Rolling Stone Defiant About Interview with Drug Lord 'El Chapo'

Once again, Rolling Stone has come under fire for its lack of journalistic ethics over actor Sean Penn’s recent interview with Joaquin Guzman – better known as “El Chapo” – and giving the drug cartel kingpin editorial approval of the article.

The beginning of Penn’s article came with a disclosure - confessing that names had been changed, locations were unnamed, and that the world’s most famous prison escapee of 2015 reviewed and approve the article prior to publication. Yes, the same magazine that painted an innocent University of Virginia fraternity as a den of gang rapists had no problem publishing a sympathetic piece for real devil. 

Rolling Stone insists that Guzman didn’t ask for any changes, anyway, and, even so, telling the New York Times that Guzman was merely given the same treatment as any other interview subject, that they allow interviewees to "approve quotes."  Trying to downplay the interview even further, Wenner complained, "They [Mexican authorities] got their man, so what do they need us for…There is nothing we can add anymore."

One thing Wenner certainly refused to add were the details on Guzman’s location.  He told the New York Times that although he felt Guzman was careless while on the run, he expressed worry over questions he may have had to face from authorities:

… I did not want to provide the details that would be responsible for his capture. We were very conscientious on our end and on Sean’s end, keeping it quiet, using a separate protected part of our server for emails… We made sure we didn’t have any information to give them, other than what we published… But we would have done everything that a traditional journalism operation would have done in terms of protecting sources.

Wenner also added that El Chapo didn’t speak English and didn’t seem too concerned “in editing Penn’s purple prose.”  But if that were the case, why offer him editorial approval to begin with?

Tell the Truth 2016

You'll recall that after Rolling Stone was roundly criticized for the now-discredited 2014 Sabrina Rubin Erdely story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, Wenner commissioned the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to investigate the magazine’s practices. Investigators deemed the article a "journalistic failure." All the same, no one was fired from the magazine as a result of the fiasco and numerous lawsuits are working their way through the courts.

With the "El Chapo" incident we have more evidence of the ongoing "journalistic failure" that is Rolling Stone.

Melissa Mullins
Melissa Mullins
Melissa Mullins is a freelance writer and PR professional living in the Washington, D.C. area.