ADOLF HITLER, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Charles Manson are among the killers whose faces have appeared on the covers of major English-language magazines, and no one should conclude that a publication’s decision to examine the backgrounds, views, or deeds of these individuals is in any way a celebration of them. Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to publish a long story about Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in its upcoming issue, and to feature an image of him on the cover, should be interpreted primarily in this context. The story, which was posted online Wednesday, represents a major commitment of time and energy, and it appears to provide some new details about Tsarnaev’s background. So it’s worthy of prominent play in the magazine and of broader public attention.
Rolling Stone grew out of a 1960s-era alternative news movement that combined intense coverage of music and the arts with hard-hitting coverage of current events. Most recently, the magazine’s scorching 2010 profile of General Stanley McChrystal led to the Afghanistan commander’s downfall. Yet because the reading public has long known Rolling Stone primarily for its music and entertainment coverage, many Bostonians are understandably concerned that the magazine is giving the bombing suspect a celebrity treatment he doesn’t deserve.