The cover of the magazine’s Aug. 1 edition is a photo in which Tsarnaev looks more like one of the rock stars that usually grace it than a suspect in the April 15 bombings at the marathon finish line that killed three and wounded more than 260. A preview on the magazine’s website says the story by contributing editor Janet Reitman traces how “a bright kid with a charming future became a monster.”
Rolling Stone editors said in a statement that the story falls within the traditions of journalism and the magazine’s commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage.
“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 statement said.
The cover was ill-conceived at best and reaffirms a message that destruction gains fame for killers, Boston Mayor Tom Menino wrote in a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner.
“Among those we lost, those who survived, and those who help carry them forward, there are artists and musicians and dancers and writers. They have dreams and plans,” he wrote. “They struggle and strive. The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, although I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”
Three retailers based within 50 miles of the site of the bombings, including Rhode Island-based CVS and convenience stores Tedeschi Food Shops and Cumberland Farms in Massachusetts, said they will not carry the magazine. Walgreens, headquartered in Illinois, joined them in opting out of selling the issue.
“Tedeschi Food Shops supports the need to share the news with everyone, but cannot support actions that serve to glorify the evil actions of anyone,” the chain said on its Facebook page. “Music and terrorism don’t mix!”
One of the marathon runners, Lauren Gabler, who works in IT consulting in Washington and was running her fourth Boston Marathon this year, said she at first thought the Rolling Stone photo was of a model or rock star and was surprised when she realized it was Tsarnaev.
“The cover almost tricks you into what you’re looking at,” she said.
Gabler had finished the race and was two blocks away headed to brunch when she heard and felt the explosions. She was unhurt.
“I haven’t read the article yet, and I know it will probably be quite in-depth, but my initial reaction is that the photo that’s being used almost makes him look like a good guy,” she said. “That’s the story line, but I think the public will have trouble, like me, making the association between here’s the Boston bomber and here’s the guy who appears to be cool on the cover of Rolling Stone.”
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the bombings.