Rolling Stone's Boston bomber cover stirs controversy

Rolling Stone | Boston Magazine | Mediaite

Reaction to Rolling Stone's new cover, which features alleged Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been largely negative.

Rolling Stone explains that the cover story "delivers a deeply reported account of the life and times" of Tsarnaev:

Reitman spent the last two months interviewing dozens of sources – childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement agents, many of whom spoke for the first time about the case – to deliver a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster."

(Interestingly, "monster" is the same word attorney Mark O'Mara used recently when explaining what the media tried turning George Zimmeran into.)

The "Today" show informally polled viewers this morning and found that 90 percent think the Rolling Stone cover "goes too far."A Facebook page boycotting the cover already has 19,000 fan and includes a post encouraging readers to call Rolling Stone and complain.

Boston Magazine points out that some people say the magazine didn't do anything wrong:

Slate says the cover is "brilliant."

Rolling Stone has not publicly acknowledged its critics but did talk briefly with USA Today:

Rolling Stone declined to comment to USA TODAY on the controversial cover, except to note that the outcry is reminiscent of another polarizing cover, more than 40 years ago, on cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson.

That cover, in June 1970, including a prison interview with Manson, became one of Rolling Stone's biggest selling issues and won a National Magazine award.

The cover raises concerns about how we in the media treat alleged criminals. The media has already been criticized for "giving the Boston bombers the notoriety they crave." It seems like we'd benefit, then, from asking more questions prior to publication about whether the content we want to run glorifies criminals or gives them rockstar treatment.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon