Making Sense of the Media
11:26 am
Fri January 24, 2014

The New Journalism Job: Marijuana Reporter

WUSF's Craig Kopp talks with Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" about the newest job in journalism -- marijuana reporters.

Two states have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana -- Washington and Colorado. 

And for journalists -- that means covering pot in a whole new way.

No longer is marijuana the beat of crime reporters. It's a consumer item now.

And newspapers in Washington and Colorado have named marijuana editors and even marijuana critics to cover the marijuana trade.

"The 'Denver Post' has a website called thecannibist.co and they have a staff of 10 freelancers who review different strains, who taste the edibles and also talk about the culture of marijuana and how that is a significant part of Colorado," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project."  "That culture existed before marijuana was legal but you never saw it acknowledged in mainstream publications."

And the coverage isn't just about getting high. Other beats have got to cover marijuana in a new way, too.

"The business page, where can these businesses pop up, how many got licenses, what's the profit margins, how are they banking -- because of federal laws these businesses can't legitimately access the banking system," McBride explained.  "And then there's the government reporters. Whether you cover city hall or the county or the state legislature, they're all setting policies that have to be enacted."

So what's the worst part of being a marijuana reporter?

"I've talked to reporters in Washington and Colorado and they are really sick of the puns," McBride said. "You can see the word 'hazy' in headlines all the time. You hear people talking about hitting the 'high' spots. It gets old because what they do is serious and they feel like when you overuse the puns it dismisses their work as something that's not necessarily journalism."