Scorning Sean Penn's trip to Cuba 

Baghdad, 2002: Dear Sean, you are not a journalist. Thank you.  (NYT)

Oh, Sean Penn! There you go -- spotted in Havana this week, trying to score an interview with Fidel Castro for Vanity Fair. For those keeping score at home, once again life imitates The Onion. But anyway.

It's adorable when entertainment professionals try their hand at journalism. The San Francisco Chronicle sent Penn to Iran in 2005. He turned in a five-day series, written in the first person, full of self-indulgence, tedious travel itineraries and the unschooled observations of an amateur:

Back at the hotel, I went for coffee and scrambled eggs at the downstairs buffet. A canned, Muzak version of “I Will Always Love You” plays. The scene downstairs reminded me of similar scenes in Iraq, at Baghdad’s Al Rashid and Palestine hotels. International journalists with that “What the [bleep] are you doing here, Mr. Penn?” look on their faces.

Read the whole thing here. Oh, one more snippet!

Women are graduating the campuses in higher and higher numbers, occupying government in higher and higher numbers. Sound familiar? But wait. The women. Look at the women. All is not well. I'm thinking about the women. This is Iran.

Deep. The Oscar winner got in a snit last year after catching some heat for grabbing a ride on a Venezuelan government airplane from Caracas, where he interviewed President Hugo Chavez, to Cuba, where he interviewed President Raul Castro. It's unseemly to accept favors like airplane rides from officials you are covering -- but Penn wouldn't know, because he's not a journalist.

The Christian Science Monitor, in a deeply ambivalent roundup of Penn's journalistic peregrinations, recalls the actor's snippy response to critics of his airplane ride:

"If someone wants to refer to that as a payoff, be my guest," he wrote. "But when you read the next report from a journalist flying on Air Force One, or hopping on board a US military transport plane, be so kind as to dismiss that article as well."

Ouch! You got us there, Sean Penn. Except that news organizations pay for those rides. But you wouldn't know that.

 

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Julie Mason

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