As if Newsweek needed another headache this week.
Already mired in a controversy over this week's Niall Ferguson cover story, Newsweek is receiving even more backlash this afternoon over a decision on the magazine's Tumblr account.
After a back-and-forth exchange with the Huffington Post's Tumblr (which this morning used a coat hanger on its homepage to highlight a GOP abortion platform article), Newsweek's Tumblr account changed the cursor on its site to a coat hanger. The cursor change appears to be an attempt at humor for the Tumblr account, which is often known for cheeky, irreverent commentary on mainstream news events. Yet the decision has ignited some fervent backlash and scrutiny at a time when the publication most certainly does not need it.
The post, which went up at 12:36 p.m., amassed over 150 comments within less than two hours. Most are negative and range from "Fire this person" to "LOL nothing like making light of historic tragedy that continues to threaten women to this day."
As always, there has been plenty of reaction on Twitter as well:
Just want to emphasize: Your brand is only as respected as the most recent thing you did with it. One stupid thing ruins it.
— Ernie Smith (@ShortFormErnie) August 21, 2012
— Rebecca Rosen (@beccarosen) August 21, 2012
@newsweek is officially bipolar – they have a coat hanger cursor on tumblr and a cover story headline "Hit the road, Barack!"
— David Weller (@dcweller) August 21, 2012
At 1:08 p.m., Newsweek's Tumblr reposted a comment by a user named "Sorkinisms" which appears to defend the Newsweek cursor decision claiming, "I understand why people would be shocked, disconcerted, and even disturbed by this display at Newsweek.tumblr.com, but I’m glad for it. People SHOULD BE shocked and horrified and disturbed and nauseous over the idea of returning to a time in America when women were forced to this absolute cruelest of medical procedures (abortion via coat hanger)." The posting seems to indicate that Newsweek's Tumblr is defending its decision under the premise of stirring up a debate on the abortion issue.
While it remains to be seen how Newsweek will officially spin this incident, it only adds to the question posed this morning by Capital New York's Tom McGeveran: "Who is minding the store at Newsweek?"
Adweek has asked both Newsweek and Brian Ries, who appears to run the Tumblr account, for comment. Andrew Kirk, director of public relations for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, responded with this statement:
"The coat hanger has clearly become a symbolic icon that triggers outrage and debate in our hearts and minds. We chose to switch the Tumblr cursor to a coat hanger after seeing the strong reactions our friends at the Huffington Post received. After all, 40 years after the Roe. v. Wade decision, a woman's right to choose is still leading the national debate—and influencing the Republican Party's national platform."