The Times West Virginian

July 28, 2013

Why make accused terrorist look glamorous?


Times West Virginian

— ”Fluffed and buffed.”

Those were the words that Massachusetts State Police officer Sgt. Sean Murphy used to describe the picture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone.

It made him mad. So mad that he acted on the anger. So mad that he risked his job to show the world the side of Tsarnaev he saw on April 19.

Tsarnaev looked nothing like the boy on the cover of the magazine, with long curls surrounding his adolescent face in a soft yellow light. In Murphy’s photos, Tsarnaev’s curls are matted with blood — his own and possibly his dead brother’s — and the distinct red light of a sniper’s rifle is in the middle of his forehead and he exits the boat parked in the drive of a Watertown, Mass., home. For releasing the photos taken on the night that the teen accused of setting off bombs that killed three and injured 263 in the marathon and murdering an MIT police officer, Murphy was placed on restricted desk duty.

But he told friends and family that he’s OK with that.

There’s been an uproar and a regional boycott of Rolling Stone magazine following its cover story “The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”

The magazine released a statement following the backlash over the Tsarnaev cover.

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

Boston isn’t buying it, though.

In a letter to the Rolling Stone publisher, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino insisted the magazine write stories “on the brave and strong survivors” of the bombings and the emergency and medical personnel who assisted in the hours after the attacks.

“The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them,” Menino wrote.

So what did our readers think of the cover? We asked them on our online poll question, which can be found each week at www.timeswv.com. Last week, we asked: “There has been public outrage over the Rolling Stone cover which features Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looking like a rock star. What are your thoughts?”

And here’s what you had to say:

* Don’t judge a magazine by its cover. It’s important to engage a younger audience in a story of national importance — 7.37 percent

* Outrage equals increased magazine sales — 11.58 percent

* Making an accused murderer and terrorist look glamorous is shameful — 81.05 percent

Rolling Stone isn’t done with its provocative covers, though. Sex sells. But controversy sells more.

This week, let’s talk about a recent report on bullying in West Virginia and its concentration on the middle schools level. What do you think schools should do to combat the issue?

Log on. Vote. Email me ore respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV