Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bloggolalia: Sports Magazine Cover Bias

Last week, Sports Illustrated put Brett Favre on their cover once again, this time showing him leading the Packers to a divisional play-off win against the Seattle Seahawks. The choice was controversial to me; the Packers win was the biggest blow-out of the divisional round. Why not put up the Giants victory over the Cowboys? Or the Chargers upset of the Colts? I did some fact-checking and realized why Sports Illustrated chose that cover, and also why Brett Favre was the Sportsman of the Year.

Copies of the Brett Sportsman of the Year cover are being sold for $15 each on Sports Illustrated had to order another 50,000 copies of the magazine because demand was so high--something they haven't done since 2001. Now you see why Brett Favre was on the cover again; and this makes you wonder, did Brett deserve that Sportsman of the Year award? Or did Sports Illustrated select the most saleable name they could find, just to boost sales?

It's not only Sports Illustrated. Last month, I got a copy of SLAM magazine with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony on the cover. Inside the magazine, the editors admitted that they had initially picked Yao Ming for the cover, but decided to scrap his cover story after his photo shoot came out poorly. Apparently Yao is about as photogenic as your typical blogger. In addition, the editors complained that due to low 4th-quarter ad revenues, the magazine was shorter than usual.

Finally, take a look at ESPN's cover during the NFL play-offs, for the 1/28 issue:

Why is there no football on the cover? Because ESPN and ABC are broadcasting the X Games, and so ESPN put Gretchen Beiler on the cover. She's a non-story! It's a pathetic attempt by ESPN to get ratings and attention for what many would argue isn't a sport at all.

Now I know those of you who work in journalism are laughing and telling me this thing has gone on for years. There's a reason why newspaper pictures of the state fair always include pretty blond teenagers, etc. But still, it irritates me. I disagreed with some assumptions in Big Daddy Drew's analysis of bloggers vs. journalists, and I'll get into the details next week. But he's absolutely right when he says there's nothing sacred about the printed word or journalism. I mean, look at that; three of the top sports magazines in America, all intentionally manipulating their lead stories and deceiving the sports fan as to what's really important. I respect their right to earn as much money as they can, but I didn't notice before just how blatant it was.

EDIT: Yours truly participated in a roundtable discussion at The Starting Five on Five Questions to Take Advantage of a Black Sense of Urgency. Of course, I was stunningly underqualified to take part, but hey, since when has that stopped any blogger?! Anyway, enjoy the responses of the truly wise, ha, and skim over mine, please.


  1. Non-story, yes. Better looking than Favre, definitely. Your freudian use of a cover four-times the size proves you agree!

  2. Ha-ha! I'd like to say it's because I don't know how to size pictures in blogger, but I have to admit, that is pretty good evidence against me. :-p But hey, if that's really why, I would have included some of the "other" pictures of Beiler she's done for ESPN the Magazine, ha.