Time Warp: Magazine Award Finalist for Offensive Iwo Jima Cover

     How do you get nominated for a magazine award? Do something that offends almost everyone and tears down an American icon at the same time. Even better, claim you were just trying to get “attention.”

     That’s certainly the strategy Time magazine deployed and they are seeing the benefits. Time’s persistent global warming hype led it to run a cover photo of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima – only the magazine deleted the flag and replaced it with a tree. The cover read: “How To Win The War On Global Warming.”

     The cover, skewered by veterans, critics and even the National Press Photographers Association, was just nominated for an award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. Time was even picked as a 2008 Best Cover Concept Finalist for the design – competing with The New Yorker, Wired and Vanity Fair.

     The controversy began with the April 28 issue when Time doctored the famous Iwo Jima photograph by Joe Rosenthal of the Marines raising the American flag. The cover story by Bryan Walsh called green “the new red, white and blue.”

     Veterans were outraged. Donald Mates, an Iwo Jima veteran, told the Business & Media Institute on April 17 that using that photograph for that cause was “an absolute disgrace.” “Whoever did it is going to hell. That’s a mortal sin. God forbid he runs into a Marine that was an Iwo Jima survivor,” Mates said.

     Time managing editor Richard Stengel appeared on MSNBC April 17 to defend the magazine. He said the United States needed to make a major effort to fight climate change, and that the cover’s purpose was to liken global warming to World War II.

     “[O]ne of the things we do in the story is we say there needs to be an effort along the lines of preparing for World War II to combat global warming and climate change,” Stengel said.

     But Stengel said the cover was about advocacy in a later appearance. He openly defied the traditional notion that journalists should be unbiased. “I didn’t go to journalism school,” Stengel said. “But this notion that journalism is objective, or must be objective is something that has always bothered me – because the notion about objectivity is in some ways a fantasy. I don’t know that there is as such a thing as objectivity.”

     He made those comments at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., on April 21. “My feeling is you have to grab people by the lapels and say, ‘Hey, pay attention’ and that was the idea of doing this,” Stengel said. “[I] just think you can’t be squeamish about trying to get people’s attention.”

     He also admitted he understood the image might be offensive. “Yes, absolutely,” Stengel said, reacting to a question if he thought some might be offended by the cover. “I certainly hear that some people would be offended by it. Obviously many people have – were offended by it. But I do think, and I have made this case and I’ve made the case to people who have talked about it, is that climate change and we can even discuss the merits of it or not – climate change is going to affect every living human being.” 

     In response to the cover, the Media Research Center, the parent of the Business & Media Institute, launched a petition that condemned the use of the iconic Iwo Jima photo as a global warming prop.

     More than 33,000 signatures were collected for the petition, which called for immediate action by Time. The petition condemned the liberties the magazine took in addressing global warming:

     MRC President Brent Bozell sent a letter dated April 23 to Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel also denouncing the magazine’s use of the photo and the absence of an apology from Stengel.