TIME – Cover Stories

TIME logo from 1939

TIME Cover Stories

By August 1948, Whittaker Chambers had written cover stories so popular that TIME broke convention for him.

First, publisher Henry R. Luce broke the convention of non-attribution:

Clearly, the Marian Anderson cover was a Special Project. In fact, the Senior Editor in charge decided to write the story himself. The preliminary work involved talks with Miss Anderson, her mother, friends, teachers, impresarios, etc.’ But the important work was done, the writer claims, one afternoon when he shut himself up with a phonograph and a heap of records of Negro spirituals and played them over and over.
The story he wrote was hailed as a moving and beautifully expressed tribute to Marian Anderson and Negro Americans…
Because, in general, TIME‘S group journalism makes it difficult to assign ultimate credit for a single TIME story among those responsible for it (reporter, researcher, writer, editor, etc.), TIME‘S longstanding rule is seldom, if ever, to divulge the authorship of a story. In this case, so many of you have wanted to know the author that TIME has decided to break the rule. Speculating on the authorship of the Marian Anderson story, Marjorie Kinnan (The Yearling) Rawlings wrote: “My belated obeisances for the magnificent story on Marian Anderson. It was so beautifully written (my guess would be Whittaker Chambers) and gave such a spiritual lift.” Novelist Rawlings guessed right. 1

Then, Luce broke another TIME convention by naming Chambers his editor for special projects — for cover stories like the Marian Anderson piece and for longer essays in other publications, like his essay “The Devil,” which appeared in Life magazine earlier in 1948:

Most TIME cover stories are written and edited by the regular staffs of the section in which they appear. Certain cover stories, that present special difficulties or call for a special literary skill, are written by Senior Editor Whittaker Chambers. Some Chambers cover stories: Marian Anderson, Arnold Toynbee, Rebecca West, this week’s Niebuhr story. 2

Notes:

  1. A Letter from the Publisher,” TIME, February 10, 1947
  2. The Story Of An Experiment: TIME’S People and TIME’S Children,” TIME, March 8, 1948
 

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