We have received many e-mails criticizing us for our support to the Rolling Stone magazine and to independent journalism. So let’s get to the point bold-and-clear:
I understand pain and not wanting to see. But with all due respect, it’s the role of independent journalism to seek truth and insight, not to comfort or protect from unpleasantness.
I also fail to see how this reflects RS’ “haste to make a few extra dollars on lost lives.” Surely, marketing on the part of news organizations is a reality of our times, but I cannot agree that RS is driven by this in this instance. There has been an onslaught of outrage about their decision to use this photo, much of it accompanied by decisions or threats to cancel subscriptions or boycott, and several retailers have even pulled the magazine from their shelves (censorship lives on!). This actually represents a financial LOSS for them. They had to know this would be a possibility before they published the article and the photo, but they made the decision to do it anyway, and therefore risk some financial loss.
As for tastelessness, that is in the eye of the beholder, as the cliché goes. I do not feel that the photo was tasteless, but rather that it was the absolutely appropriate picture, among those available to them, to complement the article. As I wrote before, The Rolling Stone journalistic story is a different story — a story examining how and why an otherwise normal and likeable young man could do such horrible things – if he, indeed, is found guilty – and if there were any clues or warning signs that perhaps might help us prevent similar tragedies in the future.
As Ian Crouch (New Yorker magazine) has aptly pointed out, the fact is, he DOES kind of look like a rock star. That fact alone gives food for thought. In any event, it is not the role of independent, serious journalism (or their attendant photos) to try to anticipate what readers think is tasteless. If that were the case, no good reporting would ever get done. I am dismayed by what appears to be an alarming lack of ability on the part of the American public to understand the function of journalism in a democratic society.
Having said this, I tell all of you who sent us those nasty e-mails and threatened with not visiting our music website anymore that we wish instead of all your vitroil against the RS cover story and picture, you should have invested your time protesting the decision to acquit George Zimmerman, a white man, over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a young black male unarmed, and a recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down key sections of a law that protects black voters (civil rights live on!). Perhaps the murder of a young black American unarmed and the acquittal of his assassin who took the law and the gun in his own hands instead of notifying the police, doesn’t deserve your attention and uproar. And what really bothers you about the RS cover picture is not that the 19-year-old Tsarnaev is handsome, talented and looks like a rock-star, but that he is not a “real” American but an ethnic Chechen who came to the U.S. as a child and was later granted the American citizenship.