Analyzing News Magazine Cover
Tala El Hallak
American University of Beirut
Professor Jad Melki
Throughout this assignment we will see different ways of interpreting a news magazine cover. The magazine cover I chose is The Economist’s that was published in 2008. I chose this image because it caught my eye for several reasons that I will mention in this assignment. Moreover, an image can be interpreted differently depending on the reader’s point of view. By analyzing every element of the cover, we will find out more about the choices of the editor. We will see that not all magazine covers are efficient. In some cases changing the headline or even the background image could make a big difference. In addition to that, we will see that an image can’t be posted alone without its headline because it could mislead the readers and they might interpret it in another way. In the end of this analysis, I will suggest an alternative headline and image that may help the audience understand better the topic.
Analyzing News Magazine Covers
According to Wikipedia, The Economist magazine is “an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication” that deals with its articles in a sincere way. The front cover of The Economist magazine issue that I chose was published on the 19th of April 2008. We can see that the amount of words on this front page is very limited and goes directly to the point. The magazine deals with topics such as “Brazil as the next oil giant”, “Cancer’s link to stem cells” which are important and interesting subjects to evoke. “Front-page subject matter has expanded widely, reflecting rising interest in topics like finance, family, technology, medicine and space” (Rosenthal, 2004). But the main topic explores the problem of food crisis around the world. As we can see, the headline “The Silent Tsunami” is clearly written in a light color on a rather dark background using a large font that catches the eyes. This magazine image could be interpreted differently depending on the reader. Therefore throughout my analyses, I will study different aspects and ways to understand this cover.
I would like to start with the headline “The Silent Tsunami” which is the first thing the reader will focus on when he sees this magazine cover. First of all the two words “silent” and “tsunami” are opposites. The word “tsunami” indicates an unexpected event that agitates everyone and is very dangerous. The two words might have been put near each other in order to create an oxymoron. The word “tsunami” was chosen to warn people about what could happen. Like we mentioned earlier, The Economist treats international issues. The food crisis is an issue that concerns everybody. Reading the word “tsunami” triggers the audience to find out more about the topic. It shows as well the intensity and seriousness of the matter. The headline is written at the bottom of the picture, very straight forward and sharp. I think that the editor chose to put it there to catch the reader’s eye of and to make it the main focus of the whole cover. The use of a light color over a darker color creates a contrast which makes it clearer and more visible for the targeted reader, thus alarming them of the importance of the event. As we know, visibility is one of the main keys for a better presentation. “Contrast gives design energy and clarity” (Melki, 2010).
Furthermore, the background image that was chosen for this magazine cover shows a cloudy blue sky and a large corn field in which the wind is blowing. The context of the image is implied. The cloudy agitated sky declaring a strong storm to come clearly implies a serious warning hereby dictated as a tsunami. On the other hand the existence of a corn field in the image does not predict a food crisis. The headline and the image caption “The food crisis and how to solve it” change and influence the meaning of the image because they explain and clarify the choice of such a picture. Besides, the representation of a bad weather could correspond to one of the reasons that can lead to a food crisis. Maybe that’s why the editor decided to put up this picture. But if it were the case, I would find the image choice quite inefficient because people can’t do anything about the weather.
The colors of the image are generally bright in opposition to the importance of the cause discussed. In my opinion darker colors should have been used to accentuate the weight of the threatening situation. Using this image rather than a darker, sad one is probably a message of hope trying to put the audience in action to save their basic needs before it is too late. Therefore the photo caption “The food crisis and how to solve it” awakens a curious, well educated, knowledgeable reader to find out more about the crisis and its effects and possible solutions to prevent or decrease its impact. “The Economist’s readers are affluent, well-educated and influential.” (www.ads.economist.com/the-economist/our-audience/)
In my opinion the image choice does not reflect the intensity of such a subject because of the absence of emotions and expressions. If it weren’t for the words “tsunami” and “food crisis”, the message behind this doubtful photo wouldn’t be well interpreted. For instance, cropping out the headline and photo caption of the magazine cover could lead the reader into a different comprehension of this image. For example, this photo could appear in any other magazine focusing on sightseeing or even on an artistic project. The headline and the photo caption are clearly necessary to understand the exact meaning of the choice of a picture.
Personally, I think an alternative image for the cover would be a photo divided into two parts, the first one showing a healthy person in a current situation where food availability is taken for granted and the second one showing a starving human being affected by scarcity of food in a situation of crisis. Perhaps this could affect the audience emotionally. A possible headline would be: “Starving, an option?” Quite often, interrogative headlines attract people more than affirmative ones.
A front page of a magazine has to be clear to the audience in order to catch their eye. Words should be well chosen and should be limited. By analyzing this magazine cover, we can point out that different people interpret what they see in different ways. Therefore headlines, captions and images should state a message in order to lead the readers to the right meaning of the news.
Rosenthal J. (2004, August 22). What belongs on the front page of the New York Times.
The New York Times.
Melki, J. New Design Principles and PowerPoint I.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Economist.
The Economist, (2010, October 7). Our audience
The silent tsunami. (2008, April 19). The Economist