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Over the weekend, the letter carrier dropped off the most recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine at my house. This particular cover—-which featured a large “RO”—-bore a striking resemblance to two other prior covers from earlier this year. All three magazines are part of an extraordinarily self-congratulatory effort to celebrate the magazine’s 40th anniversary. (The Atlantic Monthly, in comparison, turned 150 this year, and this month’s issue is the only designated anniversary issue, says spokesperson Amy Thompson. Instead, The Atlantic, like GQ, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has published archival excerpts in recent months of some of their best-loved pieces.)
In this recent Rolling Stone, which Editor and Publisher Jann Wenner promises is the last of his series, there are 25 interviews with “artists, scientist and leaders who helped shape our time.” Guess how many women are included? Well, let’s check out the first page of the table of contents. Let’s see: there’s Al Gore, Bono, Bill Maher, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, George Clooney, Eli Pariser (from Moveon.org), scientist Craig Venter, religion writer Sam Harris, Eddie Vedder, Dave Matthews, Cornel West, Jon Stewart, Paul Krugman and Tom Hanks. Men:14. Women:0.
OK. Better luck next page? Slightly better: Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day), Kanye West, Chris Rock, writers Dave Eggers and William Gibson, Bill Gates, Bruce Springsteen, and Bill Clinton join Meryl Streep, physicist Lisa Randall and Jane Goodall. The final tally comes to Men: 22. Women: 3.
And all I have to say is: seriously? I don’t think it would have been reaching to swap in a Nancy Pelosi or a Tina Fey for Eddie Vedder or Bill Maher. I mean, was Oprah Winfrey really that busy? What about Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America? I called Rolling Stone for comment and to ask about the editorial process for how the list was composed. Spokesperson Beth Jacobson said she believed the top editors—Jann Wenner, Will Dana, Joe Levy, and Eric Bates—-compiled the list. (For the record, no female journalists interviewed any of the subjects.) As for a response to my query about the lack of female interview subjects, I got none.