Rolling Stone magazine, currently up for sale, has suffered from the challenges to the publishing industry in the digital age, as well as from its reputation-bruising 2014 story about a supposed gang rape at the University of Virginia. The print edition is little more than a pamphlet at this point.
But it’s the publication’s 50th anniversary, and a good time to look back at its achievements and influence during its heyday. HBO is airing a two-part documentary called “Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge,” from directors Alex Gibney and Blair Foster, on Monday and Tuesday nights. The film shows how the small rock publication in San Francisco evolved into a New York-based glossy with millions of readers, at the same time chronicling some of the most defining moments from the Sixties onward. From the beginning, Rolling Stone wanted to exist in that place where music, culture, and politics are inextricably linked.
As the documentary browses through some of the magazine’s most memorable stories, Gibney and Foster interview former writers and editors as well as founder Jann Wenner. The early piece on rock groupies, coverage of the war in Afghanistan and the Patty Hearst kidnapping, profiles and interviews with everyone from Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to John Lennon — they’re all taken into consideration in what is a four-hour summation and, perhaps, a sales pitch.