Sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander

29 March 2007

One of the most successful publicity stunts employed by an media house is Time magazine’s “Man/Woman/Person/Product of the Year” gig. What is essentially just another cover story, with all the subjectivity and biases of its editors and reporters, is packaged and sold to the world as if it is gospel truth. And every media outlet  in every country falls for it, with the result that a few more copies of the magazine end up getting sold.

Exhibit A: Man of the year in the year of 9/11? Not Osama bin Laden, but New York mayor Rudy Giuliani!

A slightly tinier scam is Time‘s “Asian Heroes”. Across the continent, a dozen worthies—a predictable mix of politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, actors, sportsmen, and one unknown NGO honcho—are rounded up. In each Asian country where Time is sold, a denizen of that country is presented as the Asian Hero.

Exhibit B: Sania Mirza on the cover in India, Jackie Chan on the cover in the same week in Hong Kong!

To cut a long story short, it is a well honed marketing gimmick. It can pass off as giving the readers what is relevant to them but it wears thin. It is dumbing down with style. Little wonder, then, that even the Americans are seeing through the game.

Time‘s April 2 cover features a story about Pakistani religious extremists filtering across the border of Afghanistan “with the intention of imposing their strict interpretation of Islam on a population unable to fight back.”

That’s the cover that Indians and Pakistanis and Afghans will see. But the magazine’s American readers will see a different cover: “The Case for Teaching the Bible”, always a surefire success on the newsstands.

Blogger Paul Schmelzer wonders why Time isn’t giving the U.S. the same edition that the rest of the world is seeing on newsstands.  And, on Mother Jones, Rose Miller asks: “Is marketing getting in the way of the serious news in the U.S.? Or is the media afraid to tell Americans what they don’t want to hear? Only Time can tell.”

Will it?

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