Rolling Stone's newsstand sales double for Tsarnaev issue

Tsarnaev surrenders.
Tsarnaev surrenders. (Photo by Sgt. Sean Murphy courtesy Boston magazine)

Rolling Stone's controversial cover featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of being the Boston Marathon bomber, resulted in big sales at the newsstand.

The iconic rock magazine sold twice as many copies of the Aug. 1 issue at the newsstand as its average, according to Adweek and the Magazine Information Network. The cover photo of Tsarnaev stirred public outrage and spurred retailers including CVS and Walgreens to boycott the issue when it was published last month.

Retailers reported sales of 13,232 copies from July 19-29, which is more than double Rolling Stone's average newsstand sales for the same period in 2012.

The magazine, founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner, has a circulation of 1,464,943 — with the vast majority coming from subscribers.

Last month, when Rolling Stone released the image of the Tsarnaev cover, subscribers flocked to the magazine's Facebook page to blast the decision.

"Been a subscriber since 1982," Tim Snell wrote. "Canceling tonight. I am beyond words..."

"I am ending my subscription," David Beck wrote. "This is bull----. Let's honor those who hurt innocent people."

"This is appalling, reckless journalism created for shock and profit," Bill Lowell wrote. "Why glorify a killer and terrorist? The magazine’s irresponsible thoughtless actions will only promote the next sad individual to act out his horrific deeds."

Rolling Stone, though, defended the move.

"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 magazine said in a statement. "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."

The cover angered Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Sean Murphy, who leaked chilling photos of Tsarnaev's capture to Boston magazine.

“As a professional law-enforcement officer of 25 years, I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has ever worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty," Murphy explained in an email. "The truth is that glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine."

Murphy, who was not authorized to release the photos, was given desk duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

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