Editor-in-chief Tina Brown has resurrected the magazine world's time-tested way of boosting newsstand sales: the Jesus cover. But to be fair, she's given the Lord Savior a modern makeover. It's a cover that manages to be both vintage Newsweek and classic Tina all at the same time.
For Brown's part, it fits right in line with her penchant to dress down and hippify the sacred cows of her publication's readership. During her tenure at The New Yorker, that meant running an irreverently hip interpretation of Eustace Tilley, The New Yorker's decades-old mascot. Newsweek, meanwhile, has rarely been able to resist the son of God as poster boy, given that he's a surefire bet for a general interest readership and the stats have his back: trade mag Folio says putting Jesus on the cover elicits a sales bump by as much as 45 percent. And the Jesus boost couldn't come at a better time. Two weeks ago, Brown went on offense pushing against an Ad Week report that the joint Newsweek Daily Beast company lost $30 million in its first year. It's not quite that bad, Brown told ABC News, saying that while the magazine isn't making a profit yet, in a "couple of years" it will be making money again.
What we end up having today is a thoughtful cover story by Andrew Sullivan, instructing Christians to avoid the corrupting influence of establishment religion and embrace the teachings of Jesus himself—a topic Sullivan, a lapsed Catholic, has been blogging about eloquently for years. "If we return to what Jesus actually asked us to do and to be—rather than the unknowable intricacies of what we believe he was—he actually emerges more powerfully and more purely," writes Sullivan. For the big sell on that, you get Jesus Photoshopped in Times Square, outfitted in an Urban Outfitters button-down and a navy jacket.
Here's how hip, urban Jesus compares with his Newsweek predecessors:
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