Rolling Stone Reporter: Boston Bomber Cover Was About ‘Realizing He Was Normal’

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"I felt that the choice of having his face on the cover was a reflection of the the story in the magazine"

Rolling Stone has already defended its controversial decision to put Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its July issue, and now the reporter who wrote the cover story, "Jahar's World," is defending Rolling Stone.

Janet Reitman spoke about the issue while appearing on The Longform Podcast posted Friday. While she emphasized that neither she, nor any journalist writing for the publication, has control over whether the story becomes a cover story or what picture accompanies it, she was "very satisfied" with the final product.

Also read: Why the Boston Bomber Cover Controversy Helps Rolling Stone

"Look, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was the accused bomber number two in the Boston Bombing, was 19 years old. He was the demographic of part of our readership. He fits right into that demographic and I felt that the choice of having his face on the cover was a reflection of the the story in the magazine," Reitman (left) said. "The cover says, 'Look at me,' right? And the story is about looking at this person and realizing that this person was very 'normal,' and very much could have been anybody — could have been your friend, that kid you got high with, that boy you had a crush on in your dorm. That's who he was." 

Reitman also said that she understands why the cover elicited an emotional response from the public, and thinks "it's great, on a certain level," that it did.

"Terrorism is emotional, it's real, it affects us. It is not something that happens just overseas or just to people who are somehow 'Other,'" Reitman added. "If you talk to terrorism experts around the world, what they will all say is that the vast majority of people who are involved in these violent, extremist acts are what we would consider otherwise to be very normal people. One of us. Part of our community. That's a reality, and it's a very emotional thing and it makes people very uncomfortable. I totally understand that. But that was the point of my story."

Also read: Boston Mag Counters Rolling Stone's Boston Bomber Cover: 'This Is the Real Face of Terror'

Despite a number of boycotts from consumers and carriers, alike, AdWeek reported earlier this week that the story did end up paying off for Rolling Stone.

According to data sourced from the Magazine Information Network, based on point of sales from 1,420 retailers between July 19 and July 29, sales of the issue jumped 102 percent over average per-issue sales for the past year. A total of 13,232 copies were sold, which is more than double of what the magazine's average sales from last year.

In an editor's note, Rolling Stone expressed sympathy for those affected by Tsarnaev's actions, but argued the story "falls within the traditions of journalism."

"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 note concluded.