In a live chat Tuesday, The Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan says he's okay with the controversial headline Newsweek editors put on his cover story critique of President Obama's critics. Nearly simultaneously, Obama's campaign adviser David Axelrod gave the story his seal of approval, tweeting that it is an "Important piece to read and share" (though with no mention of the cover line itself). Yesterday we bemoaned the fact that the cover line "Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb," didn't reflect the argument Sullivan's story made and distracted people from engaging intelligently with him because they were too busy mocking the buzzy cover line. Today, Sullivan says he didn't see the cover until it hit stands Monday, but that doesn't mean he shares our face-palming feelings.
Here's the question from the live chat:
did you try to stop that headline? the article is so brilliant and nuanced, in my view, and yet the attention-grabbing headline is so misleading and off-putting that it practically begs critics to misinterpret the piece
And here's Sullivan's response:
I didn't try to stop it because the first time I saw it was when I looked at the magazine Monday morning. But look: the point of cover lines is to generate interest and controversy and to sell magazines. And the piece is what it is - and has gotten a huge amount of readership. If people don't want to read it, I can't force them. Nor would I want to.
Of course, Sullivan's probably not looking for a fight with Newsweek editor Tina Brown, so he'll have to leave it to us to wish that the headline had encouraged a less ad hominem attack-filled debate.