Despite rumors and rumblings that Newsweek is moving to digital only, the print magazine’s latest issue makes it clear that it isn’t at least going down without another controversial cover.
The Aug. 13-20 double issue’s cover story, “101 Best Places to Eat in the World,” is depicted by the face of an anonymous model and in her fingers a couple of asparagus spears dangling suggestively above her mouth.
Normally the term “food porn” might conjure up images like those found in Saveur, Bon Appetit or Food & Wine magazines—beautiful dishes that awaken the desire to eat and be satisfied. Yet the emphasis is always on the food.
But Newsweek’s cover plays on both terms— food and porn—separately and ultimately together. Still, the overarching message is a sexual one. BagNews, a website dedicated in dissecting images in the news, took its analysis a step further.
BagNews writer Karrin Anderson concluded that the subtext is one of female oppression, where both the food and the woman are presented as objects of desire. This is further reinforced, she writes, in the cover article. Of the 53 finest chefs who chimed in on the world’s best places to eat, a precious few are women.
Was this message what Newsweek editor Tina Brown had in mind for her latest cover? Or was it just another attempt to get people talking about her magazine?
Likely the latter as Brown has been partial to the shock factor on her covers time and again. So far she’s exhumed Princess Diana, who was appropriately aged to look 50 thanks to Photoshop, and placed next to daughter-in-law Kate Middleton last July.
Then there was President Obama’s coming out party in May this year, complete with a rainbow-colored halo edited in above his cover photo.
Gender equality arguments aside, this time the controversial cover was sloppily executed. It made use of a quite popular stock photo that’s been around the block a few times. Blog site Eater pointed out this image covered the UK’s Observer Food Monthly back in 2008 and most recently appeared in the May 2012 issue of Harper’s Bazaar Russia.
In 2006, Harper’s Bazaar hired award-winning photographer Donna Trope to take the image, which appeared in its June issue that year and is still on the magazine’s website, according to Eater. Since the image was licensed, it’s been making the rounds on stock image galleries.
There’s no shame in using stock images, but on the cover and when your main competition is shooting its own? (As weird as it was, at least Time’s controversial breastfeeding cover was original.)
For all the pandering and mixed messages implicit in Newsweek’s latest cover, using a recycled photo is the least of its worries. But it doesn’t hide the fact that this is a magazine in desperate need of attention—and it’s willing to go to nearly any lengths to get it.