Newsweek’s gay-marriage cover is a flag in the ground for print journalism

Newsweek | The New Republic | Politico
Andrew Sullivan’s cover story in this week’s Newsweek is a marvel of extended blog writing — a sharply constructed, breezily toned argument that President Obama “learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay.”

It may even get discussed sometime this week. But at the moment it’s being overshadowed by the cover of the print edition of the magazine it appears in.

One might, at this benighted point in print-journalism history, ask what difference the cover of a magazine actually makes. They’re not a huge economic force: Newsweek’s year-end publisher’s statement this past December gave an average of 40,342 single-copy sales per issue, down from 96,334 in 2007. But they still occupy a nice piece of cultural real estate. An article in a newsweekly has as much chance of becoming the focus of cultural conversation as a photo of a falling bear or a review of an Olive Garden in a North Dakota newspaper, but an arresting cover is an assertion that while print magazines’ power may have receded, they’re far from toothless.

Just look at how much comment Time’s “breastfeeding” cover last week kicked up, for a story that wasn’t really about breastfeeding and was behind a paywall. A Newsweek spokesperson told Keith Kelly “When Tina saw the Time cover, she laughed and said, ‘Let the games begin.’ ”

In a statement to Politico, Brown said, “If President Clinton was the ‘first black president’ then Obama earns every stripe in that ‘gaylo’ with last week’s gay marriage proclamation … Newsweek’s cover pays tribute to his newly ordained place in history.”

After Obama said he thought gays should be able to marry, The New Republic lobbed a package of cheeky cover suggestions at Brown, including one of the president leading a pride parade in a white suit and another of him kissing Joe Biden, all of which made the sideways point that subtlety was not the way to go (that’s The New Yorker’s job). Newsweek’s cover is provocative, fun to riff about and a flag in the ground that says print journalism still matters. Kinda makes you hope the games continue, doesn’t it?

Related: Time breastfeeding cover inspires the ‘conversation’ newsweeklies want

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t know the expression “a flag in the ground,” and I can’t find an explanation of it. Could you please  use standard language, or at least paraphrase your imagery in words so people know what you mean? Do you mean “a flag in the ground” in the sense of laying claim to contested territory, as in Columbus? Is this a sports metaphor?

    Also, if Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay, does that mean they learn a lot or a little? Just a few additional words could clear this up completely for all your readers.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know the expression “a flag in the ground,” and I can’t find an explanation of it. Could you please  use standard language, or at least paraphrase your imagery in words so people know what you mean? Do you mean “a flag in the ground” in the sense of laying claim to contested territory, as in Columbus? Is this a sports metaphor?

    Also, if Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay, does that mean they learn a lot or a little? Just a few additional words could clear this up completely for all your readers.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GAAH7VRO37HO7C6EIMX4TVIKWY Jon

    i suppose no one reads Newsweek for objective analysis (admittedly a difficult thing to achieve) but really … a halo?
    i’m not opposed to opinion magazines. i just wish Newsweek would give up the pretense that it is something else. it’s an opinion magazine. just like the National Review. No better. No worse.

  • Anonymous

    Or, if you wanted to really cover the article behind the  article (rather than genuflecting to his cleverness) you might want to read Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of Mr. Sullivan’s hypocrisy in how he has defended Mr. Obama when he didn’t support marriage equality and his praising him now that he is.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/05/14/andrew_sullivans_father_figure/singleton/

    And, by the way, Mr. Greenwald had a nice take on Mr. Obama’s decision. Basically, “The president deserves credit for his actions in this civil rights area, regardless of his motives.’
    http://www.salon.com/2012/05/09/e_3/singleton/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528171491 Anonymous

    Who’d have thought just a few years ago that a president of the United States would be accused of endorsing gay marriage to WIN votes? Wow, have times changed.

  • http://twitter.com/CAPTAINATL CAPTAIN ATLANTA

    Obama is just using the gay community for 2 at a time votes. He was against it until his staff told him he needed votes. His announcement doesn’t give the gay community any rights. It is an empty statement to buy votes…2 at a time.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Beaujon, you say:
    “…a flag in the ground that says print journalism still matters. Kinda makes you hope the games continue, doesn’t it?”

    I am not sure how you expect the game to continue when you spend so much time covering the pictures on the covers of magazines and ignore stories that actually make a difference in people’s lives.

    Just from today:
    A differenct perspective on Mr. Obama’s affirmation of gay rights.
    “On Empathy: Obama’s, Cheney’s, and Ours”
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/14-2
    or
    “U.S. Renews Military Sales to Bahrain Amid Crackdown”
    http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/14/headlines
    or
    “Human Rights Watch says 72 Libyan civilians were killed during NATO’s assault on Libya last year, including 20 women and 24 children.”
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/05/14-0