People magazine has breathlessly covered the Trump family as celebrities for decades — even after Donald Trump won the presidency — to the ire of many. But on its latest cover, the weekly magazine notably changed course, blasting the "SECRETS & LIES" involved in the Trump campaign-Russia scandal.
The cover shows a photo of President Trump, his daughter Ivanka, son Donald Jr., and son-in-law Jared Kushner behind a large banner headline proclaiming “THE TRUMP FAMILY SECRETS & LIES.” Beneath the headline, it reads: “Donald Trump taught his children to fight dirty and win, no matter what the cost. How the ruthless family culture has shaped Don Jr., his siblings — and the Presidency.”
Despite statistics showing Trump voters care little about the first family’s contact with Russian government actors, the story’s prominence on a People cover indicates that the scandal has broken through to become relevant beyond the realm of political junkies, and is getting through to the average American consumer of news and entertainment. People boasts an audience of more than 41 million people, one of the largest of any American magazine, and is ubiquitous in a way many publications aren’t: People is available not only by subscription and in the magazine racks of bookstores and newsstands but also in the checkout racks at most major grocery chains.
In short: The editors of People are motivated to sell magazines, and the People covers, calling out from among racks of other magazines, are a major tool for selling them. Per reporting from the magazine data organization MagNet, in 2016, 373.2 million magazines were sold at newsstands and grocery store checkouts around the country. Time Inc., which owns People, was listed as the second-largest national distributor. If People’s editors didn’t think readers would be interested in this story, they wouldn’t have broken with their typical fawning coverage of the Trumps and pushed other go-to topics like the British royal family and Kardashian-related drama to the margins (literally).
New People cover.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 19, 2017
(But nobody cares about this story) pic.twitter.com/gBoVINtyM3
As stories continue to break connecting the Trump campaign to the Kremlin, and the Trump administration and its supporters work to dismiss the allegations as a distraction, the People cover could prove to be a turning point — evidence that the scandal’s gravity is being felt far beyond the field of political punditry.