Opinion

The 3 Most Bizarre Moments That Destroyed Rolling Stone’s Credibility

Rolling Stone magazine’s founder, Jann Wenner, has put his controlling stake of the once-popular publication up for sale after a recent decline in relevance and journalistic reputation.

Once the paragon publications of the alternative rock and American counter-culture scene after its inception in 1967, Rolling Stone lost considerable credibility after a 2014 discredited gang rape story of a University of Virginia freshman cost the magazine $1.65 million in a defamation settlement. Additionally, after rock culture was flung into the mainstream, Rolling Stone struggled to adjust.

Wenner Media, the magazine’s parent company, sold a 49 percent stake in the magazine to BandLab Technologies in September 2016. Wenner’s company will now sell his 51 percent controlling stake, removing him from the magazine he started nearly a half century ago.

“I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” Wenner said, according to The New York Times. Selling the company was “just the smart thing to do,” he added.

In memory of Rolling Stone’s news coverage, here are the magazine’s three worst moments from the past five years:

1. Bogus rape story

“Even as Rolling Stone’s Nov. 19 story ‘A Rape on Campus’ unraveled last week, the magazine claimed that writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did her due diligence in investigating an alleged gang rape,” The Washington Post wrote in 2014. So fraught with error, a report by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, commissioned by Rolling Stone, concluded that the story failed in “basic, even routine journalistic practice” in verifying details given to them by a source.

“It was an embarrassing episode for a magazine that has long prided itself on its journalistic accomplishments,” TheNYT wrote in a June 2017 report.

2. The Boston Bomber cover

“Rolling Stone’s unsettling new ‘The Bomber’ cover — featuring a dreamy, sepia-toned selfie of Dzhokhar ‘Jahar’ Tsarnaev — led to an immediate outpouring of dismay from online critics,” New York Magazine wrote in July 2013, three months after the Boston marathon bombing. The “beautiful, striking image” of a terrorist responsible for the death of four people and injuring 264 was bizarre to say the least, and elicited nearly universal outrage.

“Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment,” then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a July 2013 letter addressed to Wenner. “It is ill conceived at best, and reaffirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their causes.”

3. The apotheoses of Justin Trudeau 

A July Rolling Stone magazine cover fawned “Justin Trudeau: The North Star,” posing the question “Is He The Free World’s Best Hope?” in the subheading. The article lauded his “feminist bona fides,” saying that “women and minorities make up half of his cabinet.” Hoping to frame Trudeau as the “anti-Trump,” the article heaped a peculiar amount of praise on the Canadian prime minister.

“His dark hair is a color found in nature” and he has three “photogenic children, still not old enough to warm his seat at next week’s G-20 summit or be involved in an espionage scandal,” Rolling Stone’s Stephen Rodrick drooled.

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