Is Time‘s Tom Hanks Cover a Shill for Time Warner?

hankscover03122010.jpgMarketWatch’s Jon Friedman is taking Time to task for putting Tom Hanks on the cover right before this Sunday’s premiere of Hanks-produced HBO miniseries The Pacific.

First, says Friedman, Hanks is an alright guy, but he probably doesn’t merit placement on the vaunted weekly’s cover. Plus, something smells: Time parent Time Warner also owns HBO.

Friedman spoke with Time‘s editor:

Rick Stengel, one of the sharpest and most ambitious magazine editors around, sounded more bemused than angry or perplexed when I suggested that Time had looked bad here. He says the Hanks piece, written by the brilliant historian Brinkley, requires no justification or ethical defense because it was so well reported.

Stengel told me in a brief phone interview on Wednesday that the “possibility” occurred to him that naysayers wonder whether Time was acting to assist its parent company.

The fact that some people might question Time’s motives is “one of the reasons I almost didn’t do it,” he said. Ultimately, he decided that the quality of the journalism outweighed the cynics’ argument. Brinkley’s story represented “something valuable for our readers.”