The Nature of Time: How the Covers of the World’s Most Widely-Read Weekly News Magazine Visualize Environmental Affairs

Time-1970-02-02Mark S. Meisner & Bruno Takahashi “The Nature of Time: How the Covers of the World’s Most Widely-Read Weekly News Magazine Visualize Environmental Affairs,” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, Vol.7 No.2, pp. 255-276, 2013.


Scholars of environmental communication acknowledge the importance of visual representations in shaping perceptions and actions in relation to environmental affairs. Unlike with other media, including newspapers, television and film, research on the visualization of nature and environmental issues in magazines is rare. This study focuses on the covers of Time magazine, one of the world’s most influential news weeklies. A data set that includes all relevant covers from 1923 to 2011 is examined using a combination of quantitative and qualitative content analysis to analyze the visual representation of nature and environmental issues. The results show that the presence of environmental issues and nature on the covers has increased over the decades. Furthermore Time takes an advocacy position on some environmental issues, but it is a shallow one that is weakly argued through less-than-engaging imagery and fails to offer much in the way of solutions or agency to the reader.

This paper was accepted October 11, 2012 and published May 16, 2013.

Incidentally, there are no examples of the Time covers we analyzed included in the paper. In my view, it would have been fair use to include them, since this is a work of scholarship. However, the journal publisher would have nothing of it; they required permissions from the copyright holder. I tried to get permission from Time‘s representative, PARS International Corp., but they wanted $414 for every cover we wanted to include in the print version of the journal, and the same for the online version. So that would have cost us close to $5000 to reproduce half a dozen covers which anyone can freely see on the Time cover archive.

Contact me using the form below if you want a free e-print from the publisher.


Updated Thursday, May 16, 2013.