Time Responds to Criticism Over Simpson Cover

Source : The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/25/us/time-responds-to-criticism-over-simpson-cover.html

In response to the barrage of criticism about Time magazine’s cover portrait of O. J. Simpson in the current issue, James R. Gaines, managing editor, posted an electronic message on a computer bulletin board on Wednesday stating that “no racial implication was intended, by Time or by the artist.”

The cover portrait of a blurry, darkened and unshaven Mr. Simpson is actually a doctored version of a photograph made by the Los Angeles Police Department. Mr. Gaines’s message said that the police photo had been given to an artist who was asked to interpret it. The credit line, printed at the bottom of page 3 of the magazine, said, “Photo-Illustration for Time by Matt Mahurin.”

The cover has been criticized and discussed in newspapers and on television as well as in dozens of electronic messages on America Online. America Online, a national bulletin board with 800,000 subscribers, carries an electronic version of Time magazine. Accusation of Racism

Some critics said that by darkening the photo of Mr. Simpson’s face Time gave him a more sinister appearance and was thus guilty of racism. Other critics said the magazine had displayed poor editorial judgment.

“It seems to me you could argue that it’s racist to say that blacker is more sinister, but be that as it may: To the extent that this caused offense to anyone, I obviously regret it,” Mr. Gaines said in a message posted on America Online.

He took issue with criticism that Time had dramatized the photo to sell more magazines than Newsweek. The same police photo of Mr. Simpson appears on Newsweek’s cover this week, but without alterations.

“Though Time and Newsweek are obviously competitive in several arenas, the newsstand battle is neither fierce nor much on my mind from week to week,” Mr. Gaines said. “Newsstand sales are a very small part of Time’s circulation (about 4 percent), and Time has been the newsstand and subscription leader for many years.”

Mr. Gaines said he wanted to create Time covers that were “in some way iconographic.” Time has a long tradition of cover portraiture, he said. But he added, “That said, I’ll be a little more careful about doing portraiture or photo illustration on very tight deadline, which was the case here.”

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