Despite outcry from the navel gazing mediasphere, The New Yorker editor David Remnick stood by his cover choice for this week’s issue, which depicts a cartoon of a Muslim garb-clad Barack Obama fist-bumping an afro-wearing, gun-toting Michelle Obama. The editor has spent the last two days in damage control mode and defended the image to The Huffington Post, ABC, CNN, NBC and NPR. In a description of the cartoon by Barry Blitt, the magazine said it “satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the Presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.” The joke may have been lost on critics who saw the cover as offensive or over-the-top, but other observers are wondering how advertisers might react.
According to insiders within Condé Nast, sales execs have been inundated with responses to the cover, to the point where one said, “I feel like I should be wearing a bulletproof vest.” One ad sales executive said this week’s issue was discussed at every meeting with advertisers he attended on Monday, “and not in a good way.” However, a New Yorker spokeswoman said that the magazine’s vice president and publishing director Drew Schutte and associate publisher David Miller “haven’t heard a thing from advertisers,” and there have been no requests to pull ads. A media buyer who represents several advertisers in The New Yorker also said he has not received complaints from clients about the issue. But a source close to the magazine did say that readers have sent in a flood of e-mails weighted heavily toward angry complaint, save for a few who praise the cover.
Some insiders speculated that any actual business fallout may take some time, as advertisers digest the issue’s impact. “Some are going to stress, they’re going to think, and they’ll evaluate, and you’ll see the impact in a couple of issues from now,” said one source. “The reaction won’t be so swift.” And even if the fallout from the cover flap is miniscule, the source said, such controversy could at the least make an already tough year for The New Yorker even more challenging: ad pages for the weekly title, which has published one fewer issue than it did in 2007, have fallen 21 percent, to 700 pages, through the July 7 issue, according to Media Industry Newsletter.