Cover Stories

by Kieran Healy on September 26, 2006

Via Unfogged and ThinkProgress, Newsweek’s current cover as it varies by geographical region:

I commend them for sparing the world from Annie Leibowitz. The funny thing is that the graphic is right there on Newsweek’s own site. I went back and looked for others. Here are the covers from the week before last.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Academia as an Extreme Sport » Newsweek Hates Americans
09.26.06 at 9:39 pm
It’s Not a Cover Up « Eclectics Anonymous
09.28.06 at 9:14 am
just in case you thought press was free « falling upstairs
10.02.06 at 9:35 am

{ 37 comments }

1

Matt 09.26.06 at 9:17 pm

When I was in the Peace Corps we all got free subscriptions to Newsweek Europe. Since we were desperate for reading material in English I read it all cover to cover each week. It was crap, full of advertorials and the like. But it was so much superior to the Newsweek back in the US that it was really quite sad.

2

Henry Farthing 09.26.06 at 9:24 pm

And the African edition?

3

John Emerson 09.26.06 at 9:25 pm

Why does Newsweek hate Americans?

4

Steve LaBonne 09.26.06 at 9:31 pm

“The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!” He laughed. “Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello! My good boy!”

5

Robin 09.26.06 at 9:35 pm

I second John Emerson’s question.

6

Jim Harrison 09.26.06 at 9:47 pm

I was disillusioned about the news magazines many years ago when Time ran a second review of 2001 after the movie had become a success. Their original review, which came out before the opening, panned Kubrick’s film. The second explained how it was an epoch making work of art.

Giving credence to this sort of journalism is sorta like believing a whore when she says she loves you.

7

Mary Catherine Moran 09.26.06 at 10:07 pm

What about those religiously-themed covers that Newsweek seems to run (in the US) about every six months or so (Science Finds God; Who Really Killed Jesus?)? Do they use those covers for the European, Asian and Latin American markets?

8

radek 09.26.06 at 10:18 pm

The sad question is: does this say more about Newsweek or their readers? In a way one can hardly blame them (well, yes one can, but you know…)

9

John Emerson 09.26.06 at 10:23 pm

:-)

10

ed 09.26.06 at 11:12 pm

I’ve seen this on other blogs, and some people seem to be defending Newsweek on the grounds of well, they are just giving their readers what they want.

If this is the motivation, this is actually really damning. It means tha the top management at one of the world’s great media corporations believes that Americans are morons, compared to the rest of the world. Some enterprising Congressional committee chair should haul these executives before the committee and ask them if this is the case.

And if the assessment is true, its depressing, American being a nuclear power and all. But I suspect that the ignorance of most Americans about the world is mainly because their media keeps feeding them bs like this. And in my more paranoid moments, I think that this is deliberate, done for the same reasons the Soviet news services misinformed their viewers and readers.

11

Martin Bento 09.27.06 at 12:05 am

I think the “paranoid” “Newsweek doesn’t want to give Americans bad news on Afghanistan for political reasons” model makes more sense than the “Newsweek thinks Americans are dumb” model, not that they are mutually exclusive. First of all, it is not intrinsically dumb to do a cover story on Annie Leibowitz – the arts are a legitimate topic – and secondly, the Afghan cover would sell probably more magazines, since, in the current media climate, it is more shocking, and many more Americans have heard of Afghanistan than Leibowitz. They are more manipulating than pandering.

12

K R Hasan 09.27.06 at 1:16 am

I’m a reader of Newsweek’s Asia edition but have no idea who Annie Leibowitz is. Am I missing something? Her name brings back memories of a book “Canticle for Leibowitz” that I read many many years ago.

More seriously, Newsweek compares unfavorably with the Economist’s Asia Edition which takes me several days to finish unlike Newsweek which can be read during one evening. The Economist has its own biases – one can be generous and call it “misguided” – but at least it provides the reader with a lot more information.

13

abb1 09.27.06 at 2:34 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Graham
Katharine Graham, the owner of Newsweek, made a speech at the CIA headquarters in 1988 and said this:

We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

14

bad Jim 09.27.06 at 2:59 am

Clearly they aren’t printing the variant American cover for their subscribers, who’ve already paid for their coverage. They figure that they might get additional newstand sales with a sexier cover.

The fact that Afghanistan and Iraq are ongoing diasters isn’t actually news to anyone, is it?

15

ArC 09.27.06 at 5:36 am

Bad Jim — well, maybe it’d be news to Joe Lieberman…

16

Mike 09.27.06 at 6:21 am

What about those religiously-themed covers that Newsweek seems to run (in the US) about every six months or so (Science Finds God; Who Really Killed Jesus?)?

I never got Newsweek, but, long ago, I subscribed to US News and World Report, and cancelled it because of its seemingly monthly cover stories on Christianity and other religious drivel, very much along the lines mentioned above.

The emphasis on Christian stories seemed to me rather strange, coming as it did from a mag run by Mort Zuckerman.

17

CKR 09.27.06 at 6:42 am

Same problem as CNN within and outside the US.

18

fred lapides 09.27.06 at 6:47 am

I am not sure why all your foks in a huff. After all, Newsweek is doing what any company does that works world-wide: it markets to the location. That is called Business. If you need a example closer to your intereswts, then why do univerfsity catalogues list so many coursesk, many of which are given so infrequently that a 4-year student would not be able to take many of them? Again, marketing. Perhaps this is all unsavolry but it is the wayh of the world.

19

stuart 09.27.06 at 7:43 am

To 14: Its probably good timing with the Afghanistan cover, its likely to get progressively worse there in the next months now the second front for the Taliban and their allies in northern Pakistan has been resolved.

20

ajay 09.27.06 at 7:52 am

Jim – Newsweek’s on news stands in Europe, Latin America and Asia too. Or are consumers there too sophisticated to be swayed by a pretty cover?

21

mike dewar 09.27.06 at 8:05 am

in response to fred lapides, isn’t it the point of half the `folks’ making comments that Newsweek feels that people in the rest of the world are interested in world wide news whereas people in the US seem to be very inward-looking. So Newsweek’s marketing is a symptom of the dumbed-down head-in-the sand approach of the US public – which of course is worrying as they collectively exercise so much violent power worldwide.

The marketing approach contradicts martin bentos’ comment – martin: why would Newsweek do something which would curb their sales?

22

Steve LaBonne 09.27.06 at 8:07 am

“Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”
-Neil Postman

23

John Emerson 09.27.06 at 8:17 am

I’ve seen this on other blogs, and some people seem to be defending Newsweek on the grounds of well, they are just giving their readers what they want.

Free-market fanaticism. If truth is a commodity, democracy is impossible and attempts at democracy are probably undesirable, and those who can afford truth will hoard it and delight in the fatal ignorance of their inferiors.

I think that the Graham family strongly intends to put out a dishonest newspaper — I think that DeLong agrees with me by now. (The Sulzberger family seems slightly more ambivalent on this topic).

I think that Bento is right about the motives.

International readers are of a different class than doemestic readers, probably.

24

John Emerson 09.27.06 at 8:18 am

Free market fanatics: for exampole, Lapides here. Unless he’s being ironic.

25

Cryptic Ned 09.27.06 at 8:48 am

Jim – Newsweek’s on news stands in Europe, Latin America and Asia too. Or are consumers there too sophisticated to be swayed by a pretty cover?

I think it’s plausible that there’s a lot higher newsstand sales-to-subscription ratio of Newsweek in the U.S. than there is outside the country, where newsstands are more likely to be taken up by local magazines.

This would also explain why the US edition of The Economist has a gloomy-looking cover with the headline “The Dark Side of Debt: Why It Matters That Markets Are Going Private”, while the UK edition has a picture of Posh and Becks snogging. Oh wait, I guess the Economist doesn’t do that.

26

sglover 09.27.06 at 9:04 am

If this is the motivation, this is actually really damning. It means tha the top management at one of the world’s great media corporations believes that Americans are morons, compared to the rest of the world. Some enterprising Congressional committee chair should haul these executives before the committee and ask them if this is the case.

Ummmm…. You think a Congressional committee chair has an especially high opinion of his constituents’ intellects himself?!?!?

And if the assessment is true, its depressing, American being a nuclear power and all…..

Yeah, but America’s not alone in this. I did some traveling in Ukraine, and outside of Kiev I couldn’t find a single news kiosk that offered anything like a real newspaper or newsmagazine. As far as I could tell, they’re at least as celebrity- and crap-obsessed as Americans.

27

Tim McG 09.27.06 at 10:19 am

I think John Emerson (@24) is right on: the US readership is not dumber; it’s broader. The international readership for Newsweek is internationally focussed, the domestic readership comprises a much broader spectrum of society.

Call me a Pollyanna, but it’s probably a Good Thing that one magazine can reach people interested in both topics, that someone will pick up a magazine to see who the next generation of American women leaders (last week’s cover wasn’t just babes on glossy paper!) are and read an article about China, or the like.

The fact that they talk about losing Afghanistan to an American readership (if not on the cover) is a Good Thing, too.

28

Maynard Handley 09.27.06 at 11:41 am

“Same problem as CNN within and outside the US.”

WTF are you talking about? CNN outside the US is just as crappy as that inside the US. It’s the USA rah rah rah propaganda channel always and everywhere.

29

John Emerson 09.27.06 at 12:14 pm

Tim McG is a Pollyanna.

30

Walt 09.27.06 at 2:15 pm

Cryptic Ned: For a split second, I believed you about the different Economist covers. For that second, my worldview was deeply shaken.

31

dejla 09.27.06 at 6:24 pm

Oh, that’s embarrassing. The marketing people do have the US pegged as shallow, shallower, and shallowest, don’t they? Wny, way down deep we’re just… shallow.

32

sara 09.27.06 at 9:42 pm

Since I started surfing the Web, Timesweek (the two tend to blur for me) has not been the same. It seems more and more like a dead-tree version of a slick, commercial website, for people who don’t use the Internet (they are phobic of pornography maybe) or own computers. The same high-graphic interface and brief content.

I would like a dead-tree magazine to have more content than is easy to read on-line, more like the old New Yorker.

33

Martin Bento 09.27.06 at 10:17 pm

Bad Jim, what basis do you have for the assertion that US subscribers are getting the international rather than US covers? Seems like something that would get noticed and discussed, if so.

As for why Newsweek would be willing to sacrifice its own sales in pursuit of an agenda, Newsweek and its parent corporation, MSNBC, have more than one interest, and the moderate weekly fluctuations of Newsweek sales are not necessarily the prevailing interest. Consider how much money the major figures in MSNBC have saved in tax cuts since the Republicans took power, and contrast that with the modest losses that they may have realized by downplaying stories embarassing to Republicans. Consider also what they have gotten and can expect to get in terms of media deregulation. True, Clinton was also onboard for that last (damn him!), but it was a page stolen from the Republicans, and to pass it he had to side with the Republican Congress against his own party. And the Republicans have just recently made noise about further deregulation. No one in media on a serious level is naive about the effect of the media.

34

Renee Perry 09.28.06 at 1:31 am

FYI The subscriber version also had the Leibowitz cover.

I get them willy-nilly for pledging to my local public radio station.

35

roy belmont 09.28.06 at 4:09 am

The very real and mostly accurate cycnical assessment of corporate media decision-making – that it’s all about the bottom line and has nothing to do with anything resembling the responsibilities of the fifth estate – too often leaves out the correlative aspects.
Obviously these are smart guys. Obviously a concern for the bottom line that’s too myopic becomes dysfunctional and works against its own long-term greedy interest, so preservation of the system wherein that bottom line gets met is an attribute of corporate greed.
Revolution as an assault on the preciosity of the bottom line.
And, once the system’s depravity’s become intrinsic, even something as benign as the pursuit of basic human rights will be seen as an attack on the sanctity of profit-and-law.
As m. bento said – “No one in media on a serious level is naive about the effect of the media.”
The media elected Bush, and it will elect his successor, if any. But the media is no more the problem than Bush himself is.

36

Tim McG 09.28.06 at 1:49 pm

OK, I’m a Pollyanna, so sue me. But freedom of the press is one of the stronger aspects of American democracy these days; let’s focus our energies on the more important stuff, like the fact that our government wants to lock people up and throw away the key except to take it out to torture them now and again.

37

nick s 09.28.06 at 2:47 pm

Newsweek’s on news stands in Europe, Latin America and Asia too. Or are consumers there too sophisticated to be swayed by a pretty cover?

It’s the CNN/CNN International distinction, as john emerson notes. People watching CNN abroad fit into a different demographic to those watching at home: they’re businesspeople, expats, etc. I can’t see any market for Newsweek abroad other than to American business and expat types, or perhaps — just perhaps — those with an interest in American news. (Then again, I only ever read newsweeklies in doctors’ offices.)

Still, it reminds me that it took about a week of my first trip to the US to realise that any ignorance towards the world was driven by the media gatekeepers. As Jon Stewart pointed out, even the Liebowitz story was given the typical newsweekly ‘don’t scare the masses’ treatment, glossing over her relationship with Susan Sontag.

Oh wait, I guess the Economist doesn’t do that.

Actually, it often does have different covers in the UK and US. Though not necessarily Posh & Becks.

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