Monday, October 19, 2020

Editorial: Actor tries to be journalist

As editors of Cardinal Points, journalism is obviously a huge part of our lives. It consumes us and everything we do. It is something that we have been practicing since we declared our major, or before. We are developing our craft based on the lessons we have been taught by our faculty, alumni and fellow students.

In staff writer Courtney Casey’s story, “Please put down the pen, Penn,” she brings forth the ideals of journalistic integrity, or lack of, actor Sean Penn demonstrates in his most recent endeavours with El Chapo and Rolling Stone magazine. She mentions in the article that Penn has been involved in various roles — in film, in activism and in humanitarianism, but never in journalism.

He carried burner cell phones. He wrote from an anonymous email address. He went behind the backs of both the United States and Mexican governments. He was the first person to interview the escapee outside an interrogation room. He was in the presence of one of the biggest most reputable drug lords in the world — a man who has escaped prison more than once, a man who rules over more than half of all the cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana that comes into the U.S., according to Penn himself in the Rolling Stone article.

As if it couldn’t get any more interesting, Penn changed names in the story, excluded multiple locations of their whereabouts and had the piece approved by El Chapo himself prior to publication.

“Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth,” according to the American Press Institute. It also states that “journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information.” That is not what Penn did by excluding information and changing names.

The institute also said, “every journalist uses certain methods to assess and test information to get it right.” This is accomplished by being objective. If he had El Chapo approve the story by prior review, this is not the case.

Whether you think Penn had the right or the training to adventure to uncharted territory is your call, but to us journalists, there were pieces we would have done differently. But then again, we are journalists, and despite his efforts, Penn is not. Maybe that would have given us different results, but we would know where we stand in our principles.

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