Controversy about Newsweek Palin Cover, by Larry Eder



Newsweek cover of Sarah Palin

In a copyrighted story in the British newspaper website, Telegraph (, a repurposing of a photograph of Sarah Palin, originally used in Runners World, and then reused as a Newsweek cover, has sparked some controversy. In this writer's mind, it is all about the context of the reuse. The line, " How do solve a problem like Sarah?" is obviously a play on a song from the popular movie, starring Julie Andrews, called The Sound of Music. The original song was titled "How do you solve a problem like Maria?". Remember my comment before, it is all about the context....

Runners World magazine was quoted in the article as saying that they had no prior knowledge of the reuse of the photograph, showing Ms. Palin in running shorts and with the America flag in the background. RW was described as being very unhappy with the repurposing of the photo by Newsweek. Unless RW had a written agreement with the photographer that stated that RW had to be forewarned about secondary use, RW may not have legs to stand on. Photographers frequently share photos from shoots that were rejected by one company to be used by another. In this case, though, the photo was first used by RW, so, repurposing the photo may not have violated the letter of any agreement.

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, who ran for VP on the McCain ticket in 2008, has just released a book titled, "Going Rogue." Ms. Palin is on a book tour at this time, and has been welcome fodder for the late night TV hosts (check out Craig Ferguson's "Going Rogue" segment last night on his late night TV show), and most public relations experts would suggest that any publicity is good publicity. The Newsweek cover should sell well on newstand, and it should also help Ms. Palin's book sell well on newstand.

Ms. Palin was not happy with the photograph's use in Newsweek, but had been fine with its use in RW, noting how she was very much of a supporter of physical fitness. Ms. Palin, in the Telegraph article, has cried "Foul" and with some reason, in my view.

Whether one is on the left or the right, Sarah Palin, it can be agreed, elicits a response. The left has made her out to be a bimbo, and the center considers her amusing at best, and the right likes her 'spunk'. The Newsweek editorial staff wanted to do several things: a) sell lots of Newsweek on the new stand, b) make sure that cover was used by TV and Web pundits everywhere, and c) make it remarkably clear, no matter where one stands, of their feelings about Ms. Palin. They have been successful, as the cover will elicit a response from anyone who sees it! And, isn't that the goal of media?

Newsweek has been surprisingly partisan in its approach to Ms. Palin. As a newsmagazine, they are supposed to provide both sides of a story. In the real world, that is remarkably hard to accomplish. One's feelings, especially about someone so polarizing, are hard to hide. The cover will be successful as portraying Sarah Palin as a running bimbo will be of interest to her supporters as well as her detractors. In my mind, Palin has become the Dan Quayle of today's political pundits.

Be forewarned though. Sarah Palin is tough and all of this media frenzy is just building her street cred for 2012. Even to this observer, who seldom swings to the right, Sarah Palin has supporters galore, and anyone who considers her moves as anything less than trying to become the next President of the United States is woefully underestimating the former governor.

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