retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Drug store chains CVS and Walgreen, as well as c-store chain Tedeschi Food Shops, based in the Boston area, have refused to carry the new issue of Rolling Stone which features accused Boston Marathon bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover. The reason: the cover photo has been seen by many as making the accused terrorist look like a rock star.

In explaining its decision, CVS said: "CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect ... As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones."

On its Facebook page, Tedeschi posed the following statement: "Music and terrorism don't mix!"

Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out, with his brother, two separate bombings during the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 260. The brother was killed before being apprehended. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the bombing.

Advertising Age makes the point in its story about the controversy that the picture - a "selfie" that Tsarnaev took on his smart phone and used as his picture on social media sites- has been used before, by the New York Times, but in a different context. The NYT notes that "the cover of Rolling Stone has long been a sign for rock stars, celebrities and even politicians that they have arrived, and the sight of the bombing suspect receiving similar treatment has provoked strong reaction."
KC's View:
There is no question that the Rolling Stone cover does have an air of celebrity about it. I'd like to think that this was unintentional, but I think they should have thought it through more and considered the broader message they were sending. Looking at it, one has to wonder if anyone in the magazine's offices raised a hand and said, "Excuse me, but could we think about this one more time?" (The cynical part of me thinks that maybe the magazine is enjoying the controversy ... but I hope that's not the case.)

When Rolling Stone commented on the controversy, it defended the cover, saying, “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." Pressed by USA Today, the magazine said that "the outcry is reminiscent of another polarizing cover, more than 40 years ago, on cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson."

Probably not the comparison I would have gone for.

At this point, there's nothing that Rolling Stone can do about the controversy, short of trying to get next month's edition out a little early. The magazine is out there, and the controversy is going to simmer until it doesn't.

It will have to live with the reaction. The Ad Age story makes clear that social media has been alive with negative comments about the cover, with my favorite being the one that suggested the magazine would have been better served putting a victim or victims on the cover. A sentiment with which I heartily agree.