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For those of you who don’t know, Publishers’ Weekly is a weekly trade magazine for literary agents, book publishers and librarians. In recent years, its primary focus has been book reviews.

All good, so far. This week, the week of December 14, 2009, PW released an issue focused on book reviews and trends in African-American publishing. I mean, why not, right? There’s been a lot going on in the Black literary world recently. Still good.

But here is where things start to unravel. This is the cover that finally made it to print:

As I often feel when these sorts of questionable images end up on covers of magazines, I am bewildered. I mean, I’m a media person. I know how many meetings and discussions happen before anything is solidified in print. We hash things out, we argue about the relevancy, we discuss the appropriateness of any imagery we choose.

Sure, everyone makes mistakes. But sometimes, the mistake can be so obvious that it’s hard to let it slide. This PW cover happens to fall in that category.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I actually feel about it. At first glance, it seems completely offensive and negatively stereotypical. I mean, the only thing missing is Farrakhan in the background. But after polling a few co-workers, it seems some Black people don’t really see anything wrong with it.

So, enlighten me, here: Is a cover like this an example of bad editorial judgment? Or is it really not that big of a deal?

This snafu started one hell of a Twitter controversy, so there must be some weight to it all, no?

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