Anyone remember when Rolling Stone was about music?
Rolling Stone magazine is going on the auction block after nearly 50 years in business.
Well, good riddance.
Once upon a time, it was an exciting magazine where one could go to learn about music and its scenes. It stopped being that around the time it started putting Bill Clinton on its covers – again and again – and became a political groupie's magazine.
Sure, the magazine put Nixon on its cover. But it wasn't in a glamorized context. They weren't trying to make Nixon one of them, as they were with Clinton.
After that, big-bucks celebrity glam, social justice journalism, and gotcha reporting became its stock in trade. Obama followed with a string of glamorous covers, and just recently, the magazine put Justin Trudeau on its cover, asking readers why he couldn't be our president instead of Donald Trump. On the social justice front, there was the magazine's phony story accusing a University of Virginia fraternity of rape and a university administrator of indifference, none of which was true, and which cost the magazine a high lawsuit payout. On the gotcha front, there was the awful article publishing off-the-record quotes by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which cost McChrystal his job and maybe extended the Afghanistan war. The magazine wasn't really about music anymore; it was about big-bucks glitz and glorifying whatever the Washington swamp considered cool.
So sure, it's possible to argue that market forces and changing technology hit the magazine just as surely as it's hit other magazines circulation-wise. But there also was a homegrown element: alienating half its readers with its continuous forays into politics. The magazine had to have been hit hard by that, given its tendency to cling to some features on older rock musicians of publisher Jann Wenner's generation.
But some of it was self-inflicted. Instead of bringing Clinton into the fold as a rock-generation regular, Rolling Stone made itself into a second-rate political organ. How stupid it was to insult half its readers.