Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Media Feeding Frenzy

What would the founding father of Time have made of the magazine’s breast-feeding Mother’s Day cover?

The model for it, a 26-year-old woman, reacts to the uproar about the photo with her three-year-old son to observe that breast-feeding advocates “are actually upset” because it doesn’t “show the nurturing side to attachment parenting. This isn’t how we breastfeed at home.

“It’s more of a cradling, nurturing situation. And I understand what they’re saying, but I do understand why Time chose this picture because it...did create such a media craze.”

In 1923, Henry Luce started the magazine to save readers from being confused by “the million little chaoses of raw news” and give them a Voice from Above to explain what it all means. Now, in the Drudge age, journalism has gone downhill from fake omniscience to injecting a 24/7 stream of "news" on steroids into the public bloodstream.

Like Drudge, Luce pursued his own political agenda but had to recognize some bounds in pushing it.

“Isn’t good editing,” he once asked me, “figuring out what’s going to happen and then advocating it before it does?” I wish I could report that there was a mischievous gleam in Luce’s eye when he said it, but there wasn’t.

Being a practical man, Luce knew that getting attention is the media’s first requisite. The most compelling evidence is his answer to the question of why, despite his conservative political beliefs, he hired so many Democrats for his magazines’ staff.

“Because,” he replied, “those Republican bastards can’t write.”

For the most part, the man who named the American Century wouldn’t be shocked at seeing his magazine in this one embrace liberal writers, bare breasts and who-knows-what-else to stay alive in the competition.

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