Appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone
magazine tends to be a career milestone, at least for musicians. Dr. Hook released a song about that very phenomenon
a full 40 years ago.
The longstanding association between the cover of Rolling Stone
and pop icon status is probably what has many people angry, or at least uncomfortable, about the magazine’s newest issue, cover-dated Aug. 3 and not yet available for sale. Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev peers out from the cover in a self-taken photo with a look not unlike that of Jim Morrison or Mick Jagger.
editor Michael Rusch pointed out as much in a tweet comparing the new cover to some classic Rolling Stone
Of course, it’s not as though Rolling Stone commissioned the photo. The same one has appeared on the front page of The New York Times
The story associated with the photo, by contributing editor Janet Reitman, promises to explain “how a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster.” Rolling Stone has included articles about politics and current events alongside its music coverage for decades.
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Still, the magazine’s covers have generally been the arena for rock stars and pop idols (even though Charles Manson did appear on a 1970 cover
). It’s that context that seems to be confusing or infuriating observers. On Rolling Stone
’s Facebook page, a post revealing the new cover
has drawn nearly 7,500 comments, almost all of them negative. Many include threats to end subscriptions, and quite a few of them include language PR Daily
Here’s one that seems to sum up the sentiment, though: “This is not a rock star! Who is running this magazine?”
UPDATE: Rolling Stone
issued this statement in its defense Wednesday:
"Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and
our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the
traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to
serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and
cultural issues of our day."
It added, "The
fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many
of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the
complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how
a tragedy like this happens."