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Newsweek Mitt Romney Mormons Cover

Newsweek has chosen this cover to illustrate their feature on the Mormon movement:

Jim Geraghty says he finds it “appalling.” While that’s too strong a word choice, I do find the photoshopping of the head of a political leader–arguably the frontrunner for a major party presidential nomination–onto some other image (in this case, a poster from a Broadway musical) a violation of basic journalistic principles.  They wouldn’t have done this with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, certainly.

I realize that Newsweek is having a hard time just staying in business–it was on the verge of bankruptcy when it merged with the upstart Daily Beast–and that they’re desperate for attention. They did something similar when they used an out-of-content photo of Sarah Palin from a running magazine to illustrate an unrelated cover story in November 2009. (And, yes, I condemned that as over the line, too.)

Romney is a Mormon and, so he tells us, a devout one. His membership in that faith is absolutely a fair subject for journalistic inquiry. Faked photos, on the other hand, have no place in serious journalism.

The retort, presumably, is that Newsweek has long stopped being about journalism–they’re simply trying to sell magazines. If so, I’d note that it doesn’t seem to be working.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    I’m assuming that cover’s photoshopped. For Mittens’ sake I hope so. But if they wanted to slap a publicly recognizable Mormon on the cover just to sell issues, why not use Glen Beck?

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  2. legion says:

    Duh. I guess I should RTFA as well…

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  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Newsweek still is being published??

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  4. The website GetReligion as in (the press doesn’t “get” religion), has a posting on errors in the Newsweek story. Among other things, Newsweek claims that Romney has never addressed evangelical questions about his religion. This is but one of several instances of Newsweek’s sloppy coverage of religious angles in its “news” articles.

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  5. Yeah, Newsweek would NEVER do anything like this to Obama. Liberal media!

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Elias Isquith: I hadn’t seen that cover before but I’d cite two major differences:

    1. Obama was the sitting president at the time, not a candidate trying to introduce himself to the public.
    2. The image isn’t disparaging. Hell, they’re calling him a god!

    Still, I’d contend that this isn’t the sort of thing a reputable magazine should do. (I also distinguish between this and an actual cartoon, such as “The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas” cover from years back.

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  7. I think you’re nit-picking and both covers are rather harmless. The response to each is a bit of a rorschach test, too. Over-sensitive liberals complained that Obama was being depicted as Shiva (the Destroyer), for example.

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  8. sam says:

    “I do find the photoshopping of the head of a political leader–arguably the frontrunner for a major party presidential nomination–onto some other image (in this case, a poster from a Broadway musical) a violation of basic journalistic principles”

    Hey, Mittens can only hope he’s as successful as The Book of Mormon. (And you know, I’d bet he’s not that unhappy with the cover. “Check me out! I’m hip!!”)

    ” not a candidate trying to introduce himself to the public.” C’mon. You’d have to be from Mars not to know who he is by now.

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  9. Peter says:

    Being a Mormon myself, I find the cover only mildly insulting. Kind of silly actually. It is not a big deal. However, News week should realize that though Mormons are only about 2 percent of the US population, that is still a pretty big chunk of customers to insult.

    What if, next week, they insult Seventh Day Adventitsts and then feminists. After awhile, who will be their customer base?

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  10. sam says:

    I’m curious Peter. Do you know of the musical The Book of Mormon, and do you have thoughts about it you’d care to share with us?

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  11. An Interested Party says:

    They wouldn’t have done this with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, certainly.

    Perhaps not, but Jim Geraghty’s magazine would…I wonder if he would consider that equally “appalling”…

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party: I haven’t subscribed to National Review in more the 20 years, so have little familiarity with their covers. I do think partisan commentary magazines have more leeway than straight news magazines, though. For example, if this were The Onion, it would be a complete non-story.

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  13. André Kenji says:

    The problem here is another thing. The problem is when you try to use a Photoshoped photo as a illustration. The result is always poor. Regarding Newsweek, they have another problem because neither Tina Brown nor Jon Meacham(The last editor, responsible for the Sarah Palin cover) understands what a weekly newsmagazine should do.

    Besides that, I find impressive how here in Brazil people that personally knows Mormons says that they are intelligent and hard working. A female friend of mine has all the praise for them. (Yes, she is not Evangelical).

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  14. Herb says:

    Faked photos, on the other hand, have no place in serious journalism.

    That…I agree with. But the cover of any magazine is more of an “art piece” than actual journalism.

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  15. MarkedMan says:

    James, when you said

    I hadn’t seen that cover before but I’d cite two major differences:

    1. Obama was the sitting president at the time, not a candidate trying to introduce himself to the public.
    2. The image isn’t disparaging. Hell, they’re calling him a god!

    I think you are forgetting the constant meme of the right: Obama is not a Christian, he is a foreigner, he is the “other”. Putting him on the cover as a Hindu god could be interpreted as a slight. If someone with clearer motives (Fox!) had done it, I would have just assumed they were doing it to negatively affect voters.

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