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The Rolling Stone Cover That Tried to Win Journalism
Now nobody will ever forget what Jahar Tsarnaev's facial hair looks like.

I'm pretty sure
 that if Time had run the same cover and darkened the photo, the outrage would have been far less than what is spilling forth now. People have already been noting that the same image ran on the front page of The New York Times back in May, accompanying a background piece on the alleged bomber.

Goes to show how perception of a publication's identity frames how people receive its stories.

Rolling Stone does plenty of edgy long form news pieces, and maybe not always in good taste, but people viewing it as primarily a music magazine are now reading the cover as terrorist = rock star instead of terrorist = subject of a story coming at a figure from an unexpected angle, though this isn't even the first outlet to depict Tsarnaev's background through a narrative lens open to images other than the damning.

The ethical questions at play are ungainly, but most of the anger seems to have centered around one of the most basic issues: how victims, victims' families and others affected by the bombing will respond, on an emotional level, to the cover.

I feel like this is what we often mean by "taste," because who knows if the journalistic merits of the piece will outlast or outweigh the initial ugliness of the cover. People are responding viscerally, as if someone had behaved insensitively toward a victim walking down the street, or at the airport, and perhaps that's appropriate.

How this cover came about is the story of all journalism produced in an information economy where you have to get noticed to get read, and you have to shout louder, smarter, and more surprisingly over the media already inundating your audience. And these were the demands even before the internet; this is the game that magazines play. It just happens to really piss people off sometimes.

Whether this kind of freewheeling, agitating media 
 in general  serves the public interest is a much bigger question than whether this particular cover was a poor ethical choice, but it should be understood that such controversy and perhaps bad taste are inevitable in the unnerving little place where the ethics of mass media, the freedom of creative expression, the viability of journalistic enterprise and an institution's financial livelihood are all at stake.

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ARappingApe Posted: 7/17/2013 6:20:27 PM
 0   2    

I don't remember ever reading RS. I don't know anyone who reads it either. Must be slow news day.
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