For only $500 plus a $1500 annual fee, you too can join the ranks of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Patti Smith by getting published in Rolling Stone! But act now, this offer won’t last long. Operators are standing by!

No, this isn’t satire or parody, though it took much googling to convince me otherwise. Rolling Stone’s pay-to-play program is an actual thing, and it’s name really is the “Culture Council.” And yes, operators really are standing by. But fear not, gentle reader, Rolling Stone’s website assures us that all contributing culture counselors have been thoroughly vetted to ensure that each and every one of them has a valid credit card.

Dear Rolling Stone,

This is a nasty letter, so hold on to your plushies, muchachos. Serious question: Is there any way to discern whether or not an “article” in RS has been written by a real journalist—or by some publicist or corporate flunky or political hack who has paid to publish in RS? For that matter, does Rolling Stone even hire actual journalists anymore? Or do you merely pimp out the name to keep the lights on?  

I’m sure you find this line of questioning to be insulting. But how is anyone with any reasonable intelligence not going to be wondering if RS hasn’t been taken over by either a Rupert Murdock toady hellbent on the magazine’s demise or by simply the most feckless fucking idiots ever to dare the moniker of journalist? I mean, it kind of has to be one of the two, right? I get that there’s some sort of vetting process for the people who pay thousands of dollars to publish in RS, but if they’re so great, why are they paying instead of being paid to publish?  

Rolling Stone was one of the most legendary publications of New Journalism.  In one fell swoop, you’ve killed not only the magazine’s cred, but its cool. If he were alive, Hunter S. Thompson would be headed to your offices with a Cadillac full of tar and feathers.

Paul Taegel