Public opinion seems to have jelled against the cover of ROLLING STONE that featured a self-shot Facebook photo of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. ROLLING STONE offered up a very serious journalism piece of journalism here, a stunning portrait of how a seemingly normal young man interested in normal young guy stuff could somehow follow the deluded political views of his older brother and become a partner in the murder and injury of innocent persons. A HuffPost poll found a 65-15% disapproval for the cover among the public, where most persons overwhelming felt that the cover glorified the Boston Marathon bomber. Some retailers such as Walgreen’s and others decided not to offer this issue for sale at their retail locations.
ROLLING STONE has had a history of controversial covers, however the magazine was likely not really expecting the sort of strong public reaction to this cover. Some covers such as a nude John Lennon or other covers have also generated controversy, but not as much as this cover has. But, the larger picture for ROLLING STONE here is that print journalism is having a difficult time, so the question is whether ROLLING STONE hoped to spur interest in their publication with a little controversy here, but instead may be only damaging it’s retail status at a number of locations that may now opt out of selling the magazine, or even worse, if a number of major distributors want no future part in further distribution of the magazine.
Sometimes small things can destroy the distribution of a good magazine and send the publication down a fatal spiral. CRACKED was a popular humor magazine published since 1958. CRACKED Magazine published 12 issues a year, while MAD generally did 8 issues a year for most of it’s years, and CRACKED employees were willin g to work for less pay as well. It was a real labor of love that loyal employees would do a thord more work for less money at CRACKED. Some popular MAD contributors even jumped ship and came over to CRACKED such as Don Martin. But, the whole dream ended shortly after the 9-1-01 attacks in the U.S. when some CRACKED reader sent an envelope to the magazine as a joke containing white powder such as flour. The magazine missed it’s first publishing deadline in it’s history, which soon led to a major distributor that dropped out of distributing the magazine. The magazine was soon toast. One MidEast investor attempted to purchase the company assets to produce a Arabic magazine for children, but that deal quickly dissolved. CRACKED was shortly revived, but quickly failed in a new form, and now only an Online version of the new magazine remains, which isn’t so much.
ROLLING STONE needs to be careful here. The publishing business is in a deep pit these days. Publications are not selling very well. You can’t be so controversial that no one will distribute you.