Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Cover Boy Obama

You can trace his pilgrim's progress in images that used to be a preoccupation of my working life, magazine covers.

In the "Cover of the Year," chosen by the American Society of Magazine Editors, Barack Obama is seen by Rolling Stone, beaming beatifically after winning the Democratic nomination, eyes looking down and inward in smiling contemplation of what lies ahead.

The runners-up reflect the emotional roller coaster that followed--Entertainment Weekly in October with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert spoofing the New Yorker cover that had satirized the Obamas as terrorists in the eyes of the opposition, followed by the Economist's full-length figure of the new President striding ahead surrounded by the white space of possibility and the New Yorker's post-election image of the White House as a glowing "hope-filled" symbol for the future and a light-hearted spoof of Obama interviewing canines for the position of First Dog.

By this May, however, the New York Times Magazine is showing a worried President in deep and somber tones contemplating the challenges of "His Economy."

In the months to come, there will surely be more Obama covers during a time when magazines themselves are reflecting the turbulence of American life with Gourmet gone, the Readers Digest in bankruptcy and Newsweek struggling to reinvent itself.

In the past, one of the touchstones for a good cover was an image of someone the reader might like to be or have as a friend. With his woes mounting, Barack Obama is losing traction as the former but for many still qualifies as the latter.

1 comment:

Holte Ender said...

I have bought many a magazine based on the quality of its cover, (marketers take note), regardless of topic, once picked up a gardening magazine at a airport based on a great cover photograph. I lived in a garden-free apartment at the time.

As magazines struggle to survive in this new age of media, the cover should take on more importance. As I browse magazine racks often, I don't see this happening.