In July, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (aka Boston Marathon bomber) made the cover of Rolling Stone. The magazine’s sales for that month’s issue doubled and Rolling Stone was praised for “thinking outside the box”. Admittedly, this particular issue was highly successful at capturing the attention of their targeted audience, but what underlying message did Rolling Stone send to Boston’s victims?
Traditionally, magazine covers, especially Rolling Stone, are reserved for individuals who have recently accomplished a noteworthy achievement. Tsarnaev did make a name for himself, but he does not deserve the honor of a magazine cover usually reserved for successful individuals. Killing and harming the citizens of Boston, as he did on April 15, 2013, is not something to award. While I think an article discussing his upbringing and the events that led to his actions may have been acceptable, having him on the cover was extremely distasteful. Honoring violent individuals like this only encourages others to follow in his footsteps, and also dishonors the victims and their families.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves the recognition of a terrorist and a terrorist alone. He is not a hero, he is not a rock star, he is not a role model, so do not present him as one. Ideally, Rolling Stone should have chosen one of the volunteers or firefighters who risked their lives to fix the problem that Tsarnaev created. Or they could have chosen one of the victims who chose to smile, work, and move on with his or her life despite receiving debilitating injuries from the bombing. But to capture the man responsible for these tragedies as a young, attractive-looking man is putrid, inappropriate and deserves repercussions.
Because of this gross oversight, Rolling Stone has publicly proven that they are willing to do anything in order to sell issues. It is characteristic of successful media outlets to shock, surprise, and press boundaries in order to keep things exciting, but this was an all time low for the popular magazine. Once they realized the error, the editors attempted to explain their decision: “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”
But if your hearts go out to the victims and their families, write about them, not the man who caused such devastation. Allow the victims to be the rock stars of your cover. Talk about their bravery and hardships while overcoming this cruel injustice that changed their lives forever. I hope to see Rolling Stone learn from their mistakes, however unpromising that may be.
Even more recently, the magazine applauded Miley Cyrus for her sexually charged performance at the VMAs. It seems the attention-starved magazine makes their sales quota through shocking people. This tactic is not always negative, but it is insulting to the general public. We have the right to vocalize our offenses and help these editors draw socially acceptable boundaries in their work.