(USA TODAY) -- Rolling Stone, hit by a storm of criticism and boycotts over its cover treatment and glam photo of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, defended itself Wednesday, saying it was within its tradition of "serious and thoughtful coverage" of important cultural and political issues.
Readers, particularly from the Boston area, slammed the magazine on its Facebook page, charging that the cover treatment turns the accused killer into a "rock star."
Walgreens, the CVS pharmacy chain and the Massachusetts-based Tedeschi convenience stores said they are refusing to sell copies of the magazine, which goes on sale Friday.
The article, by contributing editor Janet Reitman, is titled "The Bomber: How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster."
The lengthy piece draws upon interviews with childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement agents.
In a statement, Rolling Stone editors said their hearts go out to the victims of the April 15 bombings, but that the cover story was an attempt to grapple with an important issue.
"The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens," the statement said.
The Bob Dylan-style photo, which riled many on social media, shows the 19-year-old Tsarnaev, with long, curly hair, mustache and goatee, staring straight ahead.
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As the image made the rounds on social media, the anger grew, particularly in Boston and New England, where "Rolling Stone" was trending all day on Twitter.
Tedeschi Food Shops, which is based in Rockland, Mass., is refusing to sell the edition of the magazine at its nearly 200 outlets, saying on its Facebook page that it "cannot support actions that serve to glorify the evil actions of anyone."
"Music and terrorism don't mix," the company said.
Woonsocket, R.I.-based pharmacy chain CVS also said it was boycotting the edition. "As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones," the company said on its Facebook page.
Walgreens tweeted simply that it "will not be selling this issue of Rolling Stone magazine," thanking people "for sharing your thoughts with us."
Rolling Stone's own Facebook page was also flooded with comments, most of them negative.
• "I think it's wrong to make celebrities out of these people. Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone? TIME gave Charles Manson the cover and all the magazines carried pictures of the Columbine shooters on the covers, too. Don't make martyrs out of these people."
• "Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, should be on cover"
• "The best example yet of why Facebook needs a 'dislike' button."
• "Look at these comments... what an awful mentality this country has... too brainwashed to read read the article or have an intelligent conversation regarding both sides of the story... I wonder how many of you would like to see him dead on the cover of THIS magazine without a trial???"
• "Is this for real?! Why don't the VICTIMS get the cover instead? It's sick that no one cares that people died, real people with lives and families, they just care about whatever will sell"
• "I hope not a single person from Boston or New England ever buys your magazine again. the most copies. Want to see true terrorism? Look to the media."
• "I am so disappointed with Rolling Stone Magazine. I have enjoyed your magazine up until now. I will no longer buy/read the mag. You have just made him a "rock star". How could you?"
The editors of Rolling Stone issued a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to the wave of criticism:
'Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens. -THE EDITORS'
Rolling Stone earlier told USA TODAY that the outcry is reminiscent of another polarizing cover, more than 40 years ago, on cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson.
That cover, in June 1970, including a prison interview with Manson, became one of Rolling Stone's biggest selling issues and won a National Magazine award.
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As for the article itself, the profile provides new insight into Tsarnaev's life.
• FBI negotiators were able to get a wounded Tsarnaev to surrender April 19 while huddled in a boat in the backyard of a Watertown, Mass., home by relaying a plea from his former wrestling coach to give up.
• In the months leading up to the bombings, Dzhokhar was increasingly isolated, with his parents away and his relations with two sisters strained. When a friend asked to meet Dzhokhar's 27-year-old brother Tamerlan, the suspected mastermind of the Boston Marathon attack, the younger brother said, "No, you don't want to meet him."
• Around 2008, his older brother Tamerlan confided to his mother that he felt like "two people" were inside of him. A friend had suggested to her that he might need a psychiatrist, but his mother instead pushed Tamerlan deeper into Islam in hopes it would cure his inner demons and growing mental instability.
• Dzhokhar, also known as Jahar, never spoke about the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, but did slip once and told a high school friend he thought the attacks could be justified. He pointed to U.S. policies toward Muslim countries and U.S. drone strikes.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died during a shootout with police three days after the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured over 200 others.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of a federal indictment in connection with the bombings at the marathon finish line. He is being held at a prison medical facility outside Boston.
Contributing: Steph Solis and Liza Collins