March 22, 2023

Behind Rolling Stone’s Cover, a Story Worth Reading

Of all the outraged responses to the Rolling Stone cover of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston marathon bombings, those from Boston were particularly acute. Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter of protest to Rolling Stone and several retailers with Boston ties said they would not sell the controversial issue.

And then on Thursday, Boston Magazine responded to Rolling Stone’s editorial decision with one of its own, publishing photos of the manhunt and arrest of Mr. Tsarnaev. The images were taken by Sgt. Sean Murphy, a photographer with the Massachusetts State Police who was described as “furious” about the Rolling Stone cover and accused the magazine of “glamorizing the face of terror.”

His protest, which included graphic photos of Mr. Tsarnaev during his capture, ended up creating a controversy of its own. According to Boston Magazine, Sergeant Murphy was relieved of duty just hours after he turned over hundreds of photos to the magazine.

Mr. Murphy’s actions may have put him in hot water at work, but it is not hard to understand the emotions that drove his decision. News developments, and the way they are presented in the news media, always fall harder on some than others, especially victims, families of victims and first responders.

The ubiquitous footage of the fall of the World Trade Center towers is disturbing for anyone to watch, but for the many thousands of people related to people who died there viewing that footage produces a far different experience. Similarly, people who are related to victims who lost their lives or limbs as the result of the Boston Maraton bombings — Mr. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in connection with bombings — were appalled by the magazine’s decision. But the misery of some should not determine the value to the whole. There are things we need to know, including the fact that Mr. Tsarnaev, almost banal in his teenage aspects, is suspected of having become a cold-blooded killer.

The power of visual context was vividly illustrated on Wednesday when vast swaths of the Internet — and several prominent retailers — vehemently protested the Rolling Stone cover.

Actually, it wasn’t the who, but the how and where. With his thick, tousled hair falling into his eyes above direct brown eyes and a young man’s goatee, the reported bomber looked like many other American teenagers. Except there he was on the cover of the Rolling Stone, a storied piece of American cultural real estate about which songs have been written.

Absent that context, the image was unremarkable. It was a self-shot photo, or “selfie,’’ and there is no more ubiquitous photographic image in the current media age. Young people use their phones to take pictures of a lot of things but they love taking pictures of themselves. They strive to look as good, and as hot, as they can. Those who found the styling offensive can blame Mr. Tsarnaev. That photo is the way he wanted the world to see him. It was a compelling enough image that The New York Times decided to use it on its front page, where it came and went without a great deal of reaction.

In other words, it was not the image of Mr. Tsarnaev that ignited outrage, it was the frame. With its headline callouts to Jay Z and Willie Nelson on the current issue, and a history of hosting rock luminaries, there were suggestions that the magazine was conferring iconic status on a man who has been charged with a brutal act of terrorism. People suggested that Rolling Stone used the image to sell magazines, which, of course, they did. Editorially, the cover was a win. (The Boston media writer Dan Kennedy called it “brilliant.”)

When is the last time someone said to you, “Did you see the cover of Rolling Stone?” In a cluttered informational marketplace, magazines are in a dogfight for attention, not just with one another, but with every other form of media.

Part of the mass umbrage would seem to stem from a misunderstanding of the magazine and its cover. From the very beginning, Rolling Stone has seen long-form journalism as part of its mission, and more recently has proven its journalistic chops with important stories about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and the so-called vampire squids of Goldman Sachs. Those were good, important stories and while the profile about Mr. Tsarnaev did not break a lot of new ground, it did an excellent job of explaining how someone who looked like the kid next door radicalized in place and, according to the federal charges, decided to attack innocents to make a political point. There is civic and journalistic value in finding out more about who this person is, and if the cover created in-bound interest, that would seem to be to the good.

Still, many piled on, accusing Rolling Stone of a cynical play for attention while they sought some of the same in their reaction. The actor James Woods, among others, found himself on the moral high ground, issuing a profane and personal rebuke to Jann Wenner, the owner and publisher of Rolling Stone.

The story and cover treatment of Mr. Tsarnaev was clinically an act of journalism. Commercial and editorial motives were at work, as they are when almost anyone publishes anything. People who read beyond the cover discovered that the pretty boy on the front appeared to have deep, nascent ugliness in his heart. Just as you can’t judge a book (or a magazine) by its cover, the kid behind that confident selfie was, it seems, a big, hot mess.

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CVS and Walgreens Ban an Issue of Rolling Stone

It was explicitly the cover image, a photo of Mr. Tsarnaev that he used online, which shows him with long hair and a trim mustache and in an Armani Exchange shirt — not the lengthy article inside — that has drawn criticism. Over the day, those objections gathered momentum, aided by social media.

Both CVS and Walgreens made their announcements on Twitter; their messages were passed on hundreds of times.

The cover of Rolling Stone has long been a sign for rock stars, celebrities and even politicians that they have arrived, and the sight of the bombing suspect receiving similar treatment has provoked strong reaction, especially from the Boston area.

By the afternoon, Mayor Thomas M. Menino had sent a letter to the publisher of Rolling Stone, Jann S. Wenner, objecting that the cover “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment.” And Gov. Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts, responding to a question from reporters, said: “I haven’t read it, but I understand the substance of the article is not objectionable. It’s apparently pretty good reporting. But the cover is out of taste, I think.”

The bombings on April 15, which Mr. Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out with his brother, Tamerlan, killed three people and wounded more than 260 near the finish line of the race.

Mr. Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges contained in a sweeping terrorism indictment.

Another chain, Tedeschi Food Shops, which is based in New England, also said it would not carry the issue, dated Aug. 1, explaining on its Facebook page that while the company “supports the need to share the news with everyone,” it “cannot support actions that serve to glorify the evil actions of anyone.”

The magazine published a note atop the article that began: “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families.” After defending the article, which was written by the investigative reporter Janet Reitman, as fitting the magazine’s tradition of serious journalism, the editors try to turn some of the criticism on its head.

“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,” they wrote.

Ms. Reitman reported the article over the last two months, Rolling Stone said, interviewing childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement officials. The result, the magazine says, is “a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.”

Ms. Reitman, who declined to comment when reached via e-mail, responded on Twitter before the full article was posted online, to a friend writing in support, “It’s kind of astonishing. No one has even read it yet!”

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DealBook: Former Programmer Demands That Goldman Cover His Legal Fees

Sergey Aleynikov leaving court after winning his appeal in February.Hiroko Masuike/The New York TimesSergey Aleynikov leaving court after winning his appeal in February.

A former Goldman Sachs programmer charged a second time with stealing valuable computer code from the investment bank is fighting back, demanding that his former employer cover his mounting legal fees.

On Tuesday, the programmer, Sergey Aleynikov, sued Goldman in Federal District Court in New Jersey. He wants the financial firm to pay for the nearly $2.4 million in costs he has racked up defending himself in both an overturned federal case and a pending state proceeding by the Manhattan district attorney.

Those costs are likely to grow as the case by the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., progresses. A grand jury has handed up an indictment, and Mr. Aleynikov is expected to be arraigned on Thursday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the grand jury’s actions are private until the arraignment.

Mr. Aleynikov’s lawyer, Kevin H. Marino, has requested a $500,000 retainer fee as he and his partners at Marino, Tortorella Boyle in Chatham, N.J., prepare Mr. Aleynikov’s defense. In the complaint filed on Tuesday, they wrote that their client had exhausted his financial resources before the federal district trial. They argued that Goldman was obligated to pay his fees because he was an officer of the firm during the time in question.

“Aleynikov incurred significant legal fees and expenses in connection with his successful defense of the federal charges,” the complaint read. “Because he succeeded on each federal charge brought against him, Aleynikov is entitled to indemnification for the reasonable fees and expenses incurred in his defense.”

A Goldman spokesman, Michael DuVally, declined to comment.

It is the latest twist in Mr. Aleynikov’s long legal journey.

Three years ago, he was arrested after Goldman reported him to the United States attorney in Manhattan. Then a vice president at the firm, he was charged with stealing source code for high-frequency trading software as he was leaving to join a start-up.

A jury found him guilty in 2010, and Mr. Aleynikov was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. An appeals court reversed that conviction this year, finding that the case was built on a misuse of federal corporate espionage laws. Mr. Aleynikov was released from prison shortly thereafter.

But last month, Mr. Vance filed his own charges, accusing Mr. Aleynikov of exploiting his access to Goldman’s “secret sauce.” The case is widely seen as part of a campaign by Mr. Vance and Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, to pursue white-collar crime.

That legal battle has left Mr. Aleynikov with little money, according to Tuesday’s complaint. He is relying on friends to provide him with housing and cannot afford to pay his lawyers.

As part of their case, Mr. Aleynikov’s lawyers point to a section of Goldman’s bylaws that, they say, requires the firm to indemnify employees charged in criminal or civil proceedings in connection with their status as an officer or director of the bank.

The firm has paid a large portion of the legal fees for a former director, Rajat K. Gupta, who was convicted of leaking boardroom talks to the hedge fund magnate Raj Rajaratnam. It has done the same for Fabrice Tourre, the subject of a securities fraud lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While Goldman settled a related civil case for $550 million, Mr. Tourre, who is on leave, is awaiting trial.

Late last month, Mr. Aleynikov requested that Goldman advance him money to cover some of the fees for his defense in the state court case. He offered to refund the money if he were ultimately found ineligible for such treatment, according to court papers.

Aleynikov Legal Fees Complaint

Sergey Aleynikov Fees Memorandum of Law

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