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Sean Penn interviews El Chapo and suddenly journalists care about ethics

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No one expected Sean Penn to interview the world’s most wanted drug kingpin after he escaped prison for the second time. But three months before El Chapo was recaptured by Mexican Marines, he was hanging out with the actor in a jungle for a lengthy Rolling Stone interview. In an interesting turn of events, Penn’s discussion with El Chapo has been criticized as “unethical” by politicians and journalists who couldn’t score or stomach the interview.

At the heart of the issue is how Penn allowed the violent head of the Sinaloa drug cartel to sign off on the final Rolling Stone piece, which certainly does breach journalistic ethics. One rule of journalism is to ensure that the subject being reported on doesn’t have any sway or influence on the final product, and letting El Chapo decide what can and can’t be published defeats the true purpose of doing the interview in the first place.

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“Allowing any source control over a story’s content is inexcusable,” Andrew Seaman, chair of the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics committee wrote in a blog post. “The practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story. The writer, who in this case is an actor and activist, may write the story in a more favorable light and omit unflattering facts in an attempt to not be rejected.”

Seaman does make a good point. But with the daily ethics violations committed by people who were actually trained to be journalists, it does seem strange that all of a sudden members of the media want to hash out what’s acceptable in reporting the news or conducting interviews.

Private interests often have a great deal of influence in U.S. news, and often times corrupt the integrity of media in the country. Often times journalists will be overly kind or biased in favor of the advertisers who fund their outlets. Very rarely does that sort of corruption rile up members of the media.

A few years ago, journalist David Sirota broke a news story regarding PBS’s negative coverage of pensions in a two-year news series called “Pension Peril.” Through Sirota’s impressive investigative work, it was discovered that PBS solicited donations from billionaire John Arnold to produce the series. Arnold has spent millions of his own money to push an agenda to slash the retirement benefits of public employees.

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Arnold gave the media outlet a massive $3.5 million donation, and PBS knew that he would be willing to spend the cash if their reporting was favorable to his political agenda. After Sirota’s exposé, PBS returned the money to Arnold.

That type of ethical breach occurs more often in journalism than the media would care to admit, but no one in the establishment ever speaks out against it. Sirota’s investigation didn’t get much play in the mainstream media, and the only time journalistic integrity is questioned is when establishment journalists don’t get their way…like an interview with El Chapo.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Ana Kasparian's #NoFilter

WATCH LIVE: Trump to address the nation after mass shootings leave 29 dead

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US President Donald Trump will address the nation on Monday after two shootings left 29 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric was part of the problem.

The rampages turned innocent snippets of everyday life into nightmares of bloodshed: 20 people were shot dead while shopping at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday morning, and nine more outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.

Trump will again find himself in the role of consoler-in-chief after a tragedy -- which he has struggled with in the past -- when he speaks at 10:00 am (1400 GMT).

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Ana Kasparian's #NoFilter

Trump to address nation after US shootings leave 29 dead

Published

on

US President Donald Trump will address the nation on Monday after two shootings left 29 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric was part of the problem.

The rampages turned innocent snippets of everyday life into nightmares of bloodshed: 20 people were shot dead while shopping at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday morning, and nine more outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.

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2020 Election

Julián Castro destroys NRA’s ‘good guy with a gun’ claim: Armed Texans ‘didn’t keep those people safe’ in El Paso

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Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro reacted to the weekend mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio by knocking down the conservative premise that a "good guy with a gun" can stop the violence.

In an interview on CNN, Castro said that President Donald Trump is "making it worse" by "fanning the flames of bigotry and of hate."

The candidate also blasted the NRA's talking points.

"The NRA, for years, has said that the answer to these mass shootings is more guns, that a good guy with a gun is the answer," Castro added. "We’re in Texas. That shooter went into a situation where people routinely carry guns."

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