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Archive for January, 2016

Dear Rolling Stone…

Posted by prof e on January 13, 2016

…please stick to music. Believe it or not, the magazine used to have a reputation for quality investigative journalism. But recent high-profile ethical failures have tarnished that seanpennreputation. First it was the campus rape story that was retracted after the accuser’s story disintegrated. In this case irresponsible journalism damaged not only the reputation of individuals and the UVA campus community, it did damage to the cause of those working hard to reduce sexual assault on college campuses. You can read about the debacle here.

The Sean Penn interview with El Chapo puts another nail in Rolling Stone‘s coffin when it comes to journalistic integrity. According to an interview with David Folkenflik on National Public Radio,

the agreement that Rolling Stone made was extraordinary and, I think, wrong. It agreed to allow Joaquin Guzman, the real name of El Chapo, to review and demand changes in the article before publication. Rolling Stones says he chose not to do so. But what an abrogation, what a relinquishment of editorial control and authority.

Another reason for concern is the role of Sean Penn. We’ve seen other attempts at celebrity activism fail miserably. Remember Dennis Rodman’s basketball diplomacy with North Korea? When celebrities inject themselves into serious news stories, the story is often overshadowed by the celebrity’s fame or political baggage.

Perhaps the best thing to come of the interview was the capture of El Chapo. According to the AP as reported in the Washington Post,

Associated Press quoted Mexican authorities saying that Penn’s contacts with Guzmán helped them track down the fugitive in a rural part of Durango state.

UPDATE: Sean Penn feels terrible regret over his interview with El Chapo.


Posted in ethics, journalism, magazine | 4 Comments »