Tina Brown knows what she’s doing.

The editor of The Daily Beast/Newsweek and former tabloid editor knows how to get eyes on a page. But whether or not she can keep them there is debatable considering her mixed history with publications.

Newsweek, before Brown, was best known as the news weekly that’s not Time Magazine, although neither publication was doing all that great in the great media shift from print to online. Brown was brought in to combat the decline with her work at The Daily Beast, hoping that she could bring some of that online luster (and her news nose) to the magazine. The result has been a series of ever more hysterical cover stories that get her magazine buzz, but are debatable as to whether or not they translate into sales (or respectability).

This latest cover in which an oft-wrong conservative penned a polemic about why President Barack Obama doesn’t deserve a second term, fits in quite nicely in the no-fact-check, anything goes world of the periodical nicknamed “NewsBeast.” Never let some facts get in the way of some good hype.

Here’s a breakdown of some of NewsBeast’s most outrageous covers under Brown’s stewardship.

Mitt Romney is a cast member from Matt and Trey’s “The Book of Mormon.”

Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame have always had a fascination with the Church of Latter Day Saints, so anyone who’d closely watched their work shouldn’t have been surprised that their musical about Mormons would be both profane and heartfelt. Perhaps that’s what Newsweek was going for when they appropriated promotional imagery from the Broadway show to Photoshop Mitt Romney’s head on a leaping missionary’s body. Oh, and this image was used to sell an article about “Mormons” having their “moment” on the national stage, tying in the history of the church with Romney’s looming nomination. A writer for the conservative magazine, National Review, said the cover made the candidate “look like a lunatic.”

Mitt Romney the “wimp.”

This was NewsBeast last controversial cover before this most recent one. Before they decided Obama needed to hit the road they dipped into the controversial Romney cover well twice and pondered whether the candidate has the fortitude to be head enchilada. Critics pointed out that Newsweek has used the “wimp” word before (at least two dozen times), but most notably in reference to President Obama, former President George H. W. Bush and 2004 presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry. New York Magazine’s Daily Intel wrote: “The article notes high up that its 1987 cover caused a ‘Huge stir.’ Huge! Stir! It also notes that the entire Bush clan was enraged. Newsweek would surely love to cause another huge stir and to enrage the Romneys, but it’s doubtful they would even notice any more.” More to their point: Romney, because he is an android, publicly claimed to be unfazed by the slam.

President Obama is a gay president.

Trying – and failing – to use “gay” in the same way some called former President Bill Clinton the “first black president,” Newsweek got a few ganders by calling Obama gay for being in favor of gay marriage. Critics point out that Obama is not gay and is in the middle of a straight marriage with First Lady Michelle Obama. But, for Newsweek, calling Obama the first “pro-gay marriage president” involves too many words and is nowhere near as catchy. NewsBeast pretty much admits that Brown and Co. are just screwing with us, claiming the Gay Obama cover is their effort to one-up competitor Time Magazine who had recently put a woman breast feeding a kid old enough to order his own Happy Meal on the front of their glossy. Sayeth NewsBeast: “A Newsweek spokesman even confirmed that after editor Tina Brown saw the Time cover, she laughed and said, ‘Let the games begin.’”

 

Sarah Palin’s got short-shorts.

This actually pre-dates Brown’s tenure, but would have likely made the famed muckraker proud. Newsweek, like many magazines, loved to put Sarah Palin on their covers, even when it went against their own best interest. The mag made Palin the go-to gal for conservative “babes” at least four times since she reared her head on the national stage like Vladimir Putin admiring her house in Alaska from Russian shores. But some said Newsweek went too far in publishing a photo of Palin that was never meant for Newsweek, but for a running magazine. In a rare moment of a broken clock being right twice a day, Palin and her supporters cried sexism and it stuck. In all the photos Newsweek could have picked they ran the one of her in short running shorts.

Michele Bachmann got dem crazy eyes.

Michele Bachmann – the Sarah Palin of the 2012 GOP race – caught a lot of flack for her unconventional views, foppish-seeming hubby, severe French manicure and tendency to say controversial things, but she still wanted the respect. Newsbeast was all, “Nah, pass. We’re publishing the worst possible picture of you we can find.” Even though they had better shots. I don’t even like Bachmann, but even I was like, “What the fudge, Newsweek?

Zombie Princess Diana at 50.

Arguably the worst cover Brown produced to near universal disdain, the Zombie Princess of Wales was heralded as “creepy.” This was largely because the Photoshop job was terrifying and rather insensitive, and the article penned by Brown was largely frivolous. (Would Princess Di have an iPhone? Use Botox? Would she Tweet? WOULD SHE?! WE MUST SPECULATE!) Best reaction came from Times of London columnist Janice Turner who tweeted: “Astonishing. Why didn’t Newsweek just row to Althrop island, exhume & snap Diana’s rotted corpse?”

They could have done that, Turner, but Photoshop was cheaper. All these covers, in fact, prove that adage that in lieu of real reporting … the Photoshop was cheaper.

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  • Yes, it is disturbing when news magazines are indistinguishable from tabloids. With the sheer number of official/credible sources news magazines amass over the years, a fact-based riveting story should not seem so impossible or unlikely. Credible sources, I thought, were what separated news magazines from bloggers like me (and I’m a damn good blogger!). Obviously, it just comes down to lazy journalism and not wanting to do the work.