Some thoughts on that Rolling Stone cover (II)

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Front page of the Sunday New York Times, May 5. Same picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, page one, above the fold. Here is the story. Does anyone really want to argue that what the Times did is somehow different from what Rolling Stone did?

Also, a very smart commentary in The New Yorker by Ian Crouch.

7 thoughts on “Some thoughts on that Rolling Stone cover (II)

  1. Ian Thal

    The New York Times and Rolling Stone are entirely different entities occupying different roles in the media landscape. Being on the cover of RS is seen as being a celebrity of iconic status. Being on the front page of the NYT means being part of a major news story– and actually might not be actually be a good thing for the subject. I’d also note that when the NYT ran the photograph, the Tsarnaev brothers were largely unknown. Three months later, when RS runs the story, Tsaarnaev is the protagonist of numerous conspiracy theories and even an icon with his own loosely organized fanclub.

    Context, be it the publication in question, or the time of year, is very important.

  2. Al Quint

    fantastic New Yorker story. Thanks for posting the link to it. When I hear people say they should have had pictures of the victims or the carnage, I think they miss the point. That’s not what the story’s about. It’s about Tsarnaev and what led to what he did.

  3. Jim Chiavelli

    Yes, Dan, I want to argue that they did two entirely different things:

    RS labeled him a bomber (and a monster), convicting him without trial. The Times treated the story with responsibility. RS is having it both ways: Playing up the ‘cute kid’ factor with a photo while playing up to the mob with a ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’ headline. The mag has done solid journalism. This ain’t it.

  4. Peter Sullivan

    Dan, I agree with you on this one, if the photo is offensive, it is offensive on the front page of the Times as well. If the article is offensive, than complain about that. I saw countless talking heads on TV last night denouncing Rolling Stone, who had admittedly not read the article. Most notably, a Globe photog. (read employee of the New York Times Co.) that was on CNN complaining about the cover, who admitted to not having read the story!!!! Rolling Stone has every right to produce news stories as the New York Times…

  5. Mike Graca

    I have no beef with Rolling Stone’s cover choice, but I think the comparison with the NY Times is flawed. The Times runs photos of newsmakers–famous and infamous alike–on a daily basis. By comparison, RS covers usually feature musicians and actors. Thus, their decision to put Tsaarnaev on the cover is more notable … defensible but notable.

  6. Mike Benedict

    Ian, are you suggesting that journalism should be compartmentalized, and that some outlets should NOT write about certain topics?

    1. Ian Thal

      No, Mike, I am suggesting that the cover of Rolling Stone is traditionally used to sell stories about celebrities’ struggles achieving stardom, or already established stars’ struggles with substance abuse, bandmates, or attempting argue that an artist who achieved stardom in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s is till relevant today. Putting an attractive portrait of an accused terrorist on a magazine cover that normally used for promoting pop-stars is what’s controversial here. RS does on occasion publish something that’s not media/celebrity/lifestyle oriented, but it is normally buried in the celebrity interviews, the top-50 lists, and the television/movie/concert tour previews that is RS’ usual fare.

      It is specifically placing Tsarnaev’s portrait in a space normally reserved for celebrities that is questionable here. RS spent decades defining this as being their editorial norm and with this cover they broke with it.

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