A central premise of the framework developed here for reading magazine covers is that magazines are sites of contestation. Rather than providing the public a uniform and monolithic, that is, hegemonic, view of immigrants, these magazines often differed dramatically in their perspectives. Even a particular magazine would sometimes present contradictory views in different issues, in one characterizing immigration and immigrants affirmatively and in another issue emphasizing problems. Such inconsistency reflects the larger society's ambivalence about immigration. And yet, magazines do not simply “report the news. ” They have editorial positions and points of view. They are active participants in a struggle over which view of immigrants—affirmative or alarmist—will inform the nation's discourse on immigration.
Throughout the last three and a half decades of the twentieth century both alarmist and affirmative characterizations of immigrants and immigration have been interwoven into the national discourse on immigration. As was found, however, alarmist images increased in frequency and came to dominate the covers during the early 1980s and 1990s. Both liberal (the Nation, the New Republic, and the Progressive) and conservative (the National Review, Business Week, and U. S. News and World Report) magazines as well as mainstream (Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, and American Heritage) resorted to alarmist imagery, which may or may not have corresponded with the tone of the accompanying article or articles. Despite this tendency to use alarmist imagery on their covers, the magazines did not present a consensus on immigration and