The Fake Time Magazine Attack

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Lately, I’ve been wondering how much Time magazine regrets making these covers available online. I keep seeing these broad claims by news sources and blogs I like, liberal friends on Facebook, making silly claims based on a few examples of covers for a weekly magazine, thinking that it proves a point.  I’m actually surprised liberals have found their own version of the conservative “liberal media” myth. I think this speaks to a liberal belief that 1) Americans are stupid 2) We’re not receiving quality content. Which is true on some level, although i will debate whether this proves it.

I have only read Time magazine a few times, mostly as a kid and teenager until my step-dad appeared and thought magazines like Time and Newsweek were part of the liberal media, and my household’s subscription died soon after. Yet, let’s continue to one of these claims.

knightoftaurusIf you can look at this and say the media is not controlled by people who want to keep you docile and ignorant, I don’t know what else to tell you.

I wish she did know what to tell me.

Let’s go over a few things:

  • The media is controlled by people who want to make money.
  • The paper industry is controlled by people who are trying to save a dying medium.
  • The media is controlled by people who are targeting their demographic.

I’m unsure exactly what these specific cover selections are trying to prove, but I will attempt to refute it.

  • Sometimes the U.S. articles are “dumber” than the international ones. Yet, it also happens the opposite direction, and 85% of the time it’s not an issue because they’re identical.
  • Even when the U.S. covers seem “frivolous”, most of the time the magazines include the exact same articles (although, I doubt people making these claims look that deeply). As an example, the contrasting articles on Anxiety and Revolution…both stories appear in the magazine despite different covers.
  • Most of the time when there are differences in the covers, it’s obviously because the editors choose to put their US-centric story on the cover in the US, as opposed to the more international stories. Which is marketing 101.
  • Many of the differing covers, are recycled. It’s not uncommon to go through Time magazine articles, and find that the cover story for one week, may be used internationally on a different week. So that one US article you were annoyed with was featured one week, could still be featured abroad the next.
  • If you collect pictures of only the dumb covers, or the times they’re different internationally, while ignoring everything else…you’re creating your own false pattern.
  • Then there’s the issue on whether or not there is enough “serious” news to cover on a weekly basis without some filler. I thought the 24 Hours News channels proved that sometimes you have to stretch it.
  • Then there’s the other issue, of ignoring all the important articles, pointing out the dumb ones, and people being snobs about what they deem important.

To that last point, it also relates to the Slate article about people complaining about the “low-brow” segments of NPR:

“Since then, I’ve grown to hate these listeners. Oh, I hate them, hate them, hate them. Every time one of their narrow-minded, classist letters makes it on the air, I contemplate burning my tote bag in protest. The problem, for me, isn’t just that some people don’t like some things NPR covers. It’s that these reflexively snobby pseudo-intellectuals see NPR as their own—a refuge from the mad world outside, a “safe,” high-minded palace that should never be sullied by anything more outré than James Taylor….”

To me, the response from people inside NPR, would reflect what magazines like Time actually are after:

“NPR programming and coverage should not be elite, but reflect a wide range of American expression—high, low, remarkable, strange, etc.—as long as it was worthy of the audience’s attention.”

Reading articles on current affairs definitely is not out to make people stupid. And I’ll concede…there are a few weeks that make me consider the way companies market towards Americans. Overall though, just by looking at the articles, if you read half of Time magazine’s publications in a given year, you would definitely find yourself more informed, not less, than the general American populace. 

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