July 17, Rolling Stone magazine printed a controversial story about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the remaining living suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings that happened this April. Written by Janet Reitman, the piece is a culmination of months of research and interviews to gain insight into the life of young man.
The coveted place on the cover of Rolling Stone generally features notable celebrities. Given it’s a music magazine, the appearance of Daft Punk, The Rolling Stones, Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, Rihanna, and Billie Joe Armstrong this year have not been surprising. Likewise, movie stars like Johnny Depp and James Franco or TV stars like Jimmy Kimmel and the cast of 30 Rock are expected to be featured on the cover.
It’s not unheard of for the magazine to cover serious pieces, but it’s usually done within the pages of the issue, possibly teased on the cover. When the decision is made to put an unusual picture on the cover, it can be shocking. Many are recalling the 1970 cover, picturing Charles Manson, noting controversial covers are not unprecedented in this particular magazine.
Nonetheless, Rolling Stone has certainly elicited a reaction. The issue, which will be out this Friday, could potentially see sales affected by the controversial cover photo. On the one hand, it is a story many people are very interested in and highly invested in. The feature is a lengthy exploration of what happened to turn Tsarnaev into the “monster” he’s become. Curiosity might just give the sales a boost.
On the other hand, some carriers are already boycotting the issue. Walgreens announced on Twitter, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Walgreens will not be selling this issue of Rolling Stone magazine.” Similarly, CVS tweeted, “We have decided to not sell the current issue of Rolling Stone, out of respect for the victims and their loved ones.”
Between the two chains, there are over 15,000 stores that will not be carrying the issue. In addition to the major drugstores, other carriers of Rolling Stone have announced they will be boycotting. Grocery stores, Stop &Shop and Tedeschi have chosen not to sell this issue due to their New England ties.
The magazine’s social media pages have been flooded with criticism for the choice to place Tsarnaev on the cover. Many individuals have posted that they’ve canceled their subscriptions to the magazine in an act of protest.
Editors of Rolling Stone released a statement saying, “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.”
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