cover story

a magazine article highlighted by an illustration on the cover.
a fabricated story used to conceal a true purpose; alibi: No one believed the cover story released to the press.

1945–50 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

cover story

  1. A featured story in a magazine that concerns the illustration on the cover, as in The earthquake is this week's cover story for all the news magazines. [Mid-1900s]

  2. A false story intended to mislead or deceive; also, an alibi. For example, Their cover story while investigating local repair services was that they had just bought the house and were having problems, or The suspect gave the police some cover story about being held up. [Mid-1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
He put his faith in the strength of his cover story.
And so it was with the subject of this month's cover story.
After refusing to cooperate, he agreed on condition that he should be the subject of a cover story.
Here's one way to stir up interest in a long-out-of-print book: do a cover story on it.
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