Ah yes, it's all hysteria. The Times overlooks something here rather important, and I doubt it's an accident. Yes, news magazine cover subjects aren't chose on merit. They're chosen based on a news criteria/judgment. Rolling Stone's cover has often been a symbol of validation for music acts. It even inspired a song: "Cover of the Rolling Stone." When you made the cover of the "Stone" you had arrived. Rolling Stone can't pretend that isn't the case.
And more than a few people saw a resemblance to the photo chosen and an iconic shot of Jim Morrison. Yes, other publications used the same photo. No, it doesn't mean the same thing on the cover of the Rolling Stone.