For some reason, Sean Penn went to Mexico to interview notorious on-the-lam drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for Rolling Stone. I mean, it does in fact sound like something Sean Penn would totally do. There’s a secluded jungle clearing, fear for the safety of his private parts, a moment where Penn lets some “minor traveler’s flatulence” slip out. Heady stuff.
You can read the whole long-winded, rambling, self-indulgent travelogue if you have the time — it’s a mere 11,000 words —but the most interesting part of the story isn’t even in the Rolling Stone interview: It turns out the notoriously humorless adventurer, activist, actor and director’s brazen attempt at Gonzo journalism actually helped authorities recapture Guzman, so … well done?
But one thing is clear: Despite his actions helping bring El Chapo back into custody, Penn has demonstrated that he’s a terrible journalist. First, he totally makes the story about him. Never make the story about you! Then, he let his interview subject go over the finished story for approval. And he forgot to bring a pen and paper so he had to write all the answers from memory. How could you forget a pen, Sean? It’s right there in your name!
Sean, buddy, a little advice from one “journalist” to another: Just because you mess up and forget to bring your most basic interviewing tools, you don’t have to actually fess up to that in the article. What the reader doesn’t know won’t hurt them.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick