Sean Penn’s inadequate interview

January 22, 2016

John Sadler

Features Editor | jts019latech.edu 




What would you do if you had a chance to interview the most powerful drug lord on the planet? A man who had been secreted away to a location so remote a joint force of American and Mexican federal investigators had to form a coalition to find him?


Maybe you would discuss how the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for thousands of deaths, including many journalists researching its criminal practices. If you would, congratulations, you think like a journalist. If you would write a 10,000-word rambling diatribe about sneaking through the Mexican jungle (which includes a paragraph dedicated to pissing in the bushes) that leads up to the most softball questions ever asked in the history of journalism, congratulations, you think like Sean Penn.


Penn’s questions included inquiries such as, “If you could change the world, would you?,” and other questions which seems to have no bearing on anything anyone has ever wondered about Joaquin Guzman, ever. Whenever the lines of inquiry do begin to go in a direction that resembles journalism, Penn pulls back.


I completely and entirely understand being afraid of pushing too hard with the leader of the largest drug cartel in the world, but it’s a job you signed up for. He also commits a cardinal sin: granting Guzman the ability to proof the article before publication.


What we are left with at the end is a 10,000-word article that taught readers nothing about El Chapo, but taught an assembled task force enough to successfully recapture him shortly after publication. But what’s more important here is that Sean Penn got his ego boost.


He’s stated journalists criticizing him are probably just envious of him. That’s absolutely true. Plenty of journalists that could do the job much better would have clamored for it but were passed over because of Sean Penn’s pop culture clout. Of course people are envious. It’s a wasted opportunity at what could have been one of the most important interviews ever conducted.


We could have gotten so much more from this, and it was likely the one shot at getting close to one of the most elusive interviews in the world. Insights into criminal life can be informative and life changing. Seeing how the other side lives can open up avenues of thought previously unconsidered. Or you can take the Sean Penn approach and write about pissing in the bushes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *