Every once in a while, many in the news business seem to rediscover something that's always been rather obvious:
Publishers will put provocative images on their magazines and newspapers — and now their websites — in order to create "buzz" and, they hope, attract readers.
At the end of last week, the chatter was all about Time magazine's "Are You Mom Enough?" cover photo showing, as Eyder reported, a 26-year-old mom breastfeeding her almost 4-year-old son. It was aimed at grabbing attention for a report on "attachment parenting," which as Eyder wrote "encourages co-sleeping and carrying your baby everywhere and breast-feeding sometimes into toddlerhood."
Now, the focus is shifting to Newsweek and its cover image of "The First Gay President" — President Obama, with a rainbow-colored halo about his head. The idea there is to draw readers to Andrew Sullivan's commentary on why Obama, by endorsing same-sex marriage and other issues important to gays, has done more than he's gotten credit for from that community. And, in Sullivan's view, how Obama's "had to come out of a different closet ... to discover his black identity" and thus has had a life experience similar to that of many homosexuals.
A post from the Poynter Institute makes the case that the Newsweek cover is "a flag in the ground that says print journalism still matters." But it concedes that covers don't seem to have stemmed the huge declines in single-copy sales of magazines. And Poynter also doesn't really explore how the discussions about those covers have basically all been online and on TV — mostly among people who almost surely haven't gone out to buy the magazines.
That's why it doesn't seem to us that this is so much about whether "print journalism still matters" as it is about what we said at the start of this post — the power of images.
Feel free to debate in the comments thread — and by all means tell us if any of this has prompted you to go out and buy either or both magazines or to subscribe to them online.