People magazine’s premature cover toasts Betty White’s 100th birthday

For months, People magazine editors focused on Betty White for a year-end cover story. Her 100th birthday was approaching on January 17, and readers still seemed to rejoice in her self-deprecating and slightly naughty observations. As a social media toast in recent years, Ms. White has wowed young and old alike.

In mid-December, Liz McNeil, a 29-year magazine veteran, and new colleague Dory Jackson were collaborating on the article, with Ms White answering questions via email, according to Wendy Naugle, associate editor of People. . . On December 23, the publishers closed the problem. It hit newsstands on Wednesday and started arriving in subscriber mailboxes on Friday.

Beside a glossy photo of Ms. White, with sparkling eyes, the People’s trumpets sounded: “Betty White turns 100!

Mrs. White died Friday morning. She was 99 years old.

As tributes started pouring in on Twitter, with fans celebrating Ms. White’s comedic performances on “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” people started to be in fashion as well. Some fans have criticized the magazine for insulting Ms White. (In addition to her weekly issue, People also marked her impending centenary with a commemorative issue devoted entirely to her seven-decade career.)

Others were delighted that Mrs. White, known for her devilish sense of humor and impeccable comedic timing, appeared to have had one last laugh.

People’s editor Dan Wakeford was in London when he learned Ms White had passed away, making her cover a Hall of Fame example of risking reporting something that has yet to happen. (The most infamous example remains the Chicago Daily Tribune’s decision in 1948 to mistakenly report that “Dewey defeats Truman.”)

Perhaps adding insult to injury, celebrity media competitor TMZ.com reported Ms White’s death, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Still, People were able to get the first official confirmation – from their agent, Jeff Witjas, who helped set up the interview. “Even though Betty was about to turn 100, I thought she would live forever,” Mr Witjas told the magazine. “I will miss her terribly, as will the animal world she loved so much.”

People then posted a comment from Mr Wakeford on his Twitter account. “We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Betty White,” he said. “We are honored that she recently chose to work with People to celebrate her amazing life and career.”

Speaking by phone, Ms Naugle said she and other staff were “all in shock”. Ms White, she noted, shared an image of the cover of her 100th birthday on Tuesday with her 1.3 million followers on Twitter. “People Magazine celebrates with me! »The post read.

It turned out to be Ms White’s last message. In one of December 15, she promoted a documentary, “Betty White: 100 Years Young,” which was scheduled to premiere in theaters on January 17. “I’m going BIG for my birthday – straight to BIG SCREEN!” Mrs. White had said.

Producers of the film, Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, have said the film will be released as scheduled. “Betty has always said she was the ‘luckiest on two feet’ to have had such a long career as she has,” they said in a statement. “And honestly, we’ve been the lucky ones to have it for so long.”

When asked to reconcile the sadness of Ms White’s death with the cover-up screams, Ms Naugle looked on the bright side. “I think fans will be touched to know that she was funny and in good spirits until the end,” she said.

Ms White had joked to People, for example, that her longevity could be attributed, in part, to her diet. “I try to avoid anything that is green,” she said. “I think it works.”

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