One Millennial’s Take on the Rolling Stone Cover

If you don’t live under a rock, then you’ve probably seen the news about Rolling Stone putting alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tzarnaev on the cover of its August issue.

The cover photo is a selfie Tzarnaev took before the Boston bombs took place, not looking out of place amongst Rolling Stone’s usual pop culture icons that grace the cover.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here ya go:

sweetlemonmag-rollingstoneNow, before I say anything else, this was my initial reaction when I saw the news:

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I am not from Boston, so in many ways I feel like I do not have a dog in the fight. I did, however, study abroad with a Bostonian who has become one of my closest friends. I have visited the city on several occasions in order to spend time with her and the great city. Needless to say, when I mindlessly checked Twitter on that fateful day and saw a bomb had gone off at the marathon, where I knew my friend was, I ran out of class weeping and frantically calling – thankfully, she was fine.

Not to mention I got my 15-minutes of internet fame when this happened to end up of the front page of Gawker:


There are many people with stories similar to mine. They knew someone running the marathon, they have ties to Boston, etc. The attack was specific to the city of Boston, but it affected so many Americans in many ways.

Look, the story was absolutely, 100 percent a story worth doing. In a post-Aurora, post-Newtown America, we’ve become to accustomed to putting these terrorists in a box. ‘Oh, they were weird. No one understood them. They didn’t have any kind of social skills. Freaks.’

It made us uncomfortable that Tzarnaev wasn’t any one of those things, and so it really wasn’t addressed after his capture. I had many discussions in seminar classes on Tzarnaev and how intriguing it was that he wasn’t the typical “terrorist.” As if terrorists now have the same cookie-cutter stereotypes that, say, sorority girls or skater boys have.

However, in a magazine that saves its cover for the “of-the-moment” pop culture icon, placing Tzarnaev’s selfie as its cover photo is not only offensive, it’s cheap journalism.

By giving him the cover of one of America’s most storied publications we are, no matter what anyone says, glorifying him in some sense. Imagine how many misunderstood 15-year-olds are going to see that and think, whether they would want to admit to it or not, that he’s ‘cool.’

The media barely gave the Newtown shooter attention, opting instead to focus on the families and the gun control debate, so why shouldn’t we do the same for Tzarnaev? Just because he’s fairly easy-on-the-eyes and was a popular student?  An in-depth feature piece, sure. But the cover photo? Surely that’s not good practice.

It is clear that Rolling Stone was going for a bit of shock factor, and who could blame them? Circulation is down, and what better way to get people talking about the magazine again? This is precisely the problem that journalism has in this new media age. Circulation is down just about everywhere, so editors resort to shock value. This may be a short term fix, but in turn just contributes to the general public’s distrust of mainstream media.

And not to mention, Jay-Z just released a fantastic album that sold 528,000 copies in its first week. Why wasn’t he on the cover? Maybe not the ‘shocking’ choice that Rolling Stone was looking for, but definitely a face I would much rather see on my local newsstand. Especially if the cover was with Bey.

On the bright side of things, if you were as annoyed as me when you initially as me when you saw the cover, take a look at the Mayor of Boston’s open letter to Rolling Stone. It’ll restore your faith in humanity a bit.


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