What’s Driving the Controversy over the Rolling Stone Cover?

| by Sarah Siskind
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Even before the issue has been officially released, the Rolling Stone cover featuring a tousled Dzhokar Tsarnev has erupted onto the front-pages of the media, not for its coverage but for its cover.

Some have argued that the cover depicts Tsarnev in the wrong light. The cover lends a false comparison to other celebrities who have been featured on the front page. Most celebrities consider a front-page shot an accolade.

However, John Yang, NBC Correspondent, defended the cover, saying, “Rolling Stone has a history of serious journalism, like the story that led to the resignation of U.S. Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal.” Yet, in that particular issue Lady Gaga was featured on the cover. Though Rolling Stone has not put a non-celebrity on their cover in recent years, in 1970, the magazine put Charles Manson on the front-page.

Sgt. Sean Murphey, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police, took the cover shot personally.

“I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has every worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty," Murphey said. "The truth is that glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”

Rolling Stone has argued they were simply trying to address the discordance between Tsarnev’s completely normal personality and the horror of his actions. The cover was meant to inspire incredulity at this irreconcilability but it ended up merely inciting outrage at their magazine.

Related: Shocking New Photos of Boston Bomber Released in Response to Rolling Stone Cover

Sources: Boston Magazine, NPR