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A 21st Century Statesman

Our assignment this week was to choose a news magazine cover and analyze it in relation to its heading and its related story inside. My pick couldn’t have been easier; George Clooney on the cover of Newsweek’s February 28, 2011 issue. The second I looked at that cover, I knew I’d find many reasons for controversy. You have George Clooney, a Hollywood actor standing close to a couple of Sudanese children. This wouldn’t seem so odd unless you take a look at that picture. The faces of these children are not in focus, only Clooney’s is. You have the title talking about him helping Sudan’s people and yet you don’t even include their faces properly.

George Clooney is a famous Hollywood movie star. We’ve all seen him in many movies, and we are used to him being all suited up for the red carpet. But on the cover of this issue, Newsweek captures this 50 year old actor in informal attire, making sure we see him as more down to earth than what we’re used to. In fact, John Avlon, the author of the article, does a pretty good job in describing Clooney’s looks; “Clad in a khaki-colored ExOfficio vest, white safari shirt, lightweight pants, and worn hiking boots, Clooney doesn’t look or act like a buttoned-up diplomat” (Avlon, 2011). Clooney in this picture is not looking directly at the camera, but away, so as to show us that he is in action and not really focused on the many shots that are being taken of him.

However “sincere” this image seems to look, there’s an unfortunate catch to it, and it’s that the image completely lacks emotion. If you removed the title “Newsweek” and all its headlines, and saw this image with nothing written on it, you would actually think it was taken out of a movie or a photo shoot session where Clooney was just posing for the camera. You might as well remove “on the ground in Sudan with a new kind of statesman” and write “50 years old and still lookin’ good”; no one could tell the difference. Maybe I am being a little too harsh, but that is how I saw it. There are millions of people out there helping out the less fortunate, and yet you don’t see any on the covers of magazines unless they’ve walked down the red carpet once in their lifetime. You want to shine a bigger spotlight on celebrities? That’s fine, but at least don’t exclude the reason they’re there in the first place, especially when placing such an image as the cover of a magazine.

The context of the image is definitely evident. You can directly tell by looking at the picture that all the article is going to talk about is George Clooney and his accomplishments in Sudan. Why would Newsweek choose this picture and not another? It’s a question I asked myself over and over again, and the answer I came up with is quite likely to be true. We have to keep in mind that when a magazine chooses a picture to put as its cover, it is choosing a specific one for its targeted audience. Choosing Clooney would get anyone’s attention, especially when the headline shows you that they’re going to portray him in very positive light. If we removed the children in that picture, it would still grab everyone’s attention because it doesn’t change anything; Clooney is still in the spotlight.

“The referendum would not have taken place without his involvement. Never. He saved millions of lives. I don’t think he knows this” (Avlon, 2011). You cannot make a major statement like this one, and not explain it. When I read this statement, which was originally said by Valentino Achak Deng, I thought an explanation would follow it. Millions is a big number, and such a statement will make readers ask questions as to how did he accomplish that exactly? I don’t mean to seem biased, I actually love George Clooney. I am also aware that celebrities acting as statesmen generate more attention from the audience, because they have millions of devoted fans. Nevertheless, the spotlight should have been shared between Clooney and the “millions” of people he saved in Sudan or anywhere else.

If I were to change anything, I would most definitely change the cover picture. I would show Clooney in action with the Sudanese, without blurring their faces. I would take one with many people surrounding him so it would show how many people he’s trying to help, and the situation they’re in. Maybe in one of his many visits to Sudan, Clooney saw devastating images of the conditions in Sudan, and instead of putting that picture away, I would put it as the cover of Newsweek’s issue so the audience actually knows what is going on around there and would also want to take action.


Avlon, J. (2011). A 21st-century statesman. Retrieved from

Image: Retrieved from

Newsweek 28.02.11-Click to Enlarge

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