Rolling Stone magazine
Will Dana (managing editor)
|First issue||November 9, 1967|
|Company||Wenner Media LLC|
|Based in||New York City, United States|
Rolling Stone is a magazine published every two weeks that focuses on politics and popular culture. In 1967, Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco, California, by Jann Wenner – who is still the magazine's chief editor – and music critic, Ralph J. Gleason.
Rolling Stone was known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by the enigmatic and controversial gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine changed its format to appeal to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. This led to criticism that the magazine was emphasizing style over substance.
In recent years, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories. It also has expanded content to include coverage of financial and banking issues. As a result, the magazine has seen its circulation increase and its reporters invited as experts to network television programs of note.
To get the magazine off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Michell Palmer. The first issue carried a cover date of November 9, 1967 and was in newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival. Rolling Stone magazine, named after the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone" (1950), was initially identified with and reported on the hippie counterculture of the era. However, the magazine distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Berkeley Barb, embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition of the magazine, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces."
In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark for its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson would first publish his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005. In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent authors, including Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, Patti Smith and P. J. O'Rourke. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey. One interviewer, speaking for large numbers of his peers, said that he bought his first copy of the magazine upon initial arrival on his college campus, which he described as a "rite of passage".
During the 1980s the magazine began to shift focus towards being a general "entertainment" magazine. Music was still a dominant topic but there was increasing coverage of celebrities in television, films and the pop culture of the day. The magazine also initiated its annual "Hot Issue" during this time.
The printed format has gone through several changes. The first publications in 1967–72, were folded tabloid newspaper format, no staples with black ink text, and a single color highlight that changed each edition. From 1973 on, editions were done on a four-color press with a different newsprint paper size. In 1979, the bar code appeared. In 1980, it became a gloss paper, large format (10″×12″) magazine. As of October 30, 2008 edition, Rolling Stone is a smaller, standard-format magazine size. (USA Today,[volume & issue needed] Associated Press Anick Jesdanun)
On November 5, 2012, the magazine published its first cover in the Spanish language as recognition to the influence of Latino artists in American culture.
One major criticism of Rolling Stone involves its generational bias toward the 1960s and 1970s. One critic referred to the Rolling Stone list of the "99 Greatest Songs" as an example of "unrepentant rockist fogeyism". In further response to this issue, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published a thorough critique of the magazine's lists in a book called Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics (ISBN 1-56980-276-9), which featured differing opinions from many younger critics. Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg criticised the magazine writing that "Rolling Stone has essentially become the house organ of the Democratic National Committee." Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner has made all of his political donations to Democrats.
Rolling Stone magazine has been criticized for reconsidering many classic albums that it had previously dismissed and (in recent years) for frequent abuse of the 3.5 star rating. Examples of artists for whom this is the case include, among others, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Nirvana, Weezer, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Outkast and Queen. For example, Led Zeppelin was largely written off by Rolling Stone magazine critics during the band's most active years in the 1970s. However by 2006, a cover story on Led Zeppelin honored them as "the Heaviest Band of All Time". A critic for Slate magazine described a conference at which 1984's The Rolling Stone Record Guide was scrutinized. As he described it, "The guide virtually ignored hip-hop and ruthlessly panned heavy metal, the two genres that within a few years would dominate the pop charts. In an auditorium packed with music journalists, you could detect more than a few anxious titters: How many of us will want our record reviews read back to us 20 years hence?" Another example of this bias was that the album Nevermind, by grunge band Nirvana, was given three stars in its original review, despite being placed at No. 17 in "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list in 2003. Also, when The Beatles' Let It Be was released in 1970, the magazine originally gave the album a poor review, yet in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it number 86 in the magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The 2003 Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time article's inclusion of only two female musicians resulted in Venus Zine answering with their own list entitled, "The Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time".
The August 2013 Rolling Stone cover featuring alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev drew widespread criticism that the magazine was "glamorizing terrorism" and that the cover was a "slap in the face to the great city of Boston." The online edition of the article was accompanied by a short editorial which stated that the story "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 controversial cover photograph which was used by Rolling Stone had previously featured on the front page of the New York Times on May 5, 2013.
In response to the outcry, New England-based CVS Pharmacy and Tedeschi Food Shops banned their stores from carrying the issue. Also refusing to sell the issue were Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Roche Bros., Kmart, H-E-B, Walmart, 7-Eleven, Hy-Vee, Rutter's Farm, United Supermarkets, Cumberland Farms, Market Basket, Shaw's and Stop & Shop. Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, calling the cover "ill conceived, at best,...reaffirms a message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes.'" Menino also wrote that "To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious market strategy" and wrote about how Wenner could have written about the survivors or the people who came to help after the bombings. In conclusion, Menino writes "The survivors of the Boston Marathon deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them." Many artists and celebrities have criticized the magazine for the cover including Dropkick Murphys, Tom Bergeron, Stone Cold Steve Austin, James Woods, Ralph Macchio, Dean Cain, OneRepublic, Brad Paisley, David Draiman, Carson Daly, Brad Ziegler, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Kevin Sorbo, and Louis C.K.
In 2009, Taibbi unleashed a scathing series of acclaimed reporting on the financial meltdown. He famously dubbed Goldman Sachs "The Great Vampire Squid."
Bigger headlines came at the end of June 2010. Rolling Stone caused a controversy in the White House by publishing in the July issue an article by journalist Michael Hastings, entitled, "The Runaway General", quoting criticism of General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan commander, about Vice President Joe Biden and other Administration members of the White House. McChrystal resigned from his position shortly after his statements went public.
In 2010, Taibbi documented illegal and fraudulent actions by banks in the foreclosure courts after traveling to Jacksonville, Florida and sitting in on hearings in the courtroom. His article, Invasion of the Home Snatchers also documented attempts by the judge to intimidate a homeowner fighting foreclosure and the attorney Taibbi accompanied into the court.
In January 2012, the magazine ran exclusive excerpts from Hastings' book just prior to publication. The book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, provided a much more expansive look at McChrystal and the culture of senior American military and how they get embroiled in these wars. It has been described as a boozy, sexy account of the misadventures of America's most notorious killers. The book reached Amazon's bestseller list in the first 48 hours of release, and it received generally favorable reviews. Salon's Glenn Greenwald described it as "superb," "brave" and "eye-opening."
In 2012, financial scandals also continued to rock the world. Taibbi emerged as an expert who could explain the events as they unfolded. His articles garnered him invitations to nationally broadcast television programs. In a July discussion of the Libor revelations, Taibbi's coverage  was singled out by Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, Inc., as becoming required reading to remain informed.
Rolling Stone has maintained a website for many years, with selected current articles, reviews, blogs, MP3s, and other features such as searchable and free encyclopedic articles about artists, with images and sometimes sound clips of their work. The articles and reviews are sometimes in a revised form from the versions that are published. There are also selected archival political and cultural articles and entries. The site also at one time had an extensive message board forum. By the late 1990s, the message board forum at the site had developed into a thriving community with a large number of regular members and contributors worldwide. The site was also plagued with numerous Internet trolls and malicious code-hackers who vandalized the forum substantially. Rolling Stone abruptly deleted the forum in May 2004. Rolling Stone began a new, much more limited message board community at their site in late 2005, only to remove it again in 2006. Rolling Stone also has a page at MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. In March 2008, the Rolling Stone website started a new message board section once again, then deleted it in April 2010. The magazine devotes one of its Table of Contents pages to promoting material currently appearing at its website, listing detailed links to the items.
As of April 19, 2010, the website has been updated drastically and features the complete archives of Rolling Stone. The archive was first launched under a for-pay model, but has since transitioned to a free-with-print-subscription model. In the spring of 2012, Rolling Stone also launched a federated search feature which searches both the website and the archive.
In December 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that the owners of Rolling Stone magazine planned to open a Rolling Stone restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California in the spring of 2010. The expectation was that the restaurant could become the first of a national chain if it was successful. As of November 2010, the "soft opening" of the restaurant was planned for December 2010. In 2011, the restaurant was open for lunch and dinner as well as a full night club downstairs on the weekends. However, the restaurant closed around February 2013.
In popular culture
- "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" is a 1973 song satirizing success in the music business. It was first recorded by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, who subsequently did get on the cover of the magazine, albeit in caricature rather than a photograph.
- George Harrison's 1975 song "This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)", a lyrical sequel to his Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", references the magazine in its second verse: "Learned to get up when I fall / Can even climb Rolling Stone walls". The song was written in response to some unduly harsh reviews from Rolling Stone and other publications for Harrison's 1974 North American tour and the Dark Horse album.
- In Stephen King's 1980 novel Firestarter, the protagonist chooses Rolling Stone as an unbiased independent media source, through which she can expose the government agency hunting her. However, in the film adaptation, the protagonist chooses The New York Times.
- 1985 film Perfect depicts John Travolta as a reporter for Rolling Stone, covering the health club fad of the time. Jann Wenner plays editor-in-chief "Mark Roth".
- 2000 film Almost Famous portrayed fictional 15-year-old aspiring rock journalist writing for Rolling Stone. The semi-autobiographical film was written and directed by former Rolling Stone columnist Cameron Crowe and featured portrayals of publisher Jann Wenner (Eion Bailey), editor Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen), David Felton (Rainn Wilson) and others in Rolling Stone's 1970s San Francisco offices. Wenner also had a cameo in the film as a man reading a newspaper in a taxi.
- 2002 song, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" by pop punk band Good Charlotte refer to the excesses of modern celebrities and the influence of the magazine, in the first verse: "All they do is piss and moan / Inside the Rolling Stone / Talking about how hard life can be"
Some artists have graced the cover many times, some of these pictures going on to become iconic. The Beatles, for example, have appeared on the cover more than thirty times, either individually or as a band. The first ten issues featured, in order of appearance, the following:
- John Lennon
- Tina Turner
- The Beatles
- Jimi Hendrix, Donovan & Otis Redding
- Jim Morrison
- Janis Joplin
- Jimi Hendrix
- Monterey Pop Festival
- John Lennon & Paul McCartney
- Eric Clapton
- Argentina – Published by Publirevistas S. A. since April 1998. This edition also circulates in Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
- Australia – Rolling Stone Australia began as a supplement in 1969 in Go-Set magazine. It became a full title in 1972. It was published by Silvertongues from 1974 to 1987 and by Nextmedia Pty Ltd, Sydney until 2008. It is now published by Bauer Magazines and is the longest running international edition.
- Brazil – Published in Brazil since October 2006 by Spring Comunicações.
- Bulgaria – Published in Bulgaria since November 2009 by Sivir Publications. Ceased publication as of the August/September 2011 issue.
- Chile – Published by Edu Comunicaciones until May 2003. Published by El Mercurio from January 2006 to December 2011.
- China – Rolling Stone in mainland China is licensed to One Media Group of Hong Kong and published in partnership with China Record Corporation. The magazine is in Chinese with translated articles and local content.
- Croatia - Launched in 18. October 2013.
- Colombia – Edited in Bogotá for Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Panama and Venezuela, since 1991.
- France – Launched 2002. This edition temporarily ceased in 2007 and was relaunched in May 2008 under license with 1633SA publishing group.
- Germany – Published in Germany since 1994 by Axel Springer AG.
- India – Launched in March 2008 by MW Com, publishers of Man's World magazine.
- Indonesia – Published in Indonesia since June 2005 by a&e Media.
- Italy – Published in Italy since November 2003, first by IXO Publishing and now by Editrice Quadratum. (Questionable because there is a first edition, #1 published in 1980's)
- ) since 2011.
- Mexico – Published by Prisa Internacional from 2002 until May 2009; from June 2009 it is published by Editorial Televisa under license.
- Middle East – Published in Dubai by HGW Media since November 2010.
- Russia – Published by Izdatelskiy Dom SPN since 2004.
- Spain – Published by PROGRESA in Madrid, since 1999.
- Turkey – Published since June 2006 by GD Gazete Dergi.
- South Africa – Published since November 2011.
- United Kingdom – Published under the title Friends from 1969-1972
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