Bias & Sales: The Michele Bachmann Newsweek Cover

Newsweek's cover photo of Michelle Bachmann scares me.

In this week’s cover story, Newsweek featured the up-and-coming Tea Partier Michele Bachmann who–according to the magazine’s editor Tina Brown–is “galvanizing” voters in Iowa with her views about big government and “refreshing and tough” attitude.

The cover features a downright horrible  picture of Bachmann with an equally unflattering caption, “The Queen of Rage,” though the article is titled “Bachmann: Tea Party Queen.”

As a result of the picture, FoxNews pundits and Jon Stewart finally agreed on something other than annoyance over the S & P’s downgrade: Newsweek’s cover photo of Bachmann is overtly biased and makes her look insane.

Stewart went so far as to show a photo montage of Bachmann to prove that she is photogenic:

My point is, you got to go pretty far out of your way to find a crappy photo of Michele Bachmann. And you did. Why?

Brown responded to criticism of the unfair picture with the following statement:

Michelle Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek’s cover captures that.

Maybe Newsweek was trying to capture Bachmann’s intensity: In a gallery of outtakes of the photo shoot, Bachmann’s eyes are a little daunting, especially when she’s engaging with voters. The article is about how Bachmann’s beliefs and “folksy” preaching have made her into a “political force” and the picture is an effort to reflect the article’s statements:

Asked if her positions are extreme, Bachmann replies that the Tea Party’s ideals are simply the most rational solutions to a broken and profligate government, and that the only option is to stand tough. “I do not twist in the wind,” she says proudly.

So the article’s supposed to focus on Bachmann’s intensity and radical beliefs. But I think other photos and captions would have been more appropriate for the front cover–maybe one of her speaking to a group of willing followers in Iowa. I think it’s fair to say the photo is biased, but what would Newsweek have to gain from such a slant?

Right now, FoxNews is the most watched cable news channel, even though its claims of “fair and balanced” coverage aren’t necessarily true. FoxNews is popular because viewers don’t want balanced coverage–they want their own opinions validated. Or, as in the case of my father, viewers like getting themselves worked up about the station’s political lean.

Similarly, the only reason Newsweek used this picture was to amp up sales and create a stir about the piece. Conservatives and liberals will flock to newsstands to either grumble about the “bias” or laugh at Bachmann’s humiliating cover. In either case, people will read and discuss the article. And that’s all Newsweek really wants: more readers.

In these economic times, can you blame them?

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2 thoughts on “Bias & Sales: The Michele Bachmann Newsweek Cover

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