The Magazine Cover Heard ‘Round the Country

August 1, 2013   / by Ashley Hudlow  / Categories :

After much heated debate on the wake of our Trayvon Martin post, we here at Pulse Creative have all decided that we do want to give the world a look through our “Pulse Creative glasses”.  Being creatives, it’s our job to look at things from all angles. So here’s our unique take on the next big name news story that hit our office debate floor.

This week’s post deals with our own industry: the media. More specifically the Rolling Stone cover featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings back in April.

While this discussion didn’t cause as much of a commotion in the office as the Trayvon Martin case did, it still struck a few chords with several of the members of the Pulse family. To respect everyone’s wishes the comments below will be kept anonymous just like in the Trayvon Martin post.

 

To Glamorize or Not Glamorize. That is the real question… 

(Btw, TrueBlood fans, this is not to be confused with vampiric Glamour.)

Rolling Stone isn’t glamorizing a terrorist per say – it’s bringing to attention that sometimes evil isn’t packaged in what we expect [it to be] and [that it] can be made, not born (this kids’ brainwashing). It’s also reaching a different demographic than say TIME magazine, which has had Hitler on its cover as Man of the Year for similar reasons. If you read the article, it’s hardly glamorizing. [It’s] more precautionary than anything else.”

“People fail to realize magazines have “glamorized” antagonizing individuals in the past. Time Magazine had Osama Bin Laden, as well as Adolf Hitler. Rolling Stone even ran a cover once with Charles Manson on it… and Kanye West numerous times. All assholes if you ask me.”

“I’m probably the odd man out here but I don’t have a problem with the Rolling Stone cover, I don’t think that they’re glamorizing him at all. I understand the argument that people have against it but I don’t think that Rolling Stone‘s glamorizing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at all. They blatantly call the suspect a monster on the cover; as for the photo, it’s a selfie that Dzhokhar took. It’s not as if they had a professional photographer do that to him and indecently the New York Times Sunday edition, on May 5, 2013, used the exact same photo on their cover and no one gave a shit.”

“I don’t think in their interviews they glorify Dzhokhar but rather interview those close to him to give a different perspective. After all, shouldn’t journalism provide two, unbiased views?”

“I think Rolling Stone could have taken a different approach with the cover creative and shown not such a ‘pretty picture’ of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”

“I think that putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone glamorizes him. This boy is a terrorist and the magazine is all about fame so I don’t think that there is a correlation.”

The Pulse Verdict on whether he was glamourized: 60% No 40% Yes

 

PR Stunt or Good Journalism

“PR Stunt or simply glamorizing a terrorist- I’d like to think neither but I also know I am naïve and am probably wrong.”

“This could definitely be a PR stunt.”

“I think it is exploitive and insensitive for Rolling Stone to do this. Looks like a studio PR stunt to revive their print issue.”

Rolling Stone received the most visibility during this debate. As a media outlet, it used the media to its best interest. There is something genius in its PR approach, even if bordering unethical.”

“PR/Marketing stunt of course. It’s the publications industry. They’re not in the best of sorts right now so there are some [publishing] houses out there that’ll put anything on the cover just to get their circulation numbers back up.”

“As a PR professional, adept at smelling a media stunt a mile away, I can say that this was 100% an effort to stir the pot. However, that doesn’t change that I feel the cover image is legitimate.  While I understand the outrage and can emotionally surmise that music and terror do not mix, I think it’s important to bring [the issue] to public attention in a widely viewed cultural platform. Things aren’t black and white. The Tsarnaev back story is fascinating in that he doesn’t look like a standard terrorist we’ve grown used to. And I think it’s relevant to emotionally connect with that visually. Freedom of speech. Free Press. #mytwocents.”

“Showing a cute terrorist boy rather than ugly and terrifying, Rolling Stone has subverted our expectations and puts its finger on a greater truth. It is a contrast grabbing with our usual perception of terrorists. The most likely answer is a monster, a rude boy with a devilish appearance. But what you get instead, is most alarming visions: a boy who looks like someone that you might know. We can wish the media to confirm to us that the psychopaths are reclusive mad, crazy and creepy that we can easily identify and thus avoid. But as this story reminds us, this is simply not the case. Some psychopaths pointing a gun at a target, others take pictures in a T-shirt.”

“Monsters have always walked in daylight among us. Sometimes to expose truth, I guess it has to be real. I just am not sure if Rolling Stone was the publication to do that. And therein lies the debate. If this was TIME, we would have not reacted so badly. But I have to be honest, in some ways, I respect the editor in chief for doing something bold. I do recognize that it was a risk. But the lines between politically correct and honesty has to be broached. For the world to change we have to be willing to change a little too and it starts with our perspective.”

“Thoughts on the matter: ok so here’s what I think—- If you are able to get past the image, which I completely get if aren’t able to, and get to the headline “How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster” I believe Rolling Stone was really trying to help find out what happened to this American college kid.

Also, the very first paragraph of the article is a statement of support for the victims of Boston. And Rolling Stone’s stance on ‘long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issue of our day.’ And anything to raise awareness I think is a good thing.”

“12 years ago when 9/11 happened, it was on EVERYTHING! News reports, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. Books were made, movies were made, we do not forget. We will never forget! I don’t think we were glamorizing that situation, but trying to fill in the gaps so people who wanted to know what and how that happened could. And I believe Rolling Stone is doing the same here. They put together a very very in-depth article (20 pages worth) to help understand who this kid is.”

“I stand by Rolling Stone‘s statement that the cover story falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone‘s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. This is just like when Charles Manson was on the cover back in 1970, it doesn’t mean that the magazine is condoning the man’s actions. “

“Like your mama taught you, don’t judge a book, or a magazine by its cover.”

From the idiotsavant view, yes for the most part we ALL thought it was a PR stunt. But despite that fact, a few of us thought it was still solid journalism.

 

Creative Genius? We think Not…

“No, the cover is not creative genius. It’s a marketing ploy.”

“It’s only genius because Rolling Stone knew people would be upset about the cover. It’s funny too because people would be soooo passionate about protesting a cover of a magazine, yet they don’t have this same passion for protesting the government and NSA spying on civilians, or even more serious matters at hand.  Sad but so true.”

“[I’m] not sure it’s creative at all. It’s just a photo of him. It may be a good marketing move, but don’t think its creative at all. Now The New Yorker cover of Bert and Ernie – THAT’s creative genius.”

Clearly, no one at IdiotSavants Central thought it was creative genius. But then again, unless you are the developers of Google, Call Of Duty, the iPhone, or silly putty we strongly suggest you don’t use the words creative and genius in the same sentence… Now, if they actually hand drew his face on one side and a monster on the other, then that may have gotten a bit more our respect. But as one idiotsavant quipped, “It would still only be considered IF the drawing was actually good and truly impactful.”   

 

A Bad Call by Rolling Stone

“[It was done] Too soon. The Boston bombing only happened like a couple months ago. People are literally still recovering from what happened. I can understand the journalistic/creative perspective, but I can also understand why there’s so much backlash from the general public. Other than that, I don’t really have an opinion on it. I’m sure there’s some journalistic merit behind this, and I don’t think their intentions were to glamorize Tsarnaev.”

“Even though the cover was a back-up from the original intended cover story (Kanye West), I still thought it was in poor taste. The striking similarity between the bomber and Jim Morrison was a conscientious decision in part of the editor.”

“I think something like this sends the wrong message to Americans. Also, it’s too soon. Some people will definitely take it offensively. This also does not help Dzhokhar be remorseful for a crime he has plead not guilty for. If one of the top magazines in the nation is portraying him in an innocent light, it will only give him more leverage to believe he is not guilty.”

“Being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine used to be a tribute to pop culture. So many badasses graced the cover for decades. And now we have this little cowardly shit on it. Awesome.”, said with the typical idiotsavant droll sarcasm, “Rolling Stone has been out of touch for quite a while, so I don’t really think anyone knows what they’re doing there.”

“I think Rolling Stone went about it the wrong way. I don’t have all the facts. No one does at this point; Tsarnaev still has to be tried. I suspect that they figured, since the suspect is the same age as many of their readers that they’d be more likely to pick up that issue. It was done out of sensationalism and wanting to sell copies. If Tsarnaev turns out to be guilty, this guy should be vilified not glorified on covers.”

“I have not read the article and frankly nor will I. Whether this was a stunt or not (which it clearly was), it was an irresponsible action from a magazine that is all about Rock & Roll and Pop celebrities. Sensationalizing his face for a cover story places us all one-step closer to danger. Using his mug shot and keeping the same cover line and story would have been a more cautious and respectful read, especially for the families and friends that were affected by this kid and his cowardly actions. Did no one stop to think that having a terrorist look like the next John Mayer – that this could be, for the other close to the edge wannabes, that this could be all the reason they need to be the next Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; break the camel’s back and become the Monster?”

While not everyone here agreed to it being a bad call, it was VERY clear from the answers above, that the few that did feel it was out of line, felt it passionately. Whether the timing, the message or the approach, there was vehement reactions to the Rolling Stone’s cover. It just goes to show you that the PR stunt worked. People were definitely talking in our office. So maybe there really is no such thing as bad press.

I actually want to leave the final words on the topic to one of the disenchanted cynics of Pulse Creative. This particular idiotsavant may at times be the one to say the least but sometimes the little things they say, are thoughts that are the truest and resonate the loudest to us all.

 

The Idiotsavants Final Words

“Sucks what happened. But it’s like a lot of other things going on in this world and how our society reacts to them (those who weren’t directly involved/influenced by it): It’s big for a few weeks…we comment….shrug our shoulders…and then everyone just moves on with their life.”

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Pulse Creative Blog l Full-services marketing agency l Graphic Design l Website Design l Video Editing l NYC