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Rolling Stone wins with cover of accused Boston Marathon bomber

August 02, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • This image courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine shows the Aug. 1, 2013 cover.
This image courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine shows the Aug. 1, 2013 cover. (Rolling Stone )

The controversial magazine cover featuring the accused Boston Marathon bomber has turned out to be a winner for Rolling Stone, proving the  advertising adage that all publicity – even the bad – is good.

The magazine has taken a lot of heat for putting a dreamy Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover. The picture, which has appeared in other media as well, gives the rock-and-roll star treatment to the man accused of helping to plant two bombs at the finish line area of the Boston Marathon in April.

At least two outlets stopped selling the magazine to protest the picture and a Boston state police photographer released less flattering images from the night Tsarnaev was captured to a rival magazine.

According to Adweek and the Magazine Information Network, Rolling Stone sold twice as many copies of the Aug. 1 issue at the newsstand than its average. Retailers reported sales of 13,232 copies in July 19-29 period, which is more than double Rolling Stone's average newsstand sales for the same period in 2012.

The magazine, founded in 1967, the heyday of the social revolution fueled by sex, drugs and rock and roll, has a circulation of 1,464,943, with the overwhelming  majority as subscriptions.

Rolling Stone has defended its decision on the way it used the photograph.

“The cover story we are publishing this week 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,” the magazine said in a statement last month.

“The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”

The Tsarnaev photograph is hardly the magazine’s first successful embrace of controversy. In 1970, Rolling Stone put killer Charles Manson on the cover. The issue was a best-seller and won magazine awards.

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