Rolling Stone editors defend controversial cover

By | Published on Thursday 18 July 2013

Rolling Stone

US music magazine Rolling Stone has issued a statement defending its decision to run a photo of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its latest cover with the headline “The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster”.

The cover story has become a hot topic on both the social networks and in the US media, with many accusing the music title of exploiting a tragedy for some cheap publicity, and some criticising the magazine’s description of Tsarnaev in its headline before his crimes have been tried in court. Though not everyone’s a critic; some have noted Rolling Stone has a history of exploring controversial figures outside of music, and others have argued the questions the title’s article explores are legitimate.

Nevertheless, some US retailers are refusing to stock the issue, while Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has hit out at the cover. According to Buzzfeed, he has written in a letter to Rolling Stone bosses: “[The cover] is ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their causes. The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them”.

But responding to the outrage, the mag’s editors said that while their “hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, 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. 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”.