Journalists Take Aim at Sean Penn’s Interview With Drug Lord in Rolling Stone

Actor Sean Penn and drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera in a photo taken for interview-authentication purposes. 
Rolling Stone
Actor Sean Penn and drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera in a photo taken for interview-authentication purposes. 
Rolling Stone

"Insult to Journalists" to Give Drug Lord Approval

"Almost as soon as Rolling Stone's first scoop of the year, an interview with the Sinaloa Cartel's bloody kingpin known as 'El Chapo,' was published late Saturday night, the critiques began rolling in," Caitlin Cruz reported Monday for Talking Points Memo.

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"Chief among them was an ethical critique of a 'disclosure' at the top of the interview explaining that actor Sean Penn had sought the approval of El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán [Lorea] before publication.

"The interview, headlined 'El Chapo Speaks,' begins with an italicized note for the reader which states: 'An understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject's approval before publication.'

"The disclosure further stated that Guzmán, who has been on the run from Mexican authorities since he escaped from one of the country's maximum security prisons through an elaborate tunnel, did not request any changes.

"A blog post published shortly after the story went live on Saturday by Andrew Seaman, chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists ethics committee, offered a harsh critique of the magazine's practices. Despite not making changes to the final piece for the drug baron, Seaman wrote that to even offer the option 'is inexcusable.'

" 'Allowing any source control over a story’s content is inexcusable,' Seaman, who is also a reporter with Reuters, wrote. 'The practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story — whether the subject requests changes or not. The writer, who in this case is an actor and activist, may write the story in a more favorable light and omit unflattering facts in an attempt to not to be rejected.'

"Alfredo Corchado, who critiqued the piece on Twitter, shared his ethical concerns with the BBC's Newshour on Sunday. Corchado is the [former] Mexico City bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News.

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"He called it an 'epic insult' to journalists 'seeking the truth' in Mexico.

" 'I'm saying it's not journalism,' Corchado said. 'And to call it journalism is an epic insult to journalists in Mexico and beyond who have paid the ultimate price seeking the truth.'

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"Corchado said the conditions Penn agreed to — no follow-up questions, avoiding certain issues — were unheard of.

"Robert Draper, who wrote the book 'Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History,' told the Associated Press over the weekend that the decision to give away editorial control is [in line] with previous decisions by the magazine's publisher, Jann Wenner.

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" 'It's unfortunately in keeping with Jann's tendency to ignore professional scruples in an effort to curry favor with celebrities,' Draper told the AP.

"New York Times editor Dean Baquet told Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor, on Monday that he 'would have walked away from the interview.' The newspaper's standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, said the paper does not grant 'prepublication approval to anyone.'

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" 'It's hard for me to imagine giving a drug lord preapproval,' Baquet told Sullivan by phone.

"A Mexican law enforcement official said the interview likely led to the recapture of the fugitive drug baron. . . ."

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Dallas Morning News blog: Alfredo Corchado: 'El Chapo' interview an 'epic insult' to journalists

Steven Dudley, InSight Crime: 5 Reasons Sean Penn Failed as a 'Journalist' in 'Chapo' Interview

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David Epstein, ProPublica: Devils, Deals and the DEA: Why Chapo Guzman was the biggest winner in the DEA's longest running drug cartel case (Dec. 17)

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times: Sean Penn's Excursions Into Writing Often Mix Activism With Journalism

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Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute: The problem with Rolling Stone's El Chapo interview isn't Sean Penn. It's his editors.

Sean Penn, Rolling Stone: El Chapo Speaks: A secret visit with the most wanted man in the world

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Dana Priest, Washington Post: Censor or die: The death of Mexican news in the age of drug cartels (Dec. 11)

Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Anger against Sean Penn's 'El Chapo' interview is misdirected

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James Warren, Poynter Institute: What's next for Sean Penn? Exclusives with the ghosts of Hitler and Al Capone?

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.
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David Bowie Fans Span Races, Genders, Orientations

"My feed is FULL of David Bowie today," Tananarive Due, the novelist and screenwriter, wrote to her Facebook friends on Monday.

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"Across lines of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, he touched and stirred so many. It's hard to think of a greater tribute to a life lived with purpose through art. . . ."

Indeed, HuffPost BlackVoices was among those that recalled how Bowie, the chameleon-like rock musician who died Sunday at 69 after an 18-month bout with cancer, had called out MTV in the 1980s when the music channel was slow to play black artists.

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For the Indian Country Today Media Network, Vincent Schilling wrote Monday, "The '80s were a whirlwind for me as a young Native man, and Bowie song in particular always resonated for me. In 'Little China Girl,' he sang about the influence of white culture on his love, the Little China Girl. . . ."

On the Latino Rebels site, Charlie Vasquez wrote, "The critical thing David Bowie taught me as an artist and writer is that I can only be me, as only you can be you. He taught me to go there." Vasquez also wrote, "I'd come out as queer in 1992 and found strange solace in his music, which catalogued the lives of gender-bending hustlers and featured vulnerable and vocal protagonists. . . ."

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Media critics, too, registered their admiration. "It's hard to think of an artist who has used the media as part of their art more than David Bowie did," Jim Naureckas wrote for Fairness & Accuracy In Media.

"To me the classic example is 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: As an obscure singer/songwriter, Bowie wrote and recorded an album about an obscure singer/songwriter who rises to superstardom, succumbs to decadence and retires to obscurity — and he used it to rise to superstardom, only to succumb to decadence and retire to obscurity (for a time). It may be the greatest called shot in artistic history.

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"Among many other things, Bowie was a shrewd observer and sharp critic of the media — from his earliest hit, 1969’s 'Space Oddity,' in which Major Tom is told that 'the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.'

"It's a central theme of his pre-Ziggy masterpiece 'Life on Mars?' (1971), a haunting meditation on the gap between the consumption (and creation) of media and the experience of life. . . ."

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Bowie's death led the "CBS Evening News," and throughout the day, NPR used his music to introduce and to exit program segments.

Alejandro Danois, Shadow League: David Bowie Dies at 69: One of the Most Influential Musicians of His Era Has Passed Away

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Alan Light, Time: How David Bowie Helped Nina Simone Out of a Slump

Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: David Bowie, Media Critic

onlinejournalismblog.com: Curation is the new obituary: 8 ways media outlets marked Bowie’s life and death [now 14]

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Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today Media Network: Good Space Travels and RIP David Bowie: A Sad, Special Native Nerd Column

Mashaun D. Simon, NBCBLK: 'Plastic Soul': David Bowie's Legacy and Impact on Black Artists

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Charlie Vázquez, Latino Rebels: David Bowie Will Always Matter to Me as a Latino Artist

Lilly Workneh, HuffPost BlackVoices: That Time David Bowie Called Out MTV For Racial Discrimination

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YouTube: Nile Rodgers Tells the Story of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" (video)

Director Urges Critics, "Find the Next Justin Chang"

" 'We may have cheated a bit in creating a film that has been called a love letter to journalism,' admitted 'Spotlight' producer Blye Pagon Faust in accepting the drama's best film honor at the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.’s annual awards dinner Saturday night," Kristopher Tapley wrote Sunday for Variety.

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"It was a comment that summed up an evening where all the love from honorees was deflected right back to the critics and journalists in the room.

"But 'Creed' director Ryan Coogler took things a step further. In accepting the New Generation Award, an honor he was relieved didn’t carry a 'best' connotation and accepted as a challenge to continue putting his voice into the world, the 29-year-old recalled the first time he ever saw a critic actually doing the work of film criticism. It was at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, his first trip overseas. With a short film in tow, he found himself spending a lot of time at the Variety press tent.

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" 'There was this guy that was going crazy, typing on his laptop, then he'd run off. Then he'd come back, type away, run off,' Coogler recalled. 'He typed like a madman, and I recognized that. It was passion, trying to get the words out. He looked Asian, and I found out it was Justin Chang.' " Chang is Variety's chief film critic.

"He came home after the fest and looked back at 'that crazy typing dude's reviews, particularly of a film he now counts as his favorite, 'A Prophet.' As he read the reviews he thought to himself, ' "This is artistry, how he's putting these words together." I had a newfound respect for what you guys do, and I want to tell you how important it is. It connects the world to what we do.'

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"He encouraged the room, 'in this world of Rotten Tomatoes and clickbait,' to continue that work, and issued a challenge in return. 'Reach back into the community and find the next Justin Chang,' he said. 'Find the diversity. Find the voices that are in those places you might not think to look, because it will be amazing to see the next generation. Maybe more of them will look like Sue [Kroll, president of Warner Bros.]. Maybe more of them will look like me and Mike [Jordan, star of 'Creed']. Maybe more of them will look like Justin.' . . ."

American and Muslim, but a Journalist Foremost

"The subject line of the e-mail was 'mudslums,' " Hamed Aleaziz wrote Friday for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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"Reporters develop thick skins, as they are accustomed to regular critiques from editors, readers’ posted comments and e-mails. But this e-mail was different.

" 'Your not welcome,' the e-mail writer said, with a link to a poll showing overwhelming support among likely Republican primary voters for Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.

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"The note, and its grammatical errors, should have been easily dismissed, but the sentiment stung. It felt directed at my personal story — not my article, which was about the Muslim American community responding to Trump's proposal.

"My father moved to the United States from Iran in 1979 with the aspirations that countless immigrants share: to build a life in a country known for its opportunity. Since then, he’s had a family, earned his doctorate and now works with a technology company in Oregon.

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"But under Trump’s proposal, my dad probably wouldn't have had those opportunities, and I would not be a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle.

" 'It's hard not to wonder whether seeing my name at the top of my stories triggers stereotypes for readers. Does 'By Hamed Aleaziz' mean that my work won't be able to speak for itself? A reader once pointed out on Twitter that one of my stories 'was written by a Muslim,' which he apparently felt was relevant.

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"When journalists across the country are tweeting about hostile statements toward Muslims from presidential candidates, I question how much to participate in the conversation to avoid being typecast as a reporter with a bias. I've thought about how, or whether, to engage on this topic on social media and even in personal interactions more than any other current event I’ve covered.

"As I report these stories, I ask myself how I can remain neutral when the story feels so personal? I’ve talked with other Muslim reporters covering U.S. politics who have also given thought to these questions. . . ."

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After quoting some of those reporters, Aleaziz concluded, "It's unpleasant to get hateful e-mails, but I can’t stop covering the issue. And I take comfort in the fact that being able to share some mutual experiences with the communities in their stories doesn't inherently make reporters biased — in many cases, it makes them better."

Trump Calls Tavis Smiley "a Hater & Racist"

"Republican front-running presidential candidate Donald Trump hit back at prolific talk-show host Tavis Smiley, who called him 'an unrepentant, irascible, religious and racial arsonist'” on a recent episode of This Week on ABC," Lindsey Ellefson reported Monday for Mediaite.

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"Trump took to his preferred medium to fight with a political pundit for having a political opinion: Twitter. . . ."

Trump tweeted, "Why does @ThisWeekABC w/@GStephanopoulos allow a hater & racist like @tavissmiley to waste good airtime?" @ABC can do much better than him!"

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Meanwhile, Anne Pluta, identified as an assistant professor of political science at Rowan University, wrote Thursday for fivethirtyeight.com, "one way to understand Trump's longevity is to look more closely at his supporters. Trump's backers tend to be whiter, slightly older and less educated than the average Republican voter.

"But perhaps more importantly, his supporters have shown signs of being misinformed. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s unusual staying power. . . ."

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Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: What has me back on my 'Trump is destroying America' soapbox

Adam Howard, MSNBC: Has Donald Trump met his match with Samuel L. Jackson?

Stephen Marche, the Guardian: The white man pathology: inside the fandom of Sanders and Trump

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Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: What goes around comes around: Trump shifts his birther gaze to Cruz

Rubén Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: Political ads allow candidates to let others do their dirty work

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Substance of Obama's Domestic Gains Poorly Understood

"Over the past seven years, Americans have heard an awful lot about Barack Obama and his presidency, but the actual substance of his domestic policies and their impact on the country remain poorly understood," Michael Grunwald wrote Wednesday for Politico Magazine's "The Obama Issue."

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"He has engineered quite a few quiet revolutions — and some of his louder revolutions are shaking up the status quo in quiet ways. Obama is often dinged for failing to deliver on the hope-and-change rhetoric that inspired so many voters during his ascent to the presidency. But a review of his record shows that the Obama era has produced much more sweeping change than most of his supporters or detractors realize. . . ."

Meanwhile, BET announced that it would air the president's State of the Union Address Tuesday at 9 p.m.ET/6 p.m. PT on its Centric channel and stream it on BET.com. BET television will air Tyler Perry's comedy series "House of Payne" at that hour and air the speech at 2 a.m. ET/11 p.m. PT.

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"Award-winning journalist Marc Lamont Hill will host the special coverage from New York City and will be joined on set by trusted African American political consultants Angela Rye, a former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus and Paris Dennard, a conservative political strategic communications consultant to provide instant analysis," the announcement said.

Gun Lobby Issues "Humorous" Guidelines for Journalists

"In what passes for humour by the US gun lobby, a 'shooting sports' website has produced 'The journalist's guide to gun violence coverage,' Roy Greenslade reported Thursday for the Guardian.

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"Clearly, the people who run Ammoland have been stung by the relatively mild antagonism aired in America's media towards the use of guns following a string of mass murders.

"They also lampoon President Barack Obama for his tears as he talked about the 2012 murder of 20 children at Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut, while advocating gun controls.

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"So, using a hammer to crack a nut — or should that be a Kalashnikov to shoot a mouse? — it has a produced 4,300 words of advice to reporters. . . ."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Gun Control and White Terror

Helen Lewis, NiemanReports: How Newsrooms Handle Graphic Images of Violence

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Gun madness should bring us all to tears

Beth Schwartzapfel, Marshall Project: Gun Control is One Thing, But What About Bullets?

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15 Taking Buyouts at Seattle Times

Photographer John Lok and page designer Teresa Scribner are among 15 staff members taking voluntary buyouts at the Seattle Times, Heidi Groover reported Saturday for the Stranger, an alternative publication in Seattle.

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"About a month ago, Seattle Times editor Kathy Best sent the newspaper's staff a memo announcing 'significant staff reductions' and gave employees until December 31 to decide whether they'd take voluntary buyouts," Groover wrote. "Yesterday afternoon, Best announced to the staff who'd be leaving the paper, a list that includes some editors and staffers who've been at the paper for decades.

"Best told The Stranger last month that the Seattle Times is 'reducing the newsroom budget by 6 percent through a variety of cuts, including people.' The Times has about 200 reporters, editors, and other newsroom staffers.

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"In an e-mail to employees yesterday afternoon, Best said 14 people submitted expressions of interest in the buyout — one week of pay for each year of work at the paper up to 13 weeks — and all of those were accepted. The total list of people leaving the paper is 15. . . ."

Lok has been shooting for the Times since 2003; Scribner also teaches at Cleveland High School in Seattle.

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Others, Groover wrote, are Marilyn Bailey, news desk editor; Misha Berson, a theater critic who wrote a book about West Side Story; Becky Bisbee, a business editor who's held that position for 15 years; Jack Broom, a general assignment reporter who's been at the paper for almost 39 years; Denise Clifton, the visual strategy editor who helped lead the paper's recent website redesign, and Ave Delph, news desk editor.

Also, Brian Gallagher, assistant lifestyle features editor; Kristin Jackson, who has written and edited for the paper's travel section since 1984; Bob Payne, whose job title is 'editor, partnerships and audience engagement,' a position he's held since 1998; Richard Seven, a news desk editor who has held different positions at the paper for nearly 30 years; Gail Scott, executive assistant to the editorial staff who has been at the paper since 1986; Jennifer Sullivan, a crime reporter who was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for the paper's coverage of the shooting of four police officers; and Bob Warcup, a page designer who has worked on some of the paper's special projects, including its yearlong investigation into hazardous lead at shooting ranges.

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Lukas I. Alpert, Wall Street Journal: New Republic Owner Chris Hughes Puts Magazine Up For Sale

Jeremy Barr, Advertising Age: Huffington Post Cuts Dozens of Employees as Part of Video Pivot

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Jeff Gammage, philly.com: Lensfest donates newspapers, website to new media institute

Keith J. Kelly, New York Post: Daily News carnage reaches 'safe' digital staffers

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Short Takes

"NBCUniversal is set to launch a new local NBC TV station to serve Boston, a move that could have dire effects on the area's current NBC affiliate, Sunbeam Television Corp.’s WHDH," Brian Steinberg reported Thursday for Variety. Ed Ansin, who supervises WHDH, believes that NBC intends to broadcast from the NBC-owned Spanish-language Telemundo station, WNEU, which Ansin said reaches 121 percent fewer viewers in the Boston area because of its New Hampshire transmitter, Steinberg wrote.

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"Singular 'they,' the gender-neutral pronoun, has been named the Word of the Year by a crowd of over 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday evening," Jeff Guo reported Friday for the Washington Post. Guo also wrote, "Singular they, which The Post officially adopted in its Style guide in 2015, is already a common habit in American speech. An example: 'Everyone wants their cat to succeed.' . . ."

"A clarion call of civil rights activists is that black lives matter. What would happen if they were essentially written off entirely?" Arthur Browne, editorial page editor and author, asked Saturday in the Daily News in New York. "The question is far from rhetorical, because the U.S. publishing industry cast most African-American life stories into oblivion for much of the country's history. Before demands for racial justice rocked the nation in the 1960s, leading publishers produced stunningly few biographies or autobiographies of black figures, no matter how triumphant or tragic, virtuous or vice-ridden their life stories. . . ."

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"The public radio show and podcast Snap Judgment has signed a development deal with Participant Media to air a TV version of the program on Participant's digital cable and satellite network Pivot, Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment host and executive producer, told Current Thursday," Tyler Falk reported for Current.org.

"As Puerto Rico's debt has grown, its population has shrunk. In numbers that rival the last great exodus from the island during the 1950s, young professionals with families are leaving to start over in Florida, resulting in Puerto Rico losing roughly 10 percent of its population over the last decade," David Gonzalez wrote Monday for the "Lens" blog of the New York Times. He also wrote, "So, while others were leaving the island, Joseph Rodriguez decided it was time to make some return visits. . . . His recent work — done with a grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project — complements an earlier piece he did on the island’s beleaguered middle class. This time around, he traveled to several different cities but focused on Maricao, which according to a 2014 government report was among the poorest of the island’s municipalities. . ."

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"When Ramy Alasheq was searching last year for a title to give to a newspaper he was helping launch for Arabic-speaking refugees in Germany, the inspiration came from his own journey," Anealla Safdar wrote Friday for Al Jazeera. "A Syrian-Palestinian refugee, journalist, poet and activist who has asylum in the European nation, Alasheq was at the time at his home in Cologne with his host family." Safdar also wrote, "Launched on December 1, 2015, with Alasheq as its editor-in-chief, the first print run of Abwab hit 25,000 copies and was distributed for free at refugee shelters and community centres across the country. Given its success, a further 10,000 copies needed to be printed. The second edition, due soon, will be printed at least 45,000 times. . . ."

"For the past two years, activists and journalists seeking refuge from Islamic State repression in Raqqa would take sanctuary across the border in southern Turkey, setting up safe houses and offices, and darting back to Syria regularly with camera equipment and other vital supplies," Nadia Massih reported Monday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "But that sanctuary is now under threat. "Islamic State is increasingly able to reach into Turkey and members of media organizations covering the militant group's crimes have told CPJ they are scared to operate out of the country. . . ."

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"Executives from 25 media outlets have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to press Iran to release Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian from prison," Chris O'Shea reported Monday for TVNewser. "Rezaian, who holds dual citizenship in Iran and the United States, was arrested in 2014 and charged last November with alleged espionage. The length of sentence was not disclosed. . . ."

"Mauritanian journalist Cheikh Ould Salek was temporarily arrested when he boarded a flight from Senegalese capital Dakar to Dubai on January 3 after he was mistakenly accused of being a terrorist mastermind," Ali Younes reported Sunday for Al Jazeera. "Ould Salek, who works for Sky News Arabia in Dubai, told Al Jazeera he boarded a flight from [Senegal's] Dakar and was planning to get some sleep on the 10-hour flight to Dubai when he realised he was in a lot of trouble. . . ."

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"Iranian authorities should immediately release Farzad Pourmoradi, Meysam Mohammadi, and all journalists detained for their work," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday. "Authorities should furthermore lift the ban on the daily newspaper Bahar, CPJ said. The arrests and the ban on the newspaper come ahead of legislative elections scheduled to begin February 26. 'Iranian authorities are clearly trying to intimidate the press ahead of parliamentary elections, and in the process they are undermining the legitimacy of the vote,' said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. . . ."

"The condition of a Palestinian journalist on a 48-day hunger strike in an Israeli jail is deteriorating, the man's wife and a Palestinian official said Monday," the Associated Press reported Monday. "Mohammed al-Qeq is protesting his six-month sentence without trial or charge, under a measure called administrative detention. Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet said al-Qeq was arrested in connection with his alleged involvement in 'terror activities' linked to the Islamic militant group Hamas. . . ."

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