On Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which Weiner helped found in 1983, forced him to leave its board of directors. But perhaps the deeper reason is the leadership of Rolling Stone, whose son has taken steps to distance himself from the 77-year-old Weiner’s feelings.
“While I love him dearly, I disagree with the comments he made and understand why they are so upsetting and hurtful,” Gus Weiner, the magazine’s CEO, wrote Sunday in an email to staff, shared with The Washington Post. . “I want to be clear, his statements as stated do not represent my beliefs, or the values, practices and mission of Rolling Stone.”
In the Times interview, published Friday, Jan Wenner appeared to dismiss female and black artists, arguing that they are not among the great “philosophers of rock” and reserving that platitude for the seven white male artists he interviewed in a new book.
In comments that attracted slightly less attention, Weiner also asserted that the infamous 2014 Rolling Stone article — which was retracted after it was determined that the alleged college gang rape at the heart of the story never happened — was in fact “bulletproof,” despite There is a multi-million dollar defamation judgment against her.
Among the least surprising comments — for which Wenner later said he apologized “wholeheartedly” — was biographer Joe Hagan, author of the acclaimed 2017 book “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.”
“The thing about Jan, the thing that made him successful but also his Achilles heel, is that he is narcissistic and lacks self-awareness,” Hagan, the Vanity Fair writer, said in an interview. “That’s the way he talks inside the bubble he lives in. He gets a lot of affirmation about it, and he thinks it’s okay.”
Hagan compared Weiner’s mentality, if not his politics, to that of Donald Trump, another 77-year-old baby boomer known for speaking without much regard for accuracy or self-reflection.
Weiner no longer runs Rolling Stone, which was acquired by Penske Media Corporation in a series of transactions between 2017 and 2019.
However, the reaction to Fenner’s comments crystallized criticism that had been circulating around him and the magazine periodically for decades. Rolling Stone has long promoted male rock stars — and Weiner’s personal favorites — like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger over newer artists and genres like grunge, metal, R&B and hip-hop.
Bono and U2, for example, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone 24 times between 1985 and 2018, or once every 16-and-a-half months, but not at all since Weiner stepped down as managing editor in 2019. Critics have suggested the reason is twofold: Weiner preferred his friends. He knew who sold magazines.
The idea that Rolling Stone tended to give more positive reviews to artists whose record labels bought advertising in the magazine was highlighted in 1996, when Weiner lifted a negative review of the latest Hootie & the Blowfish album and replaced it with a more favorable album. New York Observer reporter Jim DeRogatis, the writer of the Mounting review, asked if Weiner was a fan of the band. DeRogatis responded that Wenner “is a fan of any band that sells 8 million records.”
Weiner fired him the day the comment was posted.
Monica Hesse: Jan Wenner shoots himself in the foot with his own gun
During its heyday in the 1970s, the magazine gained a “boys’ club” reputation, with only one female writer on the magazine’s masthead – Robin Green, who lasted only three years before becoming a television writer and later wrote a memoir about her time there entitled “The Lonely Girl.” She was rejected by a critic. Rock musician Ellen Willis, writing for Rolling Stone, told Wenner’s co-founding editor that the magazine “usually refers to women as chicks and treats us as chicks.”
There is no denying Weiner’s accomplishments as an entrepreneur and media visionary. After dropping out of UC Berkeley, he started Rolling Stone in 1967 alongside his mentor, San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph Gleason, with a $7,500 loan from his in-laws. The magazine struggled until Weiner conducted an interview in 1970 with one of his favorite artists, John Lennon—one of Rolling Stone’s first cover subjects—that helped propel Rolling Stone to national prominence and, ultimately, prosperity. Weiner shaped his coverage of music, politics, and popular culture, investing it with youthful enthusiasm and a countercultural stance. Its timing was astonishing: Rolling Stone hit its stride at a time when its boomer audience was settling into careers and consumerism.
The magazine’s idiosyncratic reporting helped spark a stylish, subjective subgenre known as “new journalism”: the drug-addicted ramblings of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson; the political reporting of Timothy Krause (“The Boys on the Bus”); And later PJ O’Rourke’s poignant travelogues. Weiner launched the career of film director Cameron Crowe (whose film “Almost Famous” depicted his time as a teenage rock journalist); Tom Wolfe’s transformation into a best-selling novelist was encouraged by the serialization of his debut effort, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”; It gave a young photographer named Annie Leibovitz her start in photographing celebrities.
At the height of his entrepreneurship in the 1990s, Weiner was the master of a small magazine empire consisting of Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, and US Weekly.
But Hagan said Weiner’s comment about a 2014 Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia was particularly telling. “His ego would not allow him to believe he had done anything wrong,” he said.
“Rape on Campus” was one of the most iconic photojournalisms of the past quarter century. The main event in the story—a young woman’s description of a horrific sexual assault by seven men at a campus fraternity—turns out to be unsupported by any evidence. As was revealed shortly after the article was published, writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone had never contacted any of the fraternity brothers accused by a woman identified only as “Jackie.” The magazine’s journalists also did not interview a group of friends whom the article described as indifferent to Jackie’s plight immediately after they were told of the alleged assault.
A post-mortem review conducted by a Columbia University Journalism School committee in 2015 commissioned by Weiner and Rolling Stone concluded that the magazine published the story despite there being no support for Jackie’s account.
“The Rolling Stone article was far from bulletproof,” Sheila Coronel, who led the investigation in Colombia, told The Washington Post this week. “As our investigation found, the story suffered from failures in reporting, editing, editorial oversight and fact-checking. The error was avoidable at various stages of the process, including the point at which the petitioner failed to fully get on the side of the fraternity where the alleged assault was supposed to occur.
Fellow U-Va. The university’s dean, Nicole Eramo, filed a lawsuit against the magazine and Erdely, claiming that the article “falsely attributed” statements to her, such as her calling the university a “rape school.” Eramo won a $3 million jury verdict, but later settled for an undisclosed amount after Rolling Stone moved to appeal. The magazine also settled lawsuits brought by fraternity members.
Despite the rebuke over his comments, Weiner’s legacy is safe, said Samir Hosny, founder of the Center for Magazine Innovation at the University of Mississippi.
“Rolling Stone is bigger and more important than Jann Wenner,” Hosny said Monday, comparing the magazine to Ms. Magazine and Playboy in terms of its cultural influence. “Nobody outside the media circles knows who Jann Wenner is. “But they know what Rolling Stone is.”
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