Rolling Stone Responds to Controversy Over Boston Bomber Cover

When I logged into my social media accounts early this morning, all seemed generally quiet — Facebook was filled with the cat videos and snarky memes that mid-week duldrums often produce, and nothing really jumped out at me on Twitter. However, In the time it took me to drive home from my in-laws’ (roughly two hours), those same social media accounts had exploded with angry posts, shared articles, and multiple invitations to join boycotts. The source of the ire? The latest cover of Rolling Stone.

The cover responsible for the sudden and fierce firestorm features a self-taken portrait of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and promises that the accompanying story will explain “how a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster.”

Though the same picture has been featured in other publications, including on the front page of The New York Times this past spring, the outrage seems to stem from the fact that it appears on a cover generally reserved for music’s brightest stars and the Hollywood elite who have officially “made it big.” By featuring Tsarnaev on its cover, many feel that Rolling Stone is glamorizing him.

In response to the public outcry, some retailers — including CVS and Tedeschi Food Shops — are refusing to sell the magazine in their stores.

On Wednesday afternoon, the editors of Rolling Stone posted the following statement on the magazine’s Facebook page:

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. 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 of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. 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. –THE EDITORS

A calm, eloquent response that respectfully explains the publication’s intentions, and defends the cover and article without actually sounding defensive. While this will likely do little to assuage those who are offended — it is not, by any means, an apology — it may at least open the floor for candid and civilized conversation.

We’re curious to hear what you think about the cover, the controversy, and the magazine’s response. Feel free to voice your thoughts in the comments section below.