Rolling Stone has come under fire for their most recent cover, which features the Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The photo, a shot Tsarnaev took of himself, has drawn comparisons to previous covers featuring teen idols, leading some to believe that the magazine is glorifying the suspected terrorist.
Hours after the cover was revealed on Tuesday night (July 16), a Facebook group called “Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine For Their Latest Cover” was created, which at press time, was at 166,000 Likes. CVS, along with New England-based Tedeschi Food Shops, announced they will not sell the issue in stores. By Wednesday, other stores including Walgreens, Cumberland Farms and Stop & Shop announced that they will not be selling the issue, either.
Others, however, were quick to point out that the story was written by Janet Reitman, a well-respected investigative journalist who spent two months researching Tsarnaev’s story, and that the photo Rolling Stone used was featured in stories published by other publications, including the front page of The New York Times.
On their website, the editors of the Rolling Stone wrote a brief note to readers which defends their story on Tsarnaev:
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. 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. –THE EDITORS
A former Art Director at the magazine wondered if people would be as upset about the cover if the logo didn’t cover the young man’s head, citing the mag’s Charles Manson cover from the ’70s, which featured the logo far off in the corner, away from Manson himself. “This meant critical distance was maintained,” he wrote. “There was no endorsement, and no outrage (not that I can remember!)”
But no matter your opinion about this controversy, most would agree gracing the cover of Rolling Stone is a huge honor for any musician (or celebrity, for that matter). With that in mind, Radio.com came up with a list of five different covers the magazine could have used instead.
How The Hell Did Robin Thicke Score the Song of the Summer?
Robin Thicke is featured in the issue already, so they obviously have some interest in the “Blurred Lines” singer — well, RS and everyone else who has used the Internet or listened to the radio in recent months. Thicke’s sexually-charged hit is already in line to be crowned the song of the summer and its racy video has made it legendary and controversial — the perfect combination indeed. In anticipation of his upcoming album (out July 30), the mag can take a closer look at the husband (who’s been with his wife, actress Paula Patton, since he was 16) and father whose success certainly didn’t come over night, seeing as he’s been working at it for the last decade. The story can track his career from his early beginnings as a songwriter, who penned songs for Christina Aguilera and Usher, to his own rise with 2006’s The Evolution Of Robin Thicke and then commercial fall with his last album, 2011’s Love And War, to tell the story of how this family man has what’s likely to be one of 2013’s biggest (and sexiest? OK, that’s debatable) hits.
The Making of Kanye West’s Yeezus
While Yeezus has been out for a month, RS like to take the wait-and-see approach, putting big stars on the cover weeks or even months AFTER the release of their albums (Bruno Mars and Black Keys covers come to mind). Yeezus earned 4.5 stars from the mag–one of the best reviews of the year–but Kanye hasn’t been too cooperative with the press, specifically music journalists. When an artist won’t cooperate for a story, though, there’s ways to get around it. Case in point, last year Rolling Stone published a cover story on the making of Adele’s album, 21, without actually talking to the singer herself. Instead they re-used quotes from previous interviews with Adele and talked to others who worked with her on the album. For Yeezus they can do the same thing: talk to everyone involved in the record except for ‘Ye himself. We all know the mag has legendary producer Rick Rubin on speed dial, so just call in a favor. Reach out to recent cover stars Daft Punk to get their take on his recording process and get Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon to compare and contrast working with Kanye on Yeezus to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Break down the making of the album to construct the oral history of Yeezus, we’re sure there’s some real interesting stories just waiting to be revealed. Plus, the mag can delve deeper into the higher art elements of the album and hypothesize what this really means for Kanye’s already illustrious career.
Disney Girls Gone Bad: Miley, Demi & Selena
Shot by Terry Richardson, the three former Disney stars–Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez–show off their new devil-may-care attitudes in a cover story about life following breakout roles on sanitized TV network. All three of these ladies have been making headlines for their career makeovers: Selena took a role in the Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, showing she is no longer the adorable wizard of Waverly Place; Miley cut off her hair and, uh, learned to TWERK; and Demi is using her previous personal struggles to inspire others and show she’s more than just your average pop starlet. None of them would necessarily be able to earn the cover of the male-leaning rock mag on their own, and they all have new albums coming out or recently released. Together, they form a bigger story about how tween stardom doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be a has-been by the time you turn 21. These three ladies represent a new breed of smarter child stars, who know reinvention is the key to staying relevant after Disney. RS contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis could write the hell out of this story.
Trent Reznor: Portrait Of The Artist as Not Such a Young Man
Trent Reznor’s been a very busy guy. After years spending his time composing for David Fincher movies, Reznor’s been touring with his new band, How To Destory Angels (which features his wife, Mariqueen Maandig) and just recently rebuilt the lineup of his band Nine Inch Nails, announcing the band’s first album in five years, set for release this fall. But the road back has been a little bit of a bumpy one. He’s already seen the departure of two band members, bassist, Eric Avery and former King Crimson guitarist, Adrian Belew, which some chalk up to Reznor’s controlling nature. The magazine could take fans inside the studio with NIN and talk with Reznor about the pressures of redeveloping his famous band. It offers a sneak peek into one of the biggest comebacks of the year through the eyes of one of the more taciturn music stars.
A Look At The “New” (and “Cool”?) Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac is one of Rolling Stone’s bread and butter bands. Many people who read Rolling Stone in its ’70s prime still read Rolling Stone — something the mag is not only aware of, but caters to. With their recent tour and the announcement of new music to come, it’s surprising Fleetwood Mac haven’t already garnered a cover story this spring or summer. Seems like they’ll use any excuse to get a classic rock band on the cover. While Fleetwood Mac haven’t been on the cover since 1997, and back then they weren’t getting along too great, nor were they as fashionable with younger, hipper music fans as they suddenly are now (thanks Best Coast?). Now that it seems that the Mac are back, the magazine can take a deeper look at who they are now and what changed in the 16 years since they last graced the cover, from Christine McVie’s final exit to Mick Fleetwood’s wine venture to how Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham really feel about one another. While admittedly not that exciting of a story, you know RS probably has this story in the works anyway, and most certainly has the key players on speed dial.
Or maybe, just maybe, Rolling Stone could have chosen not to use Tsarnaev’s grainy selfie, instead having one of their many talented illustrators come up with something a bit less jarring, letting a well-reported story speak for itself.