Few journalistic issues have been more divisive than that of Rolling Stone Magazine’s choice to feature the lone surviving Boston bomber on its upcoming cover.
What’s your view?
Peppercomm’s Laura “Bedrock” Bedrossian, who wrote today’s guest post, has a most definite POV on the subject. Let her know whether you agree, disagree or, like Whitey Bulger, decide to take the Fifth.
Unless you live under a “stone” (pun intended), you know that the latest—or soon to be latest—cover of Rolling Stone magazine has created a firestorm in the media, online and, really, just everywhere.
From the comments I’ve read and the major brands that have come out against the cover going so far as to ban the issue from being sold in their stores, there is no bigger “eff you” to the victims of the bombing than immortalizing the Boston bomber’s image on the cover of a popular consumer magazine.
I’m not saying the article doesn’t deserve to be written and his side of the story shouldn’t be heard, but this is an interesting creative choice. There were certainly other artistic directions to go in rather than linking his image to the feature. So why did the editors choose that one? My guess? Sales and exactly what’s happening now—the widespread conversation about the magazine.
I don’t think it was much of a stretch for the editors to find it ethically appropriate to put the bomber’s image on the cover. Despite not being a hard news outlet, the precedent for glorifying horrific crimes in this culture has been set long ago. Case in point? The Mafia.
It may sound silly, but how many movies, shows, books, etc. have you read/seen on the subject? Even on specific mobsters? The crimes of this organization have been horrific and very high in frequency and are still happening. Yet, the public can’t get enough of it.
While we know these crime rings still exist (thank you reality TV for confirming that, residents of states like New Jersey and Rhode Island see that these families are still a part of society), it’s not quite as scary to encounter someone in this group —mainly because the police and public aren’t intimidated/terrified anymore. But when did we reach this point where glorifying these types of criminals and crimes as acceptable? Did the first movie or magazine story about the mafia reach the same level of anger from the public as this issue of Rolling Stone?
I don’t know the answer, but I do wonder if the type of notoriety for criminals accused of terrorism is heading toward this same type of ‘immortalization’ status.
Right now, everyone is talking about the latest Rolling Stone issue, clicking through to the website and thinking about Rolling Stone. Links to the now-live online issue can be found in multiple stories across the internet, as well as social media. All of the major news outlets are covering the controversy and putting Rolling Stone front and center. Some are positive remarks, some negative, but all are discussing the subject of the Boston bomber’s image and Rolling Stone.
As more outlets cover the story, the magazine will get more people talking about it, get more people clicking through to the website and then people will most likely be more apt to buy the print version to see what the article is about (not to mention those sales from the people who will see the name Rolling Stone wonder why it’s trending and then pick it up).
A Poynter Institute article on the matter has some interesting information that is hard to ignore:
“Rolling Stone has not publicly acknowledged its critics but did talk briefly with USA Today:
Rolling Stone declined to comment to USA TODAY on the controversial cover, except to note that the outcry is reminiscent of another polarizing cover, more than 40 years ago, on cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson.
That cover, in June 1970, including a prison interview with Manson, became one of Rolling Stone’s biggest selling issues and won a National Magazine award.”
Whether this will become a best-selling issue for the magazine remains to be seen, but they certainly seem to be treading familiar water. Is it at the cost of immortalizing terrorists?
It seems that Ii it’s OK to immortalize murderers and criminals like the mafia (and Charles Manson, to name a few), I see nothing wrong with putting a picture of an alleged bomber on the cover of a magazine. It would have been a more tasteful editorial choice for there to be a different cover (and it would have shown that the magazine stands by its fellow Americans), but, hey, that doesn’t sell and get people talking does it?