On Dec. 28, Betty White’s Twitter account celebrated the actor’s latest cover story in People magazine. “My 100th birthday… I cannot believe it is coming up, and People Magazine is celebrating with me!” White tweeted. “The new issue … is available on newsstands nationwide tomorrow.”
Three days later, news broke that White, a Hollywood icon for 70 years, had died at 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday on January 17.
It’s the kind of Dewey Defeats Truman moment that print journalists can lose sleep over, compounded by the fact that People released two issues celebrating White’s centennial: Its weekly newsstand issue and a special commemorative issue devoted exclusively to the actor.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Betty White’s passing,” People editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford said in a statement to Variety. “We are honored that she recently chose to work with People to celebrate her extraordinary life and career.”
In her interview with People, conducted in December, White joked that her longevity was because she avoided eating “anything green.”
“I think it’s working,” she said. “I’m so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age.”
People also interviewed several of White’s colleagues for the cover story, including “The Proposal” costars Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and Mary Steenburgen, and fellow TV icon Carol Burnett.
The week between Christmas and New Years has historically been a prime window for print magazine sales, as travelers flying home from the holidays snap up reading material to occupy their attention. White’s death could paradoxically spur more readers to purchase People’s White covers, which are now certain to become collectors items.
People’s parent company, Meredith, was purchased in December by Dotdash, the digital publishing arm of IAC, Barry Diller’s holding company. The all cash deal was valued at roughly $2.7 billion, or $42.18 per share.