Media Slams Rolling Stone For Giving El Chapo Right To First Edit

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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At the very beginning of Rolling Stone’s exclusive interview of recently captured Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman by actor and activist Sean Penn begins with the admission that El Chapo could edit the piece. According to Rolling Stone, El Chapo “did not ask for any changes.”

The following disclosure was stated at the very beginning of Rolling Stone‘s El Chapo interview by Sean Penn,

Disclosure: Some names have had
 to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes.

The practice of giving the subject of an interview or profile the right to editorial control is unheard of in most professional news outlets. Rolling Stone’s choice of a non-journalist, the actor Sean Penn, along with their ethically questionable editorial choice has led to much criticism.

On CNN’s media watchdog program Reliable Sources hosted by CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, a substantial portion of the program’s panel discussion focused on El Chapo having editorial control over the piece.

According to Mediaite, both Stelter and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin both expressed a great deal of concern regarding the ethics of how the piece was written by Penn. The main concern of both men was that Rolling Stone should not have ceded editorial control of their piece to El Chapo but they also acknowledged that other news outlets would have perhaps compromised on certain ethical norms to get the exclusive interview.

Rolling Stone’s decision to go ahead with unusual media practices for the El Chapo interview comes on the heels of renewed criticism for the magazine’s debunked piece by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, “A Rape On Campus” which is now longer on the magazine’s website, but can be found here. The aforementioned piece centered on Jackie Coakley’s falsified account about having been sexually assault by multiple members of a fraternity at the University of Virginia.

As a result of Rolling Stone’s erroneous reporting for “A Rape On Campus,” Associate Dean of the University of Virginia, Nicole Eramo has filed a $7.5 million defamation lawsuit against the magazine and Rubin Erdely. After Rubin Erdely’s piece was debunked by other media outlets, Rolling Stone commissioned an investigative report by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism which severely criticized the magazine for the manner in which it handled the story.

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