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In Which I Take Rolling Stone to Task on Several Counts

March 4, 2013

I’ve been reading Rolling Stone magazine for years, and, although the magazine is rather irreverent (my favorite special feature is “Ask Dr. Ozzy”) and it doesn’t hesitate to print obscenities (not surprisingly found in great abundance in said special feature), I do expect a high level of editorial excellence. I mean, the magazine wins awards for its writing all the time (or so it tells me).

The Homophone Mistake25

Imagine my astonishment, then, when I encountered a particularly egregious homophone error when reading the cover story from the November 22, 2012, issue earlier this week (I’m behind on my reading; so sue me). A short article on Daniel Craig (his new Bond movie had just come out), this story described Craig’s dress during an interview with the writer.

He smooths down his white T-shirt. There’s something about that white T-shirt on Craig. It’s irritating. It’s so perfect on him, the way it hugs the aeronautic V of his torso, the neckline so crisp against his tan skin, the armholes stretched taught by his muscles, but only in the most pleasing way, not an ostentatious display at all [my emphasis].

Whoa! Does no one at Rolling Stone realize that “taught” is the past tense of “teach,” and it’s homophone, “taut,” means having no slack or give, unflabby, in good shape? I don’t think I’ve seen such an elementary homophone mistake as that since grade school. And this is a national magazine with millions of readers?! Surely someone on staff—someone tasked with proofreading every word of every version before the pages are sent to the printer—would have seen “taught” in that sentence and known to change it to “taut.”

To Make Matters Worse . . .

In preparing to write about this unfortunate misstep, I thought I’d check to see if the mistake had been corrected online. So I set my browser for, and discovered that I couldn’t look at the Daniel Craig article without setting up an account and/or being a subscriber. Okay, so I’m a subscriber, I thought; I’ll just log in that way.

Here’s where I encountered more insult from Rolling Stone. The visual for finding and inserting your subscriber account number in the online form is miniscule and very hard to read. It took me about seven tries to get it right. Grrrr. Once I finally did, I encountered a notice to download Silverlight before proceeding to the archives. Apparently it will help me access them. It’s hard to know, because RS didn’t bother to explain on that page what Silverlight is for. Nor did they send me to Silverlight’s site to download the application—a standard online courtesy to ensure you’re getting what the middleman (RS in this case) says you’re getting.

The topper was when, after downloading and installing Silverlight, I reloaded the blocked page—as per RS’s instructions—and still couldn’t access the archives. So I’m a paying subscriber, I’ve set up an online account, I’ve downloaded and installed the application they say I need to access the site, but they won’t let me. If there’s one thing I hate as much as poor grammar, editing, and proofreading, it’s poor usability. Rolling Stone, in one fell swoop, stuffed all four down my throat today. It’s enough to make a girl cancel her subscription.

Do you think the New York Times would hire Dr. Ozzy?





One Comment leave one →
  1. December 25, 2014 11:20 p.12.

    I worked at Rolling Stone in the late 70s and early 80s. The editorial standard then was very high. I think today’s writers and editors are basically illiterate. Certainly not erudite. Your blog seems . . . somnolent. We’re hoping there’s more to come!

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