The magazine cover depicting the tragic events of the Boston Marathon that’s causing the most stir is ironically one that wasn’t even printed—at least not in the traditional sense.
Rather it’s the cover of Time magazine’s special tablet-only edition that has created something of a divide—even among industry peers—because of its composition and/or its cover subject.
In terms of composition, most who shared their reactions with magazine industry site Folio largely agreed that the photo omitted some of the needed context.
The digital cover features a young boy, crying, with an obvious head wound who is being held by an official.
Going by just what the cover depicts alone, that is all that can be deduced. Though the cover headline “Tragedy in Boston” provides more information, some critics say the image didn’t add anything to understanding the event.
Without knowing that two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon last week, killing three and injuring more than 200, this scene could have been extracted from any number of tragedies or accidents.
And without knowing the story behind the story of this photo, the image—though still shocking or heart-wrenching—is not as powerful.
The Boston Globe caught up with the police officer who carried the child shown on the tablet cover to safety. Boston Police Officer Tom Barrett told the paper he didn’t know the child’s name or even remember taking him to receive medical attention until he saw the image.
But the side of the debate that is drawing the ire of those outside the magazine industry is the use of a child—one that has obviously been traumatized—as the cover subject.
Most industry designers contacted by Folio acknowledged the bold choice in using the shocking image of an injured child, but often deferred to the lack of context or composition elements that were lacking.
However, The Christian Science Monitor pointed to the Time tablet photo as being the latest in what it calls a “disturbing media trend” of using children in provocative or exploitative ways.
A recent guest blog post on the site surmised that the cover depicting the Boston Marathon aftermath would do more to heighten fears at the expense of an injured child than it would help heal a city or a nation.
In a greater context, the guest blogger lumped Time’s tablet cover in with its controversial breast-feeding image that appeared on a May 2012 issue, decrying both as a means of using innocent children to help garner attention for the magazine.
What do you think? Did Time magazine cross the line with this cover image?