A marketing company decided I was part of the demographic for this magazine and sent me an unrequested free subscription about 6-8 months ago. In this way I was reacquainted with Rolling Stone. I’ve learned that today it’s a skinny magazine with two editorial slants.
- One is a kind of music-oriented People magazine. Lots of adulatory fan crap. This slant is pretty ghastly, because it often features big photos of wrinkled, bloated stars from the 60s. It also has the most bizarre and untrustworthy music reviews you’ve ever seen. As Jon Stewart noted not long ago; this is a magazine that gave five stars to the most recent U2 album. Published letters to the editor only discuss what a great magazine it is.
- The other theme of Rolling Stone is political/social reporting. I thought this material seemed pretty good and almost made it worthwhile to read. For example, I read with interest and horror the story about campus rapes at the University of Virginia. Oops.
When that U of Virginia expose’ blew up in their faces for reasons that would hopefully never happen at an actual journalism outlet, my appreciation for this side of the magazine took a nose dive.
Then they invited the Columbia Journalism School to review their investigative and fact-checking practices. This provided a glimmer of hope. The investigation revealed how badly the magazine screwed up. So how did the magazine respond? With this: there will be no staff shake-up, and everyone responsible will keep their jobs. Jann Wenner was defensive in the New York Times, saying that the alleged victim who’d told them the false story was “a really expert fabulist storyteller.”
That was it for me. Rolling Stone is now worse than a derelict publication that survived by becoming mostly fluff. It’s a liability. It’s an albatross around the neck of responsible reporting.
I went to the website and tried to cancel my free subscription. Their response was something like, “We will suspend the mailing of your issues, but you need to go to Priority One Clearing Services [the marketing company] to unsubscribe. In other words, it was my problem that someone they hired for promotion gave me a subscription I don’t want. This magazine must die.