The Michele Bachmann Newsweek cover that just came out, seen below, is a spit in the face of journalism – not so much for the goofy photo of Bachmann but for the "QUEEN OF RAGE" headline that accompanies it. Here’s why.
This has nothing to do with who I personally believe should or shouldn't be the next President of the United States. I’m not writing this because I’m a conservative. Or a liberal. Or a member of the Tea Party. This certainly isn’t a defense of the politics that guide potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann – just a plea for her, and any public figure, to be portrayed correctly and truthfully by the media.
You won’t know what political affiliations or religious beliefs I carry after reading this, because before all of those identity markers, I am a journalist. And if I’m reporting on something, even when my opinion is inflicted in the strongest and most convicted manner, everything I write – from the final words at the bottom to the headline at the top – will be based on relevance and truth.
Sadly, I don’t think Newsweek carries the same sort of journalistic conviction – not after seeing the recent Michele Bachmann Newsweek cover at least. The cover shows a wide-eyed Bachmann looking straight into the cover with a funny expression. There’s no hiding the fact that she looks silly. That’s not where I have a problem, though.
The photo is real and doesn’t contain any alterations (we assume), and it was obviously taken with Bachmann’s knowledge, as she’s looking dead into the camera – so it’s fair game. There’s absolutely no journalistic malpractice here.
The portion of the Newsweek cover I have an issue with is the headline, and its use with the goofy photo. The headline reads: "THE QUEEN OF RAGE" with a subhead that actually gives a fair synopsis of what Bachmann talks about in the interview. Rage, however, is a word that doesn’t appear in the story once, and isn’t ever implied as a characteristic of Bachmann or her political ideology.
Author Lois Romano does call the Tea Party that Bachmann backs as "radical," but look up the definitions for radical and rage, and you’ll find two completely different meanings. At best, rage can be used to describe someone who is passionate and filled with "wrath." At worst, it can be used to describe someone who is filled with violent anger, and uses "great violence" as a tool in which to prevail.
Coupled with the goofy photo, the word rage implies that Bachmann is violent and even insane, or at the very least, simply unfit to lead the country. Read the profile on Bachmann, however, and we don’t read a depiction of a violent woman falling into the depths of insanity, just one that has a ‘radical,’ perhaps contradictory, outlook on the government.
The problem is, many people won’t read the story. Many will pass by it on newsstands, or catch the Newsweek cover online, as it’s became a huge headline this week already, and has caused quite a stir in conservative circles. With great justification too.
After all, thousands of people will see the cover, the funny look on Bachmann’s face and the unsubstantiated headline (unbeknownst to them), and decide that they’ve seen enough. There may be plenty of reasons Bachmann isn’t the right person to lead a country in one of its worst moments of recent memory, but rage is not one of them.
Great work, Newsweek, great work.