Editor's Letter From Jason Fine: May 2020 - Rolling Stone
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Life During Lockdown

The May issue of Rolling Stone is the first issue of the magazine we have ever produced without being in the same room together

March 29 2020. New York. An empty and eerie Time Square. In the past 2 weeks, the spread of COVID19 tin New York has shuttered business, driven people into their homes and transformed the streets into quiet, fearful spaces where essential workers like those in delivery, healthcare, construction, policing, and grocery stores, continue to brave infection to do their jobs, as nervous New Yorkers come out only for food and exercise.(Natalie Keyssar)

Times Square, New York City, on March 29th, one week after the state issued social-distancing orders.

Natalie Keyssar for Rolling Stone

Magazine making is an intensely collaborative effort among writers, editors, researchers, designers, and photographers — yet in March, and now into April, we, like many Americans, were forced to work in isolation, communicating over phone, email, Slack and Zoom, as we adapt to this terrifying, temporary new global reality.

As I write this, many staffers have been working for weeks alone in a hushed and fearful New York City, with ambulance sirens as the sonic backdrop. Others are scattered: Staff writer Suzy Exposito was grounded in Miami en route to Puerto Rico to interview Bad Bunny for what was supposed to be this issue’s cover story. Senior writer Alex Morris drove 15 hours from New York to Alabama to be with her parents, reporting stories along the way. Many are juggling work with home-schooling their kids or taking care of sick friends and loved ones. Staff writer Tessa Stuart interviewed Stacey Abrams over video chat from her Brooklyn apartment, where her boyfriend was recovering from a presumed case of COVID-19.

Daily meetings have taken on a surreal quality as the news outpaces us: During a meeting to discuss plans for a tribute to Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger, who died from COVID-19 complications on April 1st, news broke that the soul giant Bill Withers had passed away from heart disease. Days later, we lost one of America’s greatest, funniest, and kindest songwriters, John Prine, who’d been struggling to fight the virus for more than two weeks. These deaths hit hard; we are losing heroes and friends.

Over the past month we’ve improvised new ways of working and tried new things. We launched a video series, In My Room, featuring performances at home by artists including Brian Wilson, John Fogerty, and Yola, that has become a destination for artists to share live music. We started a weekly video version of the Rolling Stone interview, with guests including Pete Buttigieg, Samantha Bee, Roger Waters, and chef Samin Nosrat, weighing in from different corners of the culture.

This issue’s cover story on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has emerged as a national beacon of truth and reason, came together just days before we closed our pages. Contributing editor Jeff Goodell offers a devastating look at the Trump administration’s failure to prepare or adequately respond to the pandemic. D.C. bureau chief Andy Kroll sheds light on dysfunction inside the crisis task force. Our music team reports on the collapse of the live-music business. And on Sunday, March 29th, we sent 13 photographers across the country for 48 hours to document life in America during the crisis.

We hope this issue provides valuable insights into these perilous times, as well as some comfort and entertainment to help get you through. As we go to press, small signs of hope are emerging, with new cases of the coronavirus slowing in Seattle and New York, and testing becoming more widely available. With some luck, we’ll be back together soon. Until then, we’ll be sharing the most important stories of this time every way we can.

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Andrew Cuomo, photographed in Albany, New York, on April 3rd, 2020 by George Etheredge.

George Etheredge for Rolling Stone

In This Article: Andrew Cuomo, coronavirus, covid-19

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