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How a Rolling Stone interview played a role in the capture of 'El Chapo,' what critics are saying
The recapture of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmn last weekend included a twist: Actor Sean Penn's interview with the drug lord for Rolling Stone magazine in part contributed to it. - photo by Payton Davis

Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán's recapture last Friday sparked an expected Internet reaction for such a headline — but what the dialogue detailed might've been a bit less predictable.

An aspect of Guzmán's arrest involving an American magazine and actor constituted a bulk of the talk.

And that made for a "twist worthy of Hollywood," The Wall Street Journal wrote.

"… It appeared the drug lord was recaptured partly because of his own silver screen ambitions, which led him to meet with actor Sean Penn and others in his hideout in October, a Mexican official said," the Journal reported. "In an article published late Saturday in Rolling Stone magazine, Mr. Penn recounted a long meeting with Mr. Guzmán, who escaped in July from a Mexican maximum security prison for the second time in 14 years."

In Rolling Stone's piece (which contains some graphic language), Penn recounted the seed, buildup and details of his exclusive interview with Guzmán, brokered by Mexican actor Kate del Castillo.

The interview itself included the drug lord commenting on his childhood, violent reputation and even relationship with his mother.

"Well, if I knew him — with respect, and from my point of view, it's a person who's not looking for problems in any way. In any way," Guzmán told Penn when asked to define himself.

The New York Times reported the 10,000-word article "rocked both Mexico and the United States when it was published Saturday night."

However, a portion of the ruckus caused on social media was in regards to the ethics of Penn and Rolling Stone; a disclosure preceding Penn's piece indicated Guzmán had "editorial approval" before the piece would be published — though the magazine noted Guzmán made no changes.

Still, some opined giving the drug lord say on the publication "negates the interview," The Washington Post noted.

"Allowing any source control over a story’s content is inexcusable. The practice of pre-approval discredits the entire story," the Post quoted Andrew Seaman, chairman of the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics committee, as saying in a blog post. "… 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."

Rolling Stone remarked on these critiques in the Times' piece.

Managing editor Jason Fine told the Times the magazine had the option to not publish the piece if Guzmán sought changes. Jann Wenner, founder of the magazine, said giving the story's subject the option to edit "was a small thing to do in exchange for what we got."

USA Today detailed why questions over ethics come at a poor time for Rolling Stone.

The Washington Post uncovered "serious ethical lapses" in an article about alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia published in 2014, USA Today wrote.

An investigation conducted by Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, concluded "there were serious journalistic failures in producing the article." And USA Today indicated that led to Rolling Stone retracting the piece and apologizing to readers last April.

Criticism of Penn's interview with Guzmán also extended to the actor's approach, The Independent reported. Critics argued Penn glorified a man responsible for the murders of thousands of people.

Some of those being journalists.

"Why didn't Sean Penn ask El Chapo how many real journalists his organization has killed?," freelance journalist Ben Taub wrote in a post, The Independent reported.

Other figures in journalism remarked on what journalists face when covering the cartels.

"Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, tweeted a link on Sunday to an article headlined 'Censor or die' about the intimidation techniques that cartel members apply to Mexican journalists to pressure them to censor the news," Reuter's article read. "'Good moment to remember what happens to real journalists who cover Mexican drug traffickers,' Baron said."

All conversation over Penn's piece wasn't negative, however, with Coll saying "scoring an exclusive interview with a wanted criminal is legitimate journalism no matter who the reporter is," the Times wrote.

Vice correspondent Danny Gold also came to Penn and Rolling Stone's defense, CNN Money reported.

"Never a fan of Penn's journalism," Gold wrote, "but me and every other journo would have compromised a whole lot more to get an interview with El Chapo. Anyone else who says otherwise is lying."

The Atlantic indicated Mexican authorities have begun the process to extradite Guzmán to the U.S.

Penn and del Castillo are reportedly under investigation by Mexican authorities.

In a brief email exchange with the Associated Press Monday, the AP asked about images published showing officials watching him and Del Castillo before their October visit with Guzmán.

"I've got nothin' to hide," Penn wrote.

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