The Current

Sean Penn's interview with El Chapo is not journalism

Sean Penn and his El Chapo article in Rolling Stone have triggered a landslide of derision, annoyance, incredulity and perhaps even envy. So what did we get? Worthwhile insights? The fantastical fiction of a fugitive? Or just one guy's big adventure?
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Mexico City, January 8, 2016. (Reuters/Tomas Bravo)

It was a shocking story in itself when the Mexican authorities finally caught up with Joaquín Guzmán, a.k.a. El Chapo, last week.

But then, on Saturday came a truly cinematic twist.  Actor Sean Penn had already caught up with El Chapo and sat down to interview him as part of a feature article for Rolling Stone magazine.

"I want to make clear that this interview is for the exclusive use of Miss Kate del Castillo and Mister Sean Penn." - Drug Lord 'El Chapo' talking into a camera for Sean Pean's piece in Rolling Stone

The article – headlined "El Chapo Speaks" – was an instant journalistic blockbuster, racking up millions of clicks for Rolling Stone... but also racking up concerns over the ethics and implications of the project. 

  • Craig Silverman is the editor of Buzzfeed Canada.
  • Peter Edwards is a reporter with the Toronto Star and the author of several books on organized crime.  
  • Franc Contreras is a freelance journalist based in Mexico City.

We did ask Rolling Stone to provide comment on this story....but we did not hear back. Sean Penn's publicist also declined comment on his behalf. 

Ethics aside, Sean Penn's article has inspired a couple satirical send-ups online:

Forecast: The weather, written in the voice of Sean Penn

ISIS Chief Abruptly Cancels Meeting with Sean Penn

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino and Ines Colabrese.