prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

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 First it was the campus rape story that was retracted after the accuser’s story disintegrated.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.


4 Responses to “Dear Rolling Stone…”

  1. Matthew Macchioni said

    This whole situation with Sean Penn and El Chapo is so stupid. I dont understand how this is supposed to help anything at all and improve relations with anyone. I know Sean Penn truly believes that he is doing a great job for the American people and that he is bringing us closer to understanding the problem with the violent Mexican cartel, but I think he is just trying to make money and hang out with gangbangers so teenagers will think he is cool.

  2. Ty McCulley said

    Understanding this whole situation is more of a publicity stunt than an education article, especially with El Chapo being at the top of the headlines right now this mans image is not exactly positive and if Sean Penn thinks he’s doing America a favor by shaking a drug lords hand and trying to give us a better understanding with the cartels people aren’t going to be happy about this.


    This situation with Sean Penn and El Chapo reminds me of the movie “The Interview”. I feel it is more of a publicity stunt and to get viewers to watch this instead of educating and improving the relations. I understand that El Chapo is known as one of the most dangerous guys in the world, but for Sean Penn out of anyone to step up and interview him is pretty funny to me. I feel like the chapters in our book talks about artists selling what sells, I feel this is an interview that will get him paid because no one has done this yet. I think it was also very interesting how they interviewed him in his hide out that only Sean Penn and a female could attend and no one else, and the message got intercepted and El Chapo’s secret hide out in the Mountains was no longer a hide out since he got busted, Again!

  4. Karin "Aimee" Torrez said

    In this particular instance, I would have to say that the newsworthiness of this article far outweighed the almost sure to come criticism it was absolutely going to receive after publication. I don’t think that Sean Penn’s “celebrity” status hindered the article, it is just that he obviously isn’t a journalist. I believe that he was being played by El Chapo, and that El Chapo chose him to further his own agenda of getting a movie deal for his story in the future and he wanted to have someone in Hollywood close at hand. Rolling Stone is not exactly the medium for this story, but at the same time, they would have been fools to turn it down. Look at all the drama and headlines it created which in turn means money for them.

    The ethics of journalism were surely overlooked (at first) in El Chapo having the authority to edit what was written. It didn’t turn out that way in the end, but just the fact that they were willing to give him the go ahead to do it speaks volumes. I believe that this was the only way he was going to agree to the article being published, and Rolling Stone made that error, even though in the end ,they didn’t proceed with their promise to him.

    Rolling Stone did get their “good story”, one many other magazines would have died to get, but in the end, it was jaded by Sean Penn being the journalist he clearly isn’t, and also the clearly unethical (Per journalistic standards) of letting El Chapo edit the story. In the end, the story WAS interesting, it DID sell magazines, and they made money off of it. Another plus was that it got a Mexican drug lord put into jail awaiting a trial that will surely put him away for life. Mission accomplished for Mexico and the US – even if that wasn’t the goal of Rolling Stone and Sean Penn.

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