Cover of the Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone Cover

Context is everything. I’m betting if this photo (which has been published before) appeared on the cover of Time or Newsweek it wouldn’t have stirred up the same controversy. But Rolling Stone is the Bible of the music industry. Every musician longs to be on its cover; every writer wants to be featured in its pages. Including this writer. In the Nineties I pitched to Jann Wenner the idea of me interviewing Ralph Reed for Rolling Stone. If you can get him, you got the assignment, Jann said. After a lengthy phone conversation with Mr. Reed, who told me his views on everything in the world, he declined to be interviewed for Rolling Stone because (he sniffed) of its “readership.”

I think we all get what Rolling Stone was trying to do — make us look at the uncomfortable truth of a pretty young boy with tousled hair turning into a cold-blooded bomber. It’s an important point and journalistically, shock value has merit. But here’s what I don’t get: Did the editors ever ask how such a cover, and the inevitable shock of it, would affect the people so horribly wounded in that attack? Did they ever consider that they might be inflicting yet another wound just to make a point through shock?

What if they had split the page and also showed some of the victims? Or one of the iconic and heart-wrenching images from that day? Wouldn’t the same point have been made, but without re-wounding people who showed up to watch a marathon on what was a happy day and tragically ended up standing at ground zero? It seems a hallmark of our times that we have all become so short-sighted we don’t ask how our actions will affect others. I don’t know, of course, what went on the editorial offices of Rolling Stone — maybe the question was asked and the choice was made anyway. It makes no difference, really — the truth still remains that brave and innocent people, who are having to adjust to life with prosthetic limbs, whose lives were shattered that awful day, deserved to be considered before anything else. Before journalism, before shock value. The shock is that they apparently were not put first.

4 Responses to Cover of the Rolling Stone

  1. Marc Hoover says:

    I’m (we’re) being CONTROVERSIAL!! Please NOTICE!! #America2013 (Not that phenomenon is new to 2013).

    They lost all credibility with me after recently publishing their mind-bogglingly stupid list of the 100 greatest Rolling Stones songs recently, with “Start Me Up” at TWENTY NINE, ahead of “Only Rock ‘n Roll” (top ten material) at 40, “Stray Cat Blues” (top ten material) at 43 and “Monkey Man” (top ten material) at 93.

    Well done, but in response to the final sentence, I’m not shocked — at all — that the victims were not put first.


    • Patti Davis says:

      Thankfully, I didn’t know about their top 100 list.

      • Marc Hoover says:

        It never occurred to me to look here for a reply … until I saw your tweet about your latest post. I had my twitter account suspended [now I know what Tommy Lee means by #TwitterJail] when I sent Rolling Stone a series of tweets complaining about the list (including classics like “Hey Negrita !” that weren’t even IN the top 100) and kept replying to myself to continue my points. “There I go again.” Interesting to check the comments about “Carlos Danger” and finding that no one (so far) feels that they HAVEN’T heard too much about his stupid shlong.

  2. lesley seymour says:

    sadly this is called looking for “newsstand sale” and “buzz”. what a sad state of affairs we are in in publishing. anything for sale.

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