ROLLING STONE COVER: DISGRACEFUL OR GENIUS?

This past week and a half has been chock full of controversial topics. From Orson Scott Card to the Zimmerman trial to the case of Marissa Alexander who received a 20 year sentence to the upcoming August 2013 cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It’s been interesting, and very thought-provoking, engaging in debates about these issues amongst family and friends. Quite frankly I’ve loved it. It’s been a long time since I’ve even bothered voicing much opinion on controversial topics, and long-time readers know I seem to avoid them on my blog — contrary to my intentions.

Granted, the controversial pieces I wish to cover deal more with myself in my day-to-day. After discussing some of the above topics, though, I’ve been curious if I could present the same subject matter here and discuss them with fellow bloggers/followers/anyone really. Today (as the title says) the Rolling Stone cover will be highlighted.

All interactions have been non-hostile and I wish for that to continue here. Sharing opinions/opposing points of view is both welcomed and encouraged, as long as being respectful during discussion/debate. Any inflammatory remarks made against another poster/commenter deemed unsuitable (is there any other kind?) is subject to being removed, and it’s owner blocked.

“I want a nice, clean ‘fight’ here!”

Oh, and I’ve never really delved into anything like this — I’m no journalist, just a lowly blogger — so let’s hope I’m semi-coherent and don’t botch shit up too badly.

I Don’t Understand

I would have likely been oblivious to this current controversial topic (unless highlighted in the News on Monday when I actually watch TV, or at the gym) if I hadn’t come across a friend’s post on Facebook yesterday. Basically, he was stating he wasn’t sure why everyone was so up-in-arms about the upcoming cover of Rolling Stone magazine, which was revealed Wednesday.

In case you aren’t familiar, and quite possibly live in a reclusive bubble much like myself, this is the cover in question:
Source: www.rollingstone.com

So there it is.

Within the magazine is an article based on journalist Janet Reitman’s two month long inquiry into the surviving [alleged] Boston Bomber’s life; what caused this young man to spiral down a dark path that resulted in the horrific event on April 15, 2013, and the manhunt that followed, that gripped the world. There are supposed interviews bringing to light new “revelations about “Jahar’s” life leading up to said events, some of which are highlighted in that link.

Some say the cover tries to humanize him, forcing us to understand that this individual isn’t so different from you or I; to make us think.

Many supporters of the decision made by Rolling Stone (also defending themselves, naturally) cite the hard-hitting journalistic articles the magazine has featured throughout the years, and claim it’s retained much of it’s integrity in the articles it provides outside — but not excluding — the Entertainment genre.

The main article referenced over and over is one in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal comments about President Obama lead to his resignation.

Another point made is a cover back in 1970 that featured Charles Manson. That issue featured an interview with Manson and the piece resulted in Rolling Stone receiving not only an award, but incredible sales.

Achievement Unlocked

Discussing some of the points made about the various articles seemed the simplest area to begin. This is because I didn’t come across many who had any issue with the article specifically. In fact, many opposing Rolling Stone’s decision are greatly interested in the article they are printing.

I disregard childish statements about Rolling Stone not being relevant, and while I haven’t read them in fifteen years I’m able to accept and understand that they do print some very interesting, important articles (this one being no exception). Having said that, however, I can’t help but imagine the majority of people subscribe to/invest in Rolling Stone for their contributions highlighting the music industry, rock stars, various celebrities, and entertainment.

This leads to the cover, which is the true point of contention.

I’ve personally always viewed Rolling Stone as a rock star/celeb magazine. It was what drew me to their publication to begin with. Over time they have added to the variety of articles they print — that much is abundantly clear — but it’s always seemed the cover was a coveted/idolized spot.

Below is a response [of mine] on the matter:
"How could people *not* be understanding on some level why some people may be upset that a magazine they invest time/money in that is predominantly entertainment based, with a sensationalized cover slot coveted by those in the entertainment business — possibly even viewing it as a milestone/great achievement — opts to feature a terrorist."
I always thought: You make the cover of Rolling Stone, you’ve made it. It was an honor and a privilege to grace the cover of their magazine. From when I’ve read that still seems to be the sentiment today.

So herein lays the problem people have, believing they are sensationalizing a terrorist by having him on the cover. Casting aside comments made about what picture was chosen, I feel it does hold some weight in argument as I explained in the above quote. Many argue they give the terrorist a “rock star” treatment and “glam” him up (even arguments are made the picture — used in various publications already — is photoshopped some). That is it disgraceful to have him featured on the cover.

(On point of the photo being used elsewhere with no outcry, I feel this is possibly because the picture has mainly been featured in very News specific related publications)

As for belief that the cover photo chosen was meant to jar us and make us think, making him seem relatable? More “normal”?

I kind of feel that the word use of “Monster” contradicts that belief. It’s kind of a bipolarish statement. The headline almost seems to want to tug on your senses/heartstrings and make you feel something for the individual, understand he wasn’t born a terrorist and was no different from you and I, but then “Monster” is what you end with.

With the statement, it’s hard [for me] to relate to him in any way, because you are slapped in the face that he is, nonetheless, a Monster. Not saying Rolling Stone, or the journalist, want you to identify/relate to Jahar, because I truly don’t know, but this is in regards to the statements/claims of other people. I don’t know... just my thoughts I guess.

What a Difference a Day Makes (or 14600 of them, give or take)

In discussion about Charles Manson being on the cover back in 1970? I can’t help but think: That was 40 years ago. I hypothesized that it was very possible that many people were upset that he was on the cover of Rolling Stone, but back then it was much easier to ignore/contain. I mean, I can’t imagine everyone was enthralled by it. That would be pretty naive.

The world is a different place compared to what it was 40 years ago. In many ways, but definitely on a technological front. With technology, everyone is more “connected” than ever with one another. Outcries 40 years ago couldn’t travel through social media, email, text, etc with the click of a few buttons. It’s simply a different ballgame when it comes to being able to voice public opinion (whether for the betterment of mankind or otherwise). If this was capable 40 years ago, I’d almost guarantee there would be a strong likelihood of outrage over Manson being featured on their cover.

But that was then, and this is now.

Public outcry, and boycotting can be effective. In an unrelated (yet related) example: Microsoft reversed its policies with its next gen gaming system the Xbox One. These boycotting tactics also heavily influenced some of Sony’s choices prior to Microsoft’s. This wasn’t a little decision to make either. It forced them [Microsoft] to completely refocus how important aspects of their business plan/model would be handled moving forward.

While this may work in some circumstances, will it for those opposed to Rolling Stone’s choice?

Currently, retailers have joined the boycott. Among them: CVS and Walgreens drugstore chains. Will this possibly tip the scales, forcing Rolling Stone to reverse their decision, especially if more prominent retailers join in the boycott?

Update (7/18/13)/(1/19/13): 7-Eleven, Rite Aid, and Kmart / Cumberland Farms, Stop & Shop, Roche Bros., Shaws Star Markets, Tedeschi, Wegans, and Tops added to list of retailers boycotting the RS issue.

Bad Publicity is Good Publicity

Edit (7/18/13): I was unaware of the magazine distribution and didn't know the issue came out Friday. This pretty much renders the possibility of a cover change moot. :-(

Could the article be ran without the specific cover photo of Tsarnaev? Surely. The same holds true with Manson back in 1970. Certainly the award(s) they received were based on the article provided and not their cover choice. At least I’d hope so.

The question is: Will they sell/Would they have sold as many copies?

Very possibly not.

This is where I feel the “genius” comes into play. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and by all accounts that appears to be true. So, Rolling Stone has come out... guns blazing, so to speak... with a controversial cover that coincides with an article within. Positioned itself in the spotlight and — for better or for worse — have made people pay attention; to become engaged, become curious, to debate.

And all of this will undoubtedly lead to sales.

Some posit it’s all just a marketing scheme, and by all rights it kind of is. Cover choice is a selective process. You want it to somehow draw people in, draw attention to itself, to make consumers want it. Sometimes simply the shock value, and surrounding controversy, are more than enough to elicit one’s hard-earned cash.

I feel that Rolling Stone wins, regardless of the outcome of the outrage/boycott.

They are in a position to change their minds — “Hey, we hear you loud and clear. We listen, we understand, and we are changing the cover” — and the desired effect has already been established. A reversal may even greatly multiply that effect.

Hook, line, and sinker...

I may not buy the August 2013 issue of Rolling Stone, but I am hoping to have the chance to read the article within.

Aren’t you?

Update (7/19/13): Janet Reitman's article "Jahar's World" released online can be read HERE


What are your thoughts/feelings about Rolling Stone’s cover selection for their upcoming issue? Any thoughts on some of the points made? Do you think Rolling Stone may change the issue’s cover if the boycott continues to grow? Are you planning on buying the issue and/or reading the article being printed?

Thanks for visiting and reading! Hopefully I didn’t butcher it too much ;-) Keep it civil!