The first magazine was released in 1967 and featured John Lennon on the cover and was published every two weeks. It is known for provocative photography and its cover photos, featuring musicians, politicians, athletes, and actors. In addition to its print version in the United States, it publishes content through Rollingstone.com and numerous international editions.
Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason. To pay for the setup costs, Wenner borrowed $7,500 from his family and the parents of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim. The first issue was released on November 9, 1967, and featured John Lennon in costume for the film How I Won the War on the cover. It was in newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival. The cover price was 25¢ (equivalent to $2.19 in 2016) and it was published bi-weekly.
You're probably wondering what we're trying to do. It's hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone which comes from an old saying, "A rolling stone gathers no moss." Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy's song. Like a Rolling Stone was the title of Bob Dylan's first rock and roll record. We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll.
Some authors have attributed the name solely to Dylan's hit single: "At [Ralph] Gleason's suggestion, Wenner named his magazine after a Bob Dylan song."Rolling Stone initially identified with and reported the hippiecounterculture of the era. However, it 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 first edition, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces". In a 2017 article celebrating the publication's 50th anniversary, Rolling Stone's David Browne stated that the magazine's name was a nod to the Rolling Stones in an addition to "Rollin' Stone" and "Like a Rolling Stone".
The magazine's long-running slogan, "All the news that fits", was provided by early contributor, manager and sometime editor Susan Lydon. She lifted it from an April Fools issue of the Columbia Daily Spectator which posted "All the news that fits we print", a parody of The New York Times' slogan, "All the News That's Fit to Print". The first appearance of the rubric was in 1969.
In 1972, Wenner assigned Tom Wolfe to cover the launch of NASA's last Moon mission, Apollo 17. He published a four-part series in 1973 titled "Post-Orbital Remorse", about the depression that some astronauts experienced after having been in space. After the series, Wolfe began researching the whole of the space program, in what became a seven-year project from which he took time to write The Painted Word, a book on art, and to complete Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, a collection of shorter pieces and eventually The Right Stuff.
Kurt Loder joined Rolling Stone in May 1979 and spent nine years there, including as editor. Timothy White joined as a writer from Crawdaddy and David Fricke from Musician. Tom Wolfe wrote to Wenner to propose an idea drawn from Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray: to serialize a novel. Wenner offered Wolfe around $200,000 to serialize his work. The frequent deadline pressure gave Wolfe the motivation he had sought, and from July 1984 to August 1985, he published a new installment in each biweekly issue of Rolling Stone. Later Wolfe was unhappy with his "very public first draft" and thoroughly revised his work, even changing his protagonist, Sherman McCoy, and published it as The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987.
Rolling Stone was known for its musical coverage and for Thompson's political reporting and in 1985, they hired an advertising agency to refocus its image under the series "Perception/Reality" comparing Sixties symbols to those of the Eighties, which led to an increase in advertising revenue and pages. It also shifted to more of an entertainment magazine in the 1980s. It still had music as the main topic but began to increase its coverage of celebrities, films, and pop culture. It also began releasing its annual "Hot Issue". 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.
2000 to 2015: Expansion of readership
After years of declining readership, the magazine experienced a major resurgence of interest and relevance with the work of two young journalists in the late 2000s, Michael Hastings and Matt Taibbi.Rob Sheffield also joined from Spin. In 2005, Dana Leslie Fields, former publisher of Rolling Stone, who had worked at the magazine for 17 years, was an inaugural inductee into the Magazine Hall of Fame. In 2009, Taibbi unleashed an acclaimed series of scathing reports on the financial meltdown of the time. He famously described Goldman Sachs as "a 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 by 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 become embroiled in such wars. The book reached Amazon.com'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, Taibbi, through his coverage of the Libor scandal, emerged as an expert on that topic, which led to media appearances outside Rolling Stone. On November 9, 2012, the magazine published its first Spanish-language section on Latino music and culture, in the issue dated November 22.
2016 to present: New ownership
In September 2016, Advertising Age reported that Wenner was in the process of selling a 49% stake of the magazine to a company from Singapore called BandLab Technologies. The new investor had no direct involvement in the editorial content of the magazine.
In September 2017, Wenner Media announced that the remaining 51% of Rolling Stone magazine was up for sale. In December 2017, Penske Media acquired the remaining stake from Wenner Media. It became a monthly magazine from the July 2018 issue. On January 31, 2019, Penske acquired BandLab's 49% stake in Rolling Stone, gaining full ownership of the magazine.
In January 2021, a Chinese edition of the magazine was launched, while in September 2021, Rolling Stone launched a dedicated UK edition in conjunction with Attitude magazine publisher Stream Publishing. The new British Rolling Stone launched into a marketplace which already featured titles like Mojo and BandLab Technologies's monthly music magazine Uncut. The first issue had a choice of three cover stars (including music acts Bastille and Sam Fender, as well as No Time To Die actor Lashana Lynch), with the magazine due to be a bi-monthly publication.
In February 2022, Rolling Stone announced the acquisition of Life Is Beautiful, saying, "Live events are an integral part of Rolling Stone's future."
Some artists have been featured on the cover many times, and some of these pictures went on to become iconic. The Beatles, for example, have appeared on the cover more than 30 times, either individually or as a band. The magazine is known for provocative photography and has featured musicians and celebrities on the cover throughout its history.Vanity Fair called the January 22, 1981, cover featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono the "Greatest Rolling Stone Cover Ever".
The first ten issues featured, in order of appearance:
The magazine spent $1 million (equivalent to $1.45 million in 2022) on the 3-D hologram cover of the special 1,000th issue (May 18, 2006) displaying multiple celebrities and other personalities.
The printed format has gone through several changes. The first publications, in 1967–72, were in folded tabloid newspaper format, with no staples, only black ink text, and a single color highlight that changed each edition. From 1973 onwards, editions were produced 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. Editions switched to the standard 8"×11" magazine size starting with the issue dated October 30, 2008. Starting with the new monthly July 2018 issue, it returned to the previous 10"×12" large format.
The publication's site at one time had an extensive message-board forum. By the late 1990s, this had developed into a thriving community, with many regular members and contributors worldwide. However, the site was also plagued with numerous Internet trolls, who vandalized the forum substantially. The magazine abruptly deleted the forum in May 2004, then began a new, much more limited message board community on their site in late 2005, only to remove it again in 2006. In March 2008, the website started a new message board section once again, then deleted it in April 2010.
Rolling Stone devotes one of its table of contents pages to promoting material currently appearing on its website, listing detailed links to the items.
On April 19, 2010, the website underwent a redesign and began featuring 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 launched a federated search feature, which searches both the website and the archive.
In May 2016, Wenner Media announced plans to create a separate online publication dedicated to the coverage of video games and video game culture. Gus Wenner, Jann Wenner's son and head of digital for the publication at the time, told The New York Times that "gaming is today what rock 'n' roll was when Rolling Stone was founded". Glixel was originally hosted on Rolling Stone's website and transitioned to its own domain by October 2016. Stories from Glixel are included on the Rolling Stone website, while writers for Rolling Stone were also able to contribute to Glixel. The site was headed by John Davison, and its offices were located in San Francisco.Rolling Stone closed down the offices in June 2017 and fired the entire staff, citing the difficulties of working with the remote site from their main New York office. Brian Crecente, founder of Kotaku and co-founder of Polygon, was hired as editorial director and runs the site from the main New York office. Following the sale of Rolling Stone's assets to Penske Media Corporation, the Glixel content was merged into the routine publishing of Variety, with Crecente remaining as editorial director.
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 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. The restaurant closed in February 2013.
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 "500 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, which featured differing opinions from many younger critics.
Rolling Stone magazine has been criticized for reconsidering many classic albums that it had previously dismissed, and for frequent use of the 3.5-star rating. For example, Led Zeppelin was largely written off by Rolling Stone magazine critics during the band's most active years in the 1970s, but by 2006, a cover story on the band 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?"
The hiring of former FHM editor Ed Needham further enraged critics who alleged that Rolling Stone had lost its credibility.
The 2003 "Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time" article, which named only two female musicians, resulted in Venus Zine answering with their own list, entitled "The Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time".
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg stated in 2008 that Rolling Stone had "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 endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In 2005, the article "Deadly Immunity" by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. attracted criticism for quoting material out of context, and Rolling Stone eventually amended the story with corrections in response to these and other criticisms.
The August 2013 Rolling Stone cover, featuring then-accused (later convicted) Boston Marathon bomberDzhokhar 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 stating 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 that was used by Rolling Stone had previously featured on the front page of The New York Times on May 5, 2013.
Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, calling the cover "ill-conceived, at best ... [it] reaffirms a message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes'." Menino also wrote, "To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious market strategy", and that Wenner could have written about the survivors or the people who came to help after the bombings instead. In conclusion he wrote, "The survivors of the Boston Marathon deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them."
In the issue dated November 19, 2014, the story "A Rape on Campus" was run about an alleged gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia. Separate inquiries by Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity accused by Rolling Stone of facilitating the alleged rape, and The Washington Post revealed major errors, omissions and discrepancies in the story. Reporter Sabrina Erdely's story was subject to intense media criticism.The Washington Post and Boston Herald issued calls for magazine staff involved in the report to be fired.Rolling Stone subsequently issued three apologies for the story.
On December 5, 2014, Rolling Stone's managing editor, Will Dana, apologized for not fact-checking the story.Rolling Stone commissioned an outside investigation of the story and its problems by the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. The report uncovered journalistic failure in the UVA story and institutional problems with reporting at Rolling Stone.Rolling Stone retracted the story on April 5, 2015. On April 6, 2015, following the investigation and retraction of the story, Phi Kappa Psi announced plans to pursue all available legal action against Rolling Stone, including claims of defamation.
On May 12, 2015, UVA associate dean Nicole Eramo, chief administrator for handling sexual assault issues at the school, filed a $7.5 million defamation lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court against Rolling Stone and Erdely, claiming damage to her reputation and emotional distress. Said the filing, "Rolling Stone and Erdely's highly defamatory and false statements about Dean Eramo were not the result of an innocent mistake. They were the result of a wanton journalist who was more concerned with writing an article that fulfilled her preconceived narrative about the victimization of women on American college campuses, and a malicious publisher who was more concerned about selling magazines to boost the economic bottom line for its faltering magazine, than they were about discovering the truth or actual facts." On November 4, 2016, after 20 hours of deliberation, a jury consisting of eight women and two men found Rolling Stone, the magazine's publisher and Erdely liable for defaming Eramo, and awarded Eramo $3 million.
On July 29, 2015, three graduates of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone, its publisher Wenner Media, and a journalist for defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The same day, and just months after the controversy began, The New York Times reported that managing editor Will Dana was departing the magazine with his last date recorded as August 7, 2015. On November 9, 2015, the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity filed suit for $25 million for damages to its reputation caused by the magazine's publication of this story, "with reckless disregard for the truth".Rolling Stone paid the fraternity $1.65 million to settle the suit out of court.
Ethics controversy over El Chapo interview
In 2016, Rolling Stone commissioned Sean Penn to write a feature on Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán in what was billed as a landmark story and Guzmán's first-ever interview. Penn met Guzmán, then wanted by Mexican and U.S. authorities, at a jungle hideout for an interview, the interview agreed to by Guzmán on the condition he have final editorial control over the article. Upon publication, the article – characterized by the Associated Press as "long and rambling" – was extensively mocked by social media users and prompted a discussion about the magazine's ethical standards. Andrew Seaman, chairman of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, called the decision to allow a source pre-approval of an article "inexcusable" while the Poynter Institute's chief ethicist Kelly McBride opined that the article evidenced several failures of editorial control by Rolling Stone. In an interview with NPR, Alfredo Corchado, a former Mexico City bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, said that pre-approval rights meant the story was not real jourrnalism: "It's business, it's Hollywood. It's more in the lines of what a public relations firm would do."
Questions also arose as to whether lax security procedures by the magazine helped authorities track and capture Guzmán, who was arrested several days after the interview was conducted. Meanwhile, Kate del Castillo, who arranged the meeting, said that she had to flee the country after the article's publication and charged that Penn had "used me as a bait, and then he never protected me. And risked my life and my parents' life and my sister's life and everybody surrounding me".
Penn later said his article "had failed", noting that discussion about the ethics of the story overshadowed the actual report.
False ivermectin story
In September 2021, Rolling Stone picked up a story published by Oklahoma news outlet KFOR which claimed that so many people had been hospitalized due to ivermectin overdoses in Oklahoma that there was no room in intensive care units for other patients, including those with gunshot wounds. However, an Oklahoma hospital said in a statement that there was no shortage of beds due to ivermectin overdoses, and the doctor who had been interviewed by KFOR had not said that ivermectin cases were crowding out other patients, but the initial story and subsequent coverage had linked separate comments about ivermectin overdoses and scarce beds.CNNfact-checkerDaniel Dale stated that Rolling Stone had "[run] an adaptation of the KFOR story without appearing to do sufficient research to make sure the local report was sound".Rolling Stone subsequently added an editor's note which retracted the core point of its story.
Kyle Smith of National Review wrote that Rolling Stone's correction "is so humiliating, it's a wonder the place doesn't shut its doors immediately, liquidate all assets, and deny that it ever existed."Robby Soave of Reason wrote that the correct story "was something Rolling Stone could have figured out on its own had the magazine bothered to contact any hospitals in Oklahoma, but alas." Alex Shephard of The New Republic wrote: "For mainstream and, particularly, liberal media this should be a stark reminder of the value of due diligence and checking sources. At the very least, make a phone call."
James Gordon Meek child pornography case
On January 31, 2023, ABC News reporter James Gordon Meek was arrested by the FBI and charged with transporting child pornography. Rolling Stone initially broke the story, but did not mention the child sexual abuse images that led to the investigation, which were known to the reporters, instead suggesting that Meek had been "targeted" by the US government for his reporting on national security issues, writing that "Meek appears to be on the wrong side of the national-security apparatus". In the following months, it was revealed that Rolling Stone editor Noah Shachtman, who personally knows Meek and is considered friendly with him, had the story rewritten before publication to exclude all mentions of the child sexual abuse material, without the original journalist Tatiana Siegel's knowledge.
The 2000 film Almost Famous centers on a teenage journalist writing for the magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictional band Stillwater. The film was directed by Cameron Crowe and based on his own experiences as a young journalist for the magazine in the same time period.
"The Cover of Rolling Stone" is a song written by Shel Silverstein and first recorded by American rock group Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. The song satirizes success in the music business; the song's narrator laments that his band, despite having the superficial attributes of a successful rock star (including drug usage, "teenage groupies, who'll do anything we say", and a frenetic guitar solo), has been unable to "get their pictures on the cover of the Rolling Stone".
The title track of Pink Floyd's album The Final Cut features the line, "Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?"
Publisher Steve DeLuca said the international editions typically include 50 to 80 percent of the American version of the magazine, translated in their own languages, and supplemented with local content. Since PMC took over full ownership of the title, Rolling Stone is published in 15 territories around the world, with the introduction of Rolling Stone UK in September 2021 the latest to be launched.
Australia – Rolling Stone Australia began as a supplement in 1969 in Revolution magazine. It became a full title in 1971 published by Phillip Frazer. It was published by Silvertongues from 1974 to 1987 and by nextmedia Pty Ltd, Sydney until 2008. Notable editors and contributors include Phillip Frazer, Alistair Jones, Paul and Jane Gardiner, Toby Creswell, Clinton Walker and Kathy Bail. It was the longest running international edition but closed in January 2018.Rolling Stone Australia relaunched in 2020.
China – The original Rolling Stone for mainland China was published by the One Media Group of Hong Kong. The magazine was in Chinese with translated articles and local content. It halted publication after one year. From January 2021, a new Chinese-language Rolling Stone magazine started to be published in China.
Italy – Published since 1980. After ceasing publication in 1982, it was relaunched in November 2003, first by IXO Publishing, and then by Editrice Quadratum until April 2014. The magazine is currently published by Luciano Bernardini de Pace Editore. It ceased print edition in 2019, moving online.
Japan – Launched in March 2007 by International Luxury Media. Published by atomixmedia Inc. (株式会社アトミックスメディア, KK atomikkusumedia) since 2011.
Turkey – Published since June 2006 by GD Gazete Dergi.
United Kingdom – Published under the title Friends of Rolling Stone, later shortened to Friends and eventually Frendz, from 1969 to 1972. In September 2021, issue 001 of the bi-monthly 180-page British edition, priced at £6.95, was published under the title Rolling Stone UK, where it joined the American edition of Rolling Stone on the shelves of British newsagents.
Brazil – Published in Brazil from October 2006 to May 2018 by Spring Comunicações, and currently owned by Grupo Perfil. In 1972, a pirated Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone was created; this pirated edition was not officially recognized by the American publication.
^Rolling Stone. "453. Toots and the Maytals, 'Pressure Drop'" Rolling Stone magazine. Web. April 7, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2016. "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Archived from the original on November 24, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
^Rolling Stone. "380. Toots and the Maytals, 'Funky Kingston'" Rolling Stone magazine. Web. May 31, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2016. "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2009. Archived from the original on January 20, 2017. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
^Rolling Stone. "Artists". Rolling Stone magazine. Web. Retrieved December 16, 2016. "Artists". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 27, 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
^"Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone (in Brazilian Portuguese). Archived from the original on April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
^Pinto, Rodrigo (August 21, 2006). "Depois de edição pirata, 'Rolling Stone' ganha versão brasileira oficial". O Globo (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Mesmo sem existir oficialmente no Brasil, a "Rolling Stone" fez tanto sucesso que mereceu – como outros produtos estrangeiros muito cobiçados – uma versão pirata, em 1972 [Even though it did not officially exist in Brazil, "Rolling Stone" was so successful that it deserved – like other highly coveted foreign products – a pirated version, in 1972]