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Advanced Questions in Celebrity Profiling Ethics, featuring Sean Penn

Say you’re profiling Sean Penn. And say Sean Penn, at the time in which you and Sean Penn are Hanging Out Together so that you can Get To The Bottom Of His Complicated Personality, is writing up his trip to Iran for what will become a multi-part piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. But say Sean Penn is having some Trouble With The Piece and reads to you his Somewhat Overblown First Draft. Do you give him editorial advice and then brag about it in the profile you’re writing? From John Lahr’s piece in the current New Yorker:

Penn read for about ten minutes, glancing up occasionally to see my reaction. After five pages, he was just about to disembark from the plane in Tehran. I suggested that perhaps he should get to Iran earlier in the piece. He nodded, but said nothing. (Stripped of some of its vainglory and verbosity, the edited version of Penn’s essay became the Chronicle‘s most read story of the year, with more than half a million hits on the newspaper’s Web site.)

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