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Sean Penn survived his encounter with El Chapo but Rolling Stone’s reputation is under threat.

Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

Rolling Stone has unquestionably and cunningly crafted one of the biggest click-baits in the history of modern journalism by getting Sean Penn to interview the Mexican drug lord El Chapo while the criminal was on the lam. But in getting the sensational story, the magazine made a major compromise of journalistic ethics that could tarnish its reputation, already marred by the fatally flawed story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia.

At the top of the story, there is this disclosure: “Some names have had
 to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes.”

As MSNBC host Chris Hayes rightly tweeted

Beyond the ethical failure, the Penn piece is also an editorial disaster, since the actor was allowed to write thousands of words in pure stream of consciousness. The first paragraph has this gem:  “It’s a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing. At 55 years old, I’ve never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!”