By Casey Bukro
Rolling Stone magazine turned Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into a cover boy in a recent edition.
The public reaction was explosive. CNN reported that “outrage is percolating across social media” because of what some saw as the magazine’s glorification of an alleged terrorism suspect.
Rolling Stone editors did not see it that way, stating that “our hearts go out to the victims” of the bombing, but that its cover story “falls within the traditions of journalism” and the magazine’s commitment to “serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.”
It’s not as if the magazine portrays Tsarnaev as a blameless victim. It’s story about him is titled: “The making of a monster.”
The magazine usually devotes space to rock stars and celebrities.
Handsome and young with long curly dark hair, Tsarnaev posted the picture of himself online. It has been published widely by media outlets.
Justifying its focus on Tsarnaev, Rolling Stones editors pointed out that he is in the same age group as many of the magazine’s readers, making it important to delve into how “a tragedy like this happens.”
That touched off what could be described as a war of Tsarnaev photos. Boston Magazine showed a bloodied Tsarnaev in photos taken by a Massachusetts State Police officer at the moment of the bombing suspects capture.
“This is the real Boston bomber,” the policeman told the magazine. “Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”
The policeman was suspended for releasing the photos, which could be important evidence in Tsarnaev’s trial. Boston Magazine also could be challenged on the ethics of publishing the photos that are part of a continuing criminal investigation.
The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics asks journalists to “support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” And they are urged to act independently, even when that appears contrary to strong public sentiment. Others believe the Rolling Stone violated the code’s caution against pandering to lurid curiosity.
Tsarnaev is innocent until proven guilty, and there are always more than two sides to the story. Comments in social media even reveal some sympathy for Tsarnaev.