The presence of Tina Brown atop the Newsweek masthead has been nowhere more evident than on the cover of the magazine itself, from S & M to a very dead (and very photoshopped) Princess Diana. Love or despise Tina Brown’s cover-work, they’ve made people talk.
Surely, though, there have been more than a canceled ideas from that wellspring of manufactured, marketed scandal-making that didn’t pan out for whatever reason.
And today, we learn about one of those firsthand.
Posted on the Newsweek Tumblr—social media, in action!—is a video of the editor, herself, discussing a spiked cover that involved posing Barack Obama as Trayvon Martin.
It was a Trayvon Maritn cover that we were going to do. And the president had just said, ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. So we did a cover of Barack in a hoodie…
And what’d she think of it?
And I really thought it was brilliant, actually, because it sort of dramatized what he was saying.
If she doesn’t say so herself. But then?
But then, I became very anxious about what could be done with it in its afterlife. And one thing you have to think about which you didn’t have to think about much in the days when I was editing Vanity Fair…
…Or even The New Yorker?
….or even The New Yorker is that the afterlife of imagery can be so intensely manipulated that the spin cycle of clips and YouTube and absolute proliferation of imagery and what can be done with the imagery can in fact be very dangerous.
And I had to ask myself: How would I feel if this image was used in some kind of hate speech context? How would I feel if this image of the president in a hoodie wasn’t taken to be an ironic statement about what he himself had said, but was in fact appearing on the T-Shirts of white supremacists? And I thought it was dangerous, so I didn’t do it. But I had a lot of agony about it, because I thought it was a great cover.
And that is what we call a near-miss.
Somehow we doubt Tina Brown was the only one to express some amount of reserve about this idea.
Regardless, kudos to the eagle-eyed team at Newsweek for the cognizance not to go with that one. Like we said: Social media, in action! For a little bit of self-stirred PR for something they didn’t do, not bad at all.
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