In the era of print media provocation of newsstand sales and the need to make the news to cover the news, it isn’t too much of a surprise that Rolling Stone took a more creative approach to its latest cover, a feathery, softly-lit picture of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Equally unsurprising were the reactions, which where swift and shrill. CVS is reportedly refusing to sell this issue. Funny or Die created a parody cover mocking the magazine’s seeming attempt to retain cultural relevance. And Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino told Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner in a letter that “the survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories; though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”
But a few have actually supported Wenner and his staff, including Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple and Mark Joseph Stern at his sister publication, Slate. Stern eloquently writes that “[b]y depicting a terrorist as sweet and handsome rather than ugly and terrifying, Rolling Stone has subverted our expectations and hinted at a larger truth. The cover presents a stark contrast with our usual image of terrorists.” Rolling Stone issued a statement of justification on its Facebook page and on the story, saying “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.”
After all, isn’t this what magazine covers are supposed to do — grab the attention of your multitasking mind just long enough to stir up anger or curiosity and make you pick up the issue? But, in the case of the Rolling Stone cover, was it too soon and too self-promotional? Vote: