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Time Gets Crafty With Weepy Reagan Cover

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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TALE OF TEARS Reagan, Time

Is Time hoping a little controversy will draw attention to its redesign? The first new-look issue, on newsstands tomorrow, features what appears to be a photo of Ronald Reagan with a fat tear sliding down his cheek, illustrating the cover story, "How the Right Went Wrong." A somewhat cryptic credit in small type on the (revamped!) table of contents describes the image this way: "Photograph by David Hume Kennerly. Tear by Tim O'Brien." Nowhere does it specifically state that the cover is a photo illustration—in other words, that it's Photoshopped.

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The use of a striking but fabricated image is consistent with the vision laid out by new managing editor Rick Stengel, who has said he wants Time to be more like The Economist—the British newsweekly that often features humorous photo illustrations on its cover. Still, one wonders: Is the wording of the credit enough to make its provenance clear to unsophisticated readers? And, equally important, how will the conservative acolytes who worship Reagan as a demigod feel about seeing a faked image of their hero used for a story criticizing the movement he championed?

UPDATE: A Time spokesperson responds with a statement: Time regularly runs conceptual covers, as we did last week with the "Verdict on Cheney" cover, depicting the vice president standing under storm clouds." (That image was far less subtle in its artificiality, but fair point.) "This week's cover image is clearly credited on the table of contents page, naming both the photographer of the Reagan photo and the illustrator of the tear."

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