Barack and Roll


Change We Can Believe In

Yes We Can

Weeks before Barack Obama’s electoral landslide, Rolling Stone chose his 47-year-old smiling face to adorn the debut issue of the 41-year-old magazine’s makeover.  The result, dated Oct. 30, hit the newsstands days before the historical election.  It’s all about change, dear readers.  But is it change we can believe in?

   Rolling Stone’s change starts with a reduction in its size from tabloid to a classic magazine format.  Publisher Jann Wenner claims that this will make room for more pages of music news, Random Notes, reviews, and political coverage.  Wenner hopes that more pages equal more revenue, but adding more pages during a plummeting economy seems illogical. 

Regardless, strategically placing Obama on the cover of this transformational issue illustrates Rolling Stone’s endorsement of the change Obama represents as president-elect. 

Obama spoke with Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates to give insight into what makes him tick.   On Oct. 3, the day of the interview, Obama celebrated his 16th wedding anniversary with his wife Michelle. He bought her a necklace, but said he couldn’t predict if she would like it.  Discussing such details while promoting Obama’s plans to address the economic crisis and withdraw U.S. troops out of Iraq shows readers a fuller picture of the man, not just the candidate. For example, Obama showed his sense of humor when sharing that he was often teased by his campaign staff about an old pair of brown shoes he couldn’t seem to retire. 

Rolling Stone intertwines candid moments with Obama and his desire to change how the people’s business is done.  One change Obama wants is to increase volunteerism by expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.  Obama also explains how Americans can stop hogging as much energy by turning off their lights, checking tire gauges, and being more conscious of their everyday role in preservation.

Rolling Stone depicts Obama at times as a scholar – teaching constitutional law in 2002 at University of Chicago – and others as a regular Joe – stopping for ice cream on the campaign trail with running mate Joe Biden. 

 So the insights are intimate, but the overall effect lacks punch. Obama was intended to be an historic and profitable choice for the cover, but it feels like the old Rolling Stone in new clothes.  It could’ve included more articles that expand on Obama’s interview by incorporating stories about the economy, volunteerism, and environmental preservation. 

If its goal was to be a new magazine for a new era, Rolling Stone missed its mark.  The cover is symbolic, but its pages lacked the same symbolic evolution of the cover. This was a chance to fill the pages with an edgy and new look into politics from start to finish.  Yes You Can? More like No, You Didn’t. 

 –Alysia Satchel









1 Response to “Barack and Roll”

  1. 1 Claire Voiante November 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I am certainly excited about what an Obama presidency will bring to our beleaguered nation. He is very articulate to be sure, and seemingly has the intellect and composure to be successful in the highest office of the most powerful nation on earth. However, I am a little skeptical about his level of experience, alleged ties to unsavory organizations and religious affiliations. I voted for him, primarily because of bitterness at the incompetence of the Bush administration. I remain disenfranchised with America so far in the 21st Century, and came across a political graphic that does a fairly good job in capturing this sentiment.

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