August 23

Controversial exposure: Still good exposure?

By Francesca Prach

Is any form of exposure, good or bad, really good? We all know that controversy sells and makes an interesting and popular story for audiences to read and engage in, but could the wrong exposure ruin the company?

Rolling Stone Magazine has been in the news for years for publishing and exposing very controversial celebrity covers such as exposing suggestive covers of female celebrities, high profile criminals and attention towards the gay and lesbian community.

Most recently their August issue featured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspected Boston Marathon bombers as a “glorified rock artist”.

Many store chains such as Walgreens and CVS pharmacy in Massachusetts and around New England have banned the stocking and selling of the magazine on their shelves and many Bostonian’s have strong resentful feelings towards the publication.

Rolling Stone Magazine knows that whether or not Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was on the front cover despite the headline of the article following their magazine would sell due to controversy of a suspected homeland terrorist. But the real question is if you know you can, should you still do it? According to an article written for the Independent Online Newspaper, “Figures released by the Magazine Information Network show sales jumped by 102 per cent over average per issue sales in the past year. Following publication of last month’s edition, a ‘Boycott Rolling Stone’ Facebook page was created, encouraging readers to abandon the magazine.”

Receiving even the most crude and outspoken reactions, remarks and documents in response to the release of the recent issue is what I believe Rolling Stone was looking for and had succeeded in their marketing strategy, which was to be the most talked about topic of the week and to reach record sales. Their defense statement however to “explain” their cover of choice was to explain the story and mindset of how a seemingly normal teenager turned into a suspected terrorist. “The editors of Rolling Stone defended their decision to publish the cover, arguing that it fell “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.”

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

“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.”

I support the magazine’s decision to address the horrific event at the marathon for a cover, however a photograph representing all the first responders, Boston lawn enforcement officials and runners should have been the ones glorified. As a Bostonian where this tragedy and attack happened so close to home I definitely shun the magazine for this and have lost all respect and creditability for the publication. Although I do understand their explanation for the article, there were many more options on how to exploit the national issue.

Many have protested to never buy, purchase or read the magazine again, but will the outspoken really continue to boycott the publication? At the end of the day controversy sells and will spread like wild fire over social media networks making the billions connected on these sites to engage in thought provoking opinions and statements.