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Rolling Stone cover of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sparks controversy

The August cover of Rolling Stone featuring Boston

The August cover of Rolling Stone featuring Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Credit: AP)

The July Rolling Stone cover featured Johnny Depp sporting his Tonto makeup and costume in anticipation of "The Lone Ranger," but the August image is perhaps more unexpected. The cover features a toussled-haired Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect, and it's causing controversy even before hitting newsstands, though the article is on rollingstone.com. 

The 19-year-old, with a scruff of facial hair and graphic T-shirt, looks just like any other young adult male.

But Tsarneav, of course, isn't just any teen. The Rolling Stone cover headline reads, "The Bomber: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster."


PHOTOS: Bombing suspect captured | Scene (graphic) | Victims
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That cover image and headline has sparked a strong reaction on social media.

Rolling Stone is trending on Twitter, with the hash tag #boycottrollingstone actively gaining traction. The magazine's Facebook post about the Tsarnaev story has received a lot of criticism, from calls for the victims to be on the cover to cries that using the suspect's photo is "tasteless." 

The cover is bringing attention to contributing editor Janet Reitman's article, but positioning Tsarnaev as a victim (or heartthrob) also runs the risk of turning readers away from the piece. According to the Associated Press, the cover dilemma is stepping outside of social media as the CVS pharmacy chain based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and a convenience store chain, Tedeschi Food Shops in Rockland, Massachusetts will not carry the publication. AP also reports that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote a letter to Rolling Stone calling the cover "ill-conceived at best."

Rolling Stone, of course, is no stranger to attention-grabbing covers, from a naked John Lennon in January 1981 to Lady Gaga with guns in July 2010.

And in June 1970, Rolling Stone ran a cover photo of Charles Manson. The accompanying article won a National Magazine Award.

The Tsarnaev article on rollingstone.com begins with the following editors' note:

"Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. 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 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."

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