When Presidents Make Good Magazine Covers

Washingtonian’s January cover.

The January Washingtonian played it straight with a nice cover picture of president-elect Donald Trump—greeting a new President respectfully is something the magazine has done for many years. It’s too early to say how well the Trump cover will sell but it almost certainly won’t match the Barack Obama cover in January 2009. That one sold more than 110,000 copies on the newsstand, shattering the magazine’s newsstand sale record by more than 40,000 copies. The sale reflected the passion that came with the election of the first African-American President; the crowds that 2009 inauguration day were far larger than ever before.

Would a president-elect Hillary Clinton cover have done better than Trump in January? Most likely yes, since a cover featuring the first woman President would have had a keepsake quality.

The magazine enjoyed making fun of Presidents after that first respectful greeting. Here’s a Washingtonian web story that showed President Ronald Reagan photoshopped onto a bodybuilder, successfully selling a cover story about feeling young and living longer. A year into his presidency, we showed President Carter being pelted by snowballs thrown by daughter Amy.

Washingtonian’s top-selling cover.

In May 2009, after I had retired from doing covers, the magazine went back to the well on President Obama, showing him in a bathing suit (slightly photoshopped) and selling a story about “26 Reasons to Love Living Here.” Maybe it was too early to return to an Obama cover; it sold below average. Then in December 2016 the magazine did another Obama cover with a nice picture of Barack and Michelle and the cover line: “The Obama Years: How They Changed Our City.” With its keepsake quality it probably will outsell President Trump in January.

Future President Trump covers? My guess is he’ll appear on many more magazine covers than the average President. Let’s hope some are irreverent and funny, as were some of the best signs at the Women’s March.

When the Washingtonian next does a cover on D.C.’s best hairstylists…
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P.S. It was good to see the press quickly pull back from any negative or irreverent coverage of 10-year-old Barron Trump. Chelsea Clinton was one of the first to say leave the kid alone. I feel a little the same way about Melania, the new First Lady. She’s succeeding the very respected and charismatic Michelle Obama, and you get the feeling that Mrs. Trump will do her best as First Lady but it’s not an easy role and nothing in her background prepared her for it.

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