Sunday, August 04, 2013

Cover Boy

Rolling Stone, wanna see my picture on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother (Yeah!)
Wanna see my smilin' face, on the cover of The Rolling Stone

These words were famously recorded forty years ago by a "one-hit wonder" of a group called Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show. It should also be noted that these lyrics were written by one Shel Silverstein, who also composed the Johnny Cash hit "A Boy Named Sue." Shel certainly write a song with his tongue wedged carefully in his cheek. Clever though he was, I doubt if Mister Silverstein could have anticipated the furor his ode to self-promotion would channel four decades later.
If you're like me and never buy a copy of Rolling Stone unless you're getting on an airplane, you might have missed all the fuss about this past month's issue. The one with alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tzarnaev on the cover. The one that inspired these lyrics:
Well now I'm fixin' to get people to listen
There's a sure-fire road to fame
I'll set a bomb off down in Boston
Then everyone'll know my name

 Everyone, that is, who is incensed by the idea of giving any more press to the kid who decided, along with his brother, to blow up innocent men, women and children. Allegedly. So here I go, giving up another slice of cyberspace to this bad guy and his deeds. I can hear my wife wondering: What is he trying to do? Make him famous? Well, infamous would be more like it, but I get the point. Can I say the same thing about the editors of Rolling Stone?
Well, this particular issue of Jan Wenner's counterculture rag was a big seller. Retailers reported sales of 13,232 copies from July 19-29, which is more than double Rolling Stone's average newsstand sales for the same period in 2012. Subscribers, on the other hand, reacted to the cover by cancelling their commitment to future issues. What did the publishers have to say for themselves? "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."
They forgot to mention that it is also very important to sell magazines. Sure, he's no Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen, but I'm guessing if Dzhokhar wasn't chained to his prison bed, he'd probably rush right out and buy five copies for his mama.

No comments: