Yes, Time Magazine Thinks Americans Are Stupid

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A screen shot of the U.S. and international covers for the Feb. 20, 2012 issue of Time Magazine.

You may notice something striking about this week’s American edition of Time magazine.

While readers in Asia, Europe, and the South Pacific—really, the rest of the Time-reading world—confront a serious profile about Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his role in the euro crisis, Americans are in for a special treat: a cover story called “The Surprising Science of Animal Friendships*.” (The asterisk leads to a footnote at the bottom of the cover that says, “BFFs are not just for humans anymore.”) With not one but two adorable dogs against a hot-pink background, this week’s Time really signifies the editors’ staunch commitment to serious, hard-hitting journalism, even if it means risking unpopularity.

Sarcasm aside: This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, Time faced ridicule for giving the rest of the world a cover story on the Arab protests while feeding Americans a cartoon cover about “Why Anxiety Is Good For You” only two months ago.

An athlete appearing on the cover of Time Magazine is a great honor. But apparently that honor only appears in the United States if it is a sport that Americans care about.

Lionel Messi, who recently won FIFA’s Player of the Year award for the third time is on this week’s cover of Time Magazine (right)But good luck finding that issue in the United States. In this country, Messi has been replaced by an image for a story on shyness.

Producing regional magazine covers is not new. Sports Illustrated often does this in preview issues, presumably to better promote that issue in different parts of the country. But in this case, Messi is not being replaced by soccer player with a more American appeal.

In the end, it is unclear who should be more offended, the sport of soccer for losing a chance to reach fans in the United States, or Americans whom Time may not feel are sophisticated enough to appreciate a soccer cover.

Time’s conviction that Americans only want to read feel-good puff pieces appears to be far stronger than any desire on the publisher’s part to sell itself as an important U.S. news source.

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