Looking back, the magazine’s 75th anniversary spectacle converted Radio City Music Hall across the street into a banquet venue and invited every living person who’d ever appeared on its cover. The Rev. Billy Graham, say hello to Joe DiMaggio. President Bill Clinton, meet Lauren Bacall. You get the picture.
The current ownership, however, is low-key about the centennial. But Time’s survival is noteworthy in today’s harsh environment for print media, albeit with reduced circulation, budget, staffing and publishing frequency.
Then there is another important angle about the impact of Time in the news marketplace. News flash: Religion makes news!
Missionary Kid Henry Luce was the co-founder, and Time carried a religion news section each week, alongside other specialized “back of the book” sections like Press and Law — subject areas that many dailies only covered with depth decades later.
Attention-grabbing Time covers, coveted real estate for all fields, added renown to numerous religious writers and thinkers (e.g. C.S. Lewis, 1947), bureaucrats (Eugene Carson Blake, 1961) and activists (Mother Teresa, 1975).
Some readers may recall one cover in particular — the much-misunderstood black-hued “Is God Dead?” Holy Week cover in 1966, written anonymously (no bylines in those days) by John Elson. This talented scribe, a churchgoing Catholic, was not undermining faith but asking whether there were any limits to the era’s “theological strip-tease” among liberal Protestants and post-Protestants. That cover was, in other words, ahead of its time.
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