Call the fact checkers! New Yorker cover doesn't know the difference between the Windows 8 Start screen and desktop

My weekly New Yorker appeared in my mailbox this afternoon, with a giant faux cover in front of the real one, showing what the magazine might look like if it were a Windows 8 app on the Start screen. Clearly, the New Yorker fact checkers were taking a vacation, though, because in big type, the magazine mistakenly calls the Windows 8 Start screen the "desktop."

Microsoft has been buying plenty of real estate from Conde Nast publications, of which the New Yorker is one. Some 14 Conde Nast magazines, ranging from the New Yorker to Vogue, Wired, Glamour, Allure, and others have covers designed to show what the magazine might look like if it were the Windows 8 Start screen.

AdAge reports that a Conde Nast spokesperson claims that no money has changed hands between Microsoft and Conde Nast for the front-page promotions. The spokesperson said that there were "no advertising dollars involved" in return for the front covers. A Microsoft paid ad campaign for inside pages, the spokesperson said, "is separate and distinct" from the the covers.

On the other hand, the spokesperson admitted, the covers are "clearly coordinated" with the ad campaign and are "tied together under the umbrella of our holistic relationship" with Microsoft.

Got it? I don't. It's quite clear that the only reason that 14 of the biggest, most influential, and most profitable magazines in the world put faux Windows 8 app covers in place of real covers is that Microsoft paid plenty of money for a giant ad campaign. Everything else is just splitting hairs.

Back to the New Yorker, though. I've been a subscriber for decades, and have long thought it the best magazine in the world. Every week I read it from cover to cover. Its fact checkers' attention to detail is legendary. And right there on the front cover, just below the magazine logo and above a mockup of New Yorker apps on the Windows 8 Start screen is this:

A sample of the new New Yorker experience on the Windows 8 desktop

How in the world did the fact checkers miss that? One might argue that it's an ad, and that fact checkers don't check facts on ads. (If they did, after all, they'd have to delete every word, including "the.") But didn't a Conde Nast spokesperson claim the front covers weren't ads? And even if it is an ad, it looks like editorial content and it's the most important page in the magazine, so you might think that fact checkers would get involved. If they were involved, they missed a whopper. If they weren't involved, they should have been.

How the mighty have fallen -- my ideal of perfect journalism tarnished!

Oh, well. At least the magazine didn't refer to the Start screen as Metro.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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