likes

Did Time Magazine take its cover image too far? That’s the question on many people’s minds this week in response to a story on attachment parenting. Here’s a look and this and other media news from the past week:

  • Time magazine breast-feeding cover provokes strong reaction: Time Magazine‘s provocative cover depicting a young mom breast-feeding her three-year-old son went viral, as bloggers and media commentators questioned whether the magazine had gone too far. The cover image was part of a pre-Mother’s Day story on attachment parenting, but the image seems to have overshadowed the topic.
  • Storify introduces new feature to make individual story elements more sharable: Storify, an online platform for curating social media mentions around news topics, recently added features that enable users to share, “like,” or comment on individual social media posts within a story. (For more on Storify, check out Ana Gonzalez Ribeiro’s Storify post from March.)
  • Pinterest Plug-In Lets You Track Pins From WordPress: Bloggers, copywriting services, and publishers on Pinterest have a new tool in their arsenal of tracking tools. WP Pinner, which launched this week, allows WordPress users to content on the popular pinboard site, schedule pins, track repins, and more.
  • Court: No 1st Amendment protection for Facebook ‘like’: A federal judge recently ruled that hitting the “like” button on Facebook is not free speech protected under the first amendment. The issues arose after several workers claimed they’d been fired for supporting the sheriff’s opponent for re-election. An attorney for one of the fired workers said planned to appeal the ruling.
  • Greek Journalists Dodge Threats and Yogurt to Cover Rise of Far-Right Party: As Greece’s political climate heats up, journalists face threats from members from the country’s far-right Golden Dawn party. The Athens Union of Journalists has condemned these threats and vowed that party leaders will not silence reporters. Protestors broke into a TV studio and pelted the host with yogurt and eggs on air after he’d interviewed a Golden Dawn spokesperson.

This Week’s Headlines: Good News for Newspapers, Ebook Market Heats Up

Happy Friday! Here’s a look at the media and publishing headlines that caught our eye this week:

  • 66% Prefer Reading Print Newspaper To Online Version: Although digital subscriptions are growing, a recent telephone survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that more than half of the American adults surveyed prefer reading the print edition of the newspaper.
  • ABC: Newspaper circulation rose in last six months, 5% on Sundays: More good news for newspapers! The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that daily newspaper circulation has increased for digital and print editions. The New York Times’ circulation increased 73 percent, largely due to an increase in digital subscriptions.
  • Meet Signal, the Instagram of Citizen Journalism: A new iPhone app in private beta applies the Instagram concept of sharing images to citizen journalists and web content writers. Users can upload images with a geo-tagged location and caption of around 60 characters. An algorithm groups photos from the same story but different contributors together. Signal should be available it in the app store later this year.
  • Microsoft Deal Adds to E-Book Battle: Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Barnes & Nobles’ Nook division, giving the tech giant a 17.6 percent stake and heightening competition in the digital book market.
  • Time Is Magazine of the Year at National Magazine Awards: On Thursday evening, Time Magazine received accolades as magazine of the year. The National Magazine Award recognized Businessweek for general excellence, O, The Oprah Magazine for general excellence among women’s magazines, Inc. for active- and special-interest magazines, House Beautiful for lifestyle magazines, and IEEE Spectrum for thought-leader magazines.
  • Google Rewards Innovation in Journalism: Google is partnering with a Danish publication to sponsor the Nordic News Hacker 2012 competition. The goal of the competition is to spotlight experts who make raw data accessible in smart, innovative ways.
  • New York’s Columbia University gets $2m for digital journalism research: The Tow and Knight Foundations have announced $2 milllion in funding to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. The money will focus on three areas of digital journalism: measuring the impact new practices and tools, increasing transparency in journalism, and examining what visual tools best engage and inform readers.

Freelancers, what are you reading this week? Any links you’d add to this list?