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Rolling Stone Editor Shrugs Off Ethical Concerns Over Sean Penn-El Chapo Interview

rolling stone logoRolling Stone has been coming under fire over the weekend after it was revealed that actor Sean Penn interviewed Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman for the magazine, and that they gave the fugitive drug-lord editorial approval over the article’s contents. In the midst of the legal and journalistic ethics questions that have arisen from this revelation, Rolling Stone editor and co-founder Jann Wenner said that he was not concerned about the criticism from the media.

Penn’s piece began with a disclosure admitting that names were changed, locations were not given, and that Guzman would get to view the piece and give it his approval before publication. While the drug lord reportedly didn’t ask for any changes, the magazine’s use of a non-journalist like Penn and giving Guzman editorial control has come under debate of whether it was handled in the proper way.

Speaking with New York Times, Wenner said that the magazine followed their standard practices while covering him, that they allow subjects to “approve quotes,” and that he doubted that they would be caught up with Guzman’s legal case. “They got their man, so what do they need us for?” Wenner said. “There is nothing we can add anymore.”

Wenner said Penn approached him with the idea several months ago, and when they agreed to pursue it, they strove for secrecy and the two lost contact with each other for several days in October. When they talked again, Penn had already met with Guzmán, as well as actress Kate del Castilo, who reportedly brokered the meeting.

Wenner said that Guzman was getting careless on the run, even without the interview, but while describing the article’s editing, he said he expected to face questions from the authorities over Guzman’s location when they received his video component.

“I was worried that 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.”

Managing editor Jason Fine was also involved in the piece’s editing, and said that while he had reservations about the arrangements ethics, he said the magazine considered not running the piece if Guzmán wanted changes.

This, of course, is not the only time Rolling Stone‘s practices have been called into question.

[h/t NY Daily News]
[Image via screengrab]

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