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New Yorker Drops New Orleans Cover for Cheap Cheney Joke

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I’m usually a fan of the cover illustrations for The New Yorker. When you’re scanning hundreds of magazines at Borders, the typical close-up photographic portraits and nondescript graphics blend together like grazing zebras. It’s a welcome relief when your eyes land on a colorful, witty illustration that slyly satirizes a recent event or general idea. There’s something both charmingly sophisticated and coffee shop cool about using cover art the way The New Yorker does.

So I was disappointed when I came upon the news (via The Millions) that the magazine had bumped a beautiful and touching rendering of New Orleans:

Instead, they used a trendy, unoriginal joke about Dick Cheney’s hunting mishap:

According to the artist, Bill Joyce, the magazine had approached him, a Louisiana native who still lives there, to do both a cover illustration and a story about New Orleans post-Katrina. The editors then decided to go with the Cheney story, not only replacing Joyce’s cover but also completely dropping his story as well.

[ADBLOCKHERE]This is disappointing for two reasons. First, by the time this issue hit the stands, the hunting story had already been written about, blogged about, and talked about everywhere, from network news to late-night talk shows to online editorials. The New Yorker, jumping on the political bandwagon a little late, hopefully has a new perspective worthy of coverage and yes, last-minute decisions like this are made all the time in the publishing world. But did they have to drop the New Orleans story altogether even if it wasn’t the cover?

Secondly, while this isn’t a terrible cover (out of context, it’s actually kind of funny), it does feel dated and, worse, uncreative. How come a highly esteemed publication such as The New Yorker can only think to make yet another Brokeback Mountain reference/joke? There’s already been about, oh, three million Brokeback jokes made in the media, from late-night monologues to dozens of homemade parodies. Plus, as this blog explains, the magazine already did a Cheney-and-Bush-as-gay-lovers cover a few months ago. Expired, over-saturated topic plus expired, over-saturated cover equals an oversight on the part of the editors.

Conversely, Joyce’s colorful cover manages to be both haunting and hopeful, conveying pride in the face of disaster. Even though media bigwigs like Anderson Cooper and Oprah have done Katrina follow-up stories, a behind-the-scenes look from a resident would have been an interesting, enlightening piece about not just the recovery process itself, but how it’s being perceived by those still living there. It seems especially relevant now as they head into their first Mardi Gras post-hurricane.

As Joyce himself says, “I really had hoped that compassion would win out over clever. Mr. Cheney’s friend is thankfully alive. Meanwhile, we’re still finding bodies in New Orleans.”

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About Don Baiocchi

  • http://www.tresbleu.blogspot.com Sister Ray

    You’re totally right. The New Yorker is the creme de la creme of magazines. It’s too bad they made this call. Hope they have better sense in the future.

  • Bliffle

    When will these people stop chattering about Cheneys shooting incident? The victim has already apologized, for crying out loud!

  • http://www.educateddoubt.com lori

    The Cheney cover isn’t very good, I agree. The Mardi Gras cover would have been better.

    But you should really have picked up a copy of the issue before commenting on what is and isn’t under the cover.

    The Cheney shooting is covered only in “Talk of the Town,” in a funny look at some of Cheney’s other “missteps” and how he handled those and how there really isn’t any protocol for what to do if you shoot a friend while quail hunting. It’s a funny, short piece.

    Plus, New Orleans gets plenty of ink in this issue as part of a nine-page article about the shrinking land in Southern Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina is covered in the story, of course. I haven’t finished the article yet, but it’s pretty clear that the New Yorker has published a Katrina follow-up article in this issue.

    Maybe the artist is just upset that his cover and story didn’t get used. We have no way of knowing why the editors chose not to publish them.

  • chantal stone

    the ‘New Orleans’ cover would have been perfect timing too, with mardi gras. that cheney thing is so last week. time to get over it.

    post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as the surrounding areas, NEED to still be talked about, and SHOULD be still on the covers of magazines. those affected areas are hardly recovered, and the people and families affected will be rebuilding for a very long time.

    the short attention span that we, as Americans, suffer is deplorable. let’s not forget what happened to an entire region of our country just because some idiot shot someone on a hunting trip….that stuff happens all the time. the displacement of thousands is much more newsworthy.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com/ Don Baiocchi

    People won’t stop talking about the Cheney/shooting incident because it’s an easily-digestible story that’s easy to mock.

    If there’s just a little blurb about the Cheney incident inside, and there’s a big Katrina story, that just reinforces how the New Orleans cover would have been a better choice, as it would have reflected what has the bigger coverage in the issue.

    But yes, there could have been a lot of different reasons for dropping his story. We don’t really know the whole story.

    Whatever the reason, if there’s a big Louisiana story, why bother with a stupid, cheap cover that doesn’t reflect what’s inside? Will it really sell more on the newsstands? I’m not convinced.

  • http://www.tresbleu.blogspot.com Sister Ray

    I read The New Yorker at the library; I don’t see it on newsstands except for upscale bookstores.

  • http://www.educateddoubt.com lori

    New Yorker covers don’t always reflect the big stories inside the issue. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s one of the nice things about their covers.

    I agree with you that the Mardis Gras cover was the better choice. But the artist is saying that the New Yorker isn’t giving New Orleans enough coverage, when in fact it still gets a lot of ink in this particular issue.

    So it kind of makes the artist sound like a whiner.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com/ Don Baiocchi

    OK, Sister Ray, you got me there. I guess when I said “newsstands” I should have said “upscale bookstores.” :)

    Lori, that’s true, they don’t. However, the point isn’t if they choose to not use a cover that doesn’t address the biggest subject in their issue, The point is, if they’re going to use a cover (whether or not it receives a lot of attention inside the same issue), it shouldn’t be a cheap, unoriginal cover of a subject that’s already tired and oversaturated by the time the issues is out.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com/ Don Baiocchi

    I should clarify that previous comment by saying the point of my article isn’t about what gets more coverage inside. I said I hoped the mag “hopefully has a new perspective worthy of coverage,” I didn’t say that it had to take up more space than anything else just because it’s on the cover. I just said, if they’re going to bring it up after everyone else has talked about it to death: a) they’re a little late to begin with and b) they should find something else to say that no one else has.

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