Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

12
From Counterculture to Over-the-Counter Culture: An Analysis of Rolling Stone's Coverage of the New Left in the United States from 1967-1975

David J. Atkin

Rolling Stone magazine's early tradition of investigative reporting of controversial issues that the mainstream press ignored, downplayed or missed is an important part of postmodern American press lore. Within months of its inception in 1967, the publication emerged as a leader among the alternative, or underground, press, fusing the music and politics of America's New Left. 1 In this regard, Rolling Stone became the standard-bearer for a new editorial genre that historians link to "a rebellion not only against the establishment but also against its conventional mass media." 2 But within the flowering of this new underground press lay the seeds of its own demise -- a heavy editorial dependency upon the antiwar rhetoric of the New Left.

As a consequence, several of these alternative publications folded or declined in circulation as U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War subsided during the early 1970s. 3 Nevertheless, Rolling Stone's popularity continued to grow in mainstream as well as underground circles as it "fed the imaginations of daily reporters . . . in newsrooms across the country." 4

Against this backdrop of social and market transition, Rolling Stone executed a series of editorial changes that assured its survival outside of the declining alternative press market. This chapter explores the

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