June 29th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Diana and Kate Newsweek cover blasted as 'ghoulish' and in 'bad taste'

Newsweek and its new editor Tina Brown aren't just reporting the news, they've become the story this week after publishing a computer-generated cover photo showing Princess Diana and Kate Middleton side by side.

The women are dressed similarly, wearing hats, their heads facing toward each other as if they are walking together. The cover accompanies a fictional piece Brown authored which imagines how Di's life might have turned out had she not died in a 1997 car crash in Paris. Another couple of photos inside in the magazine are eye-catching. They are of Diana and the daughter-in-law she never knew wearing similar red dresses.

The issue is pegged to what would have been Diana's 50th birthday on Friday.

Here's a sampling of Brown's take on Diana in 2011: "Gliding sleekly into her 40s, her romantic taste would have moved to men of power over boys of play."

Diana would have had a Facebook page with millions of followers and named "Bridget Jones' Diary" as one of her favorite movies. She would have lived in a New York City loft and been married at least twice to men on both sides of the Atlantic. She would have enjoyed front-row seating next to Victoria Beckham during New York's Fashion Week, owned an iPhone and  been totally devoted to philanthropic causes when not doting on sons Harry and William.

Many have found the digital manipulation of Diana and Brown's imagining of the princess' future revolting.

The London Telegraph called the cover photo "ghoulish" and dubbed Brown "Newsweek's grave robber."  The newspaper supposes Newsweek's motivation was to sell magazines. E! Online wrote a story titled "Bad taste alert!"  Jezebel, which reports on issues related to women, penned a reaction under the headline "Undead Princess Strolls with Kate Middletown on Ridiculous Newsweek Cover."  Mediaite's Lizzie Manning said she didn't take issue with Brown's creative prose. It was the photos that creeped Manning out , more than Brown's writing. Popular blog Cafemom criticized Brown in an open letter to her, addressing Brown as Bonnie Fuller, the American magazine editor famous for print tabloid entertainment.

"You took a woman who has been dead for 14 years and made up an entire story about what she would look like, where she would be living (the Big Apple of course!), what she would be doing (apparently lots of Botox!), and perhaps most importantly, what she would be wearing (Galliano - the anti-Semite - and J.Crew a la Michelle Obama!) ... if she were still alive today," Cafemom wrote. "This is pure brilliance. I've never understood why a magazine called Newsweek would waste its time having reporters write about current events or world affairs when it could simply make up stuff."

The British Brown, new to the helm at the news magazine, formerly edited the New Yorker and founded the Daily Beast. She is well-known for her observations about British politics and culture, as well as American culture.

Wednesday morning, Brown explained why she wrote the story the way she did.

"I wanted to make her a time traveler," she said, adding that she viewed Diana as a "global, mover shaker kind of woman."

"She loved the limelight but she would have professionalized all that humanitarian giving," Brown said. "She would have been very much a woman of our time."

The Newsweek package isn't without straight reporting. The magazine highlights causes Diana championed by tracking how much good they've done after her death.

And the magazine isn't the only media outlet pondering what Diana would have been like at 50. The U.K.'s Daily Express newspaper also published a digitally aged image of Diana's face. It also is not the first magazine to attempt a fictionalized story about a famous and beloved life cut short. In April 2008, Esquire magazine imagined, in narrative form, what actor Heath Ledger's last few days alive might have been like. Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose that year. The magazine's editor at the time insisted the piece was neither stunt nor gimmick.

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soundoff (653 Responses)
  1. Tyree

    I'm sure the same people who got offended over this are the ones collecting foodstamps and/or EXTREMELY bored housewives...

    June 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Carol

    Sensibilties are all different and someone who is deceased should be off the table to publicly be imagined with doctored shots, and romantic silly words. It could be distressing to her sons, parents, and friends. She belonged to Royalty, and herself and should be respected in death, like she wasn't in life.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Demos

    Shameful. This is trash. Not a bright way to keep Diana's memory preserved.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FreeWillzyx

    I think part of the reason people have a problem with this is the Uncanny Valley effect of that photo. She looks just very slightly less than real, and just a little bit like a zombie. If they were going to do a picture of her in the modern world, they should have just photoshopped a picture of her looking the way she was when she was 36. My mother's 60 and she doesn't look as old as Diana in that photo does.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jay

    Thats awful.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sharp

    Not a big fan of British (or any other) Royalty but this is in bad taste. Let the poor woman rest in peace.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Helene Volat

    It's so ridiculous that I don't know if one has to cry or laugh. The obsession with the anachronistic and decadent British royalty in this country is pathetic.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CaraW


    June 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin

    Tina Brown was the worst possible choice for Newsweek. Ever read The Daily Beast? The writing there makes Slate look hard-hitting.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Zinnia G.

    The cover is such in poor taste. Newsweek is capitalizing on the deceased person who was the most photographed in the world at that time. People should not buy the magazine. Newsweek is simply trying to make a profit – the editor has lost the kind of journalism that we need.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sofaman

    "The women are dressed similarly, wearing hats, their heads facing toward each other as if they are walking together. "

    OK, a small point, in a pointless article, about an undead publicity hound, but why can't even this publication get their facts straight. Kate is looking at Di, who is clearly looking straight ahead. Why would a writer say otherwise? Editing: a dead art.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Barbara Nichols

    Newsweek, you know better! I'm so very disappointed in you!

    June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Julian

    painfully awful .

    June 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Princess of Kent

    This has hurt the royal family. It is a tasteless assault on Princes William and Harry and grossly disrespectful to the Duchess of Cambridge. I am appalled by the lack of judgement and sensitivity shown at this painful time of Lady Spencer's birthday (she was no longer Princess of Wales). To Newsweek I say, think of your own children; would you wish to cause them this pain? I believe that a resignation/termination is in order here. This woman has been a thorn in the royal family"s side for quite some time. This time she has exceeded the limit. It is my hope that HM the Queen will appeal to Parliament to censure Newsweek in the UK. Such an undeserving slap in the face given a life of selfless service. God protect the royal family and God Save the Queen.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JT

    NEWSWEEK hired Tina Brown to do more pop culture and less news. This is the result! No wonder people like Fareed Zakaria left the magazine.

    June 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
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