The Controversial TIME Magazine Breastfeeding Cover

LA Times reports — Time magazine’s breastfeeding cover story asks: “Are You Mom Enough?” But it might as well ask: “Who Says Print Is Dead?”

The magazine is the talk of the nation this morning, dominating the morning talk shows, the radio shows, social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, and that gold standard of relevancy, Google. It’s the No. 1 search term there today.

“This is a cover that has the entire nation talking,” said magazine expert Samir Husni. “When was the last time you saw a story do that,” unless it was a breaking news event? “This is an example of print well done. It’s a stroke of genius … the print industry really needed this cover to show they are still the movers and shakers.”

Not a day goes by without someone rambling on about the decline of the traditional media and the rise of digital. But Time’s cover proves that print can still be king if it steals from digital’s playbook — by becoming the conversation starters (not the followers), choosing relevant, edgy subjects and then tackling them in a visually arresting way — he told the Los Angeles Times.

No matter how much we love our tablets and devices, Husni said, the story probably wouldn’t have caused such a stir if it had originated online and stayed there. There’s simply something unique about such a bold, full-color print photo on the cover of a magazine staring out at you at the check stand.

The Time cover shows breastfeeding in an up-close-and-personal kind of way that many Americans have never seen before: a 3-year-old boy standing on a chair so he can better suckle at his standing mother’s breast, with both mother and child looking directly into the camera.

The headline says, “Are You Mom Enough?” perhaps because nothing sells magazines like preying on a woman’s insecurities. The headline and cover have started an array of offshoot conversations, including: Is the 3-year-old being set up for a lifetime of ridicule? And why does the media love pitting mothers against one another?

It’s also introduced the nation to a new term: extreme breastfeeding.

The story itself raises issues. The mother on the cover is Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, of Los Angeles, who says she’s been confronted by strangers who see her son nursing and threaten “to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation.”

It all adds up to the secret sauce behind the cover’s success, said Husni, a professor at the Magazine Innovation Center, Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. The editors have taken a very old topic — breastfeeding, after all, has been around forever — and managed to put a very fresh spin on it.

“It didn’t just start the conversation, it’s continuing the conversation,” he said. “This is not just ’15 seconds of fame, go on to the next story.’ This story is going to be 24/7 [for a while]. There’s a reason why people call this ‘old media.’ That’s because it took 500 years to build up this tradition. You don’t just throw the white flag and say, ‘OK, everything is digital now.’ “

“It’s just a story about breastfeeding. Yet it stops you. It shocks you. This is in your face.”

And that, of course, “is an editor’s dream come true,” he said. “Lots of people may be shocked with this cover. We live in a society that says, ‘If I don’t shock you, you won’t pay attention to me.’ “

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