The Morning File: Journalism can still yield a dream job (if you like marijuana)


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True story: The Denver Post, a mainstream daily newspaper very similar to the one you are reading now, has appointed a marijuana editor.

That recent announcement points to a difference not just between the two newspapers but between their two states. Colorado has legalized pot for recreational use as of Jan. 1, which is not exactly the same as Pennsylvania, where it will still be difficult at that time to purchase a six-pack, let alone anything that smacks of cannabis.

The Morning File is not itself endorsing marijuana use or legalization, as it would be difficult for its author to be elected president of the United States having stated that position publicly. (Not saying we're going to ever run for that office -- it's too hard to race out to Cold Stone Creamery spur of the moment, with all those Secret Service around -- but we'd like to keep our options open.)

Still, we're just a tad envious of the intriguing reporting assignments ahead for marijuana editor Ricardo Baca, who said pot legalization is a "behemoth of a story" that will be the Post's No. 1 initiative in the year ahead.

"It's one of the greatest stories you could ever ask for," he said in the newspaper's own Q-and-A on the topic, while acknowledging he has smoked marijuana but is no "stoner."

We have not seen Mr. Baca's level of enthusiasm around our own newsroom since the Kate Upton beat was put up for grabs. (Confession: There is not actually a reporter assigned to cover Kate Upton full time at the Post-Gazette, but by mentioning it here, we believe the possibility exists that an editor will find it intriguing and ask us to take it on.)

Since there is a chance the Pennsylvania Legislature will follow its Colorado cousins and legalize marijuana here, even if it's unlikely to actually occur before 2113, we can imagine going to the boss to suggest and apply for the position of marijuana editor. We picture the conversation going something like this:

 

Morning File: You probably saw the Denver Post has someone heading up a team to cover the pot industry in-depth. I volunteer to do the same here.

Boss: What? Are you high?

MF: No, and this has nothing to do with my personal habits, one way or another. I just think we ought to be at the forefront of reporting on these trends.

Boss: What trends? There are no trends of that kind in Pennsylvania. They like to change the laws on such things here about as much as I like changing the copy machine's toner cartridge.

MF: You always have an underling change the toner cartridge.

Boss: Exactly.

MF: Aren't we constantly biting our nails over how to draw young people into reading the newspaper? This is a sure-fire way to get their attention.

Boss: Yeah, and we'd have a lot more militia members reading us, too, if we wrote more stories about how to make bombs. How would I explain to thousands of older readers that we had to leave a story about sequestration cuts out of the paper to fit in a consumer piece about where to buy pot?

MF: There's a lot of old people with cancer who might want to benefit from medical marijuana. You could pitch it that way.

Boss: Around here? I'm guessing not. All these ex-steelworkers and coal miners and their wives are probably more inclined to just tough things out. You and I would both get run out of town if the newspaper started looking like High Times.

MF: What if we just confined the stories to the regular Morning File space on Monday's Page 2?

Boss: You've got a point there -- no one would ever see them. But I wouldn't want to have to defend any such coverage to the traditionalists at the Rotary Club luncheons.

MF: There are still Rotary Club luncheons?

Boss: Probably somewhere, I'm guessing -- don't be snide. Look, I admire your zeal to take on some new aspect of journalism, but you're just trying to push things a bit too far too fast in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. Isn't there any other new coverage you'd take on just as enthusiastically?

MF: As a matter of fact there is -- I think we should take a closer look at supermodels.

Boss: You mean like Kate Upton?

MF: Exactly.

Boss: I was thinking the same thing. Have a proposal written up and on my desk by Monday.

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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