Time cover sinks to new low

For decades Time magazine has been America’s go-to news magazine. But their May 21 issue, due on newsstands next week, features what may be their most blatantly sensationalistic cover ever:

Talk about pandering to the lowest common denominator. Oh sure, there are millions of women out there who breastfeed their babies, and a lot of them think nothing of doing it in public. But the point here is that a certain Dr. Bill Sears advocates breastfeeding children up to age three and beyond. “Attachment parenting” it’s called by his followers; others call it “extreme parenting.” And though you would hardly guess it from a glance at the cover, the lead story is an interview with Sears about his ideas on child rearing, not a photographic exposé on breastfeeding toddlers. The Denver Post summarized Sears’ philosophy:

The attachment philosophy encourages mothers to respond to their babies’ every cry and form close bonds with near-constant physical contact through “co-sleeping” (letting them sleep in the bed with parents rather than in cribs) and “baby-wearing” (carrying them on slings instead of pushing them in strollers).

Obviously the cover was chosen for shock value and for its ability to generate attention and controversy. And it certainly has done that. But misleading photos and/or headlines are the stock in trade of tabloids and yellow journalism. It’s sad to see a magazine of Time‘s stature stoop so low. Print magazines are struggling to survive these days, but that’s no excuse for something like this.

MSNBC interviewed Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel this morning and discussed the decision to run this cover. Interesting, but not convincing. Stengel calls the cover “provocative.” But it’s beyond that. It crosses the line. It’s offensive, misleading, and unprofessional.

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17 comments

  1. You give Time far more credit than I ever could:

    For decades Time magazine has been America’s go-to news magazine.

    Does anyone actually read that garbage?

  2. I’m a little surprised, PT, that as a professional editor you don’t cut Time more slack on this. Time is one of my favorite magazines and I have found its material of the highest quality. But this cover, at the risk of punning a little, appears to have pushed a button for you and other readers. But really, isn’t it time the country moved on a little from our national disingenuous attitude toward breasts? At least half the country seems to pretend they don’t exist, meanwhile sneaking peeks on their computers at stuff that would blow the pastor’s socks off. (Or maybe not – the pastors are probably sneaking peeks too.)

    I am bemused and amused from time to time when I see ads, often full-page ads, in our local newspaper that blatantly seek to exploit the weak, poor and gullible in society by selling them the equivalent of snake-oil. Heaters that put out more energy than the current they draw or “free currency” freshly minted (the money’s free, but the safe it comes in costs a bundle). This is a regular newspaper that prides itself on upholding the best traditions of journalism, but they make almost no attempt to vet the honesty or quality of the advertising they carry. The motto clearly is “buyer beware”. I see the Time cover in the same light. This is a distracted society and if it takes something sensational to get people to read good reporting, I don’t have a problem with it.

    1. Good reporting doesn’t need sleazy covers to attract readers. This cover probably turns off at least as many readers as it attracts. I expect professionalism from Time and I think they fail miserably with this cover.

  3. Breast-feeding until three years of age? Seriously? Well, I have never had children, so I’m not sure the typical age to wean from the breast and/or the bottle – but three seems rather extreme to me. And I have to agree with you on the photo… bad taste.

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