AP Launches New Marijuana Beat

Giving readers a clear picture of marijuana legislation and its effects takes more than one angle, said Frank Baker, who’s leading the Associated Press’ new marijuana beat team.

“Marijuana intersects with life in so many areas: government regulation and taxation, law enforcement, politics, science and health, agriculture, business,” he said. “You simply can’t tell the full story from a single vantage point.”

The new beat team, which was announced in January, is the “brainchild” of AP’s news director for U.S. West Anna Johnson, who saw the growing amount of attention the subject is receiving.

Frank Baker

“Whether they love, hate or are ambivalent about marijuana, people want to read about it,” Baker said. “Anna saw all that and the staying power the subject has and suggested a team and me as the leader.”

One thing his team will have to overcome he said is the need to stay on top of other breaking news stories.

“AP lives on breaking news and there’s a lot of it these days,” Baker said. “Everyone on this team knows that coverage trumps everything else so my job will be finding that sweet spot so they can pursue marijuana stories while still delivering breaking news when it happens in their areas.”

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Published: April 10, 2018

2 thoughts on “AP Launches New Marijuana Beat

  • April 11, 2018 at 11:01 am
    Permalink

    Good idea, cannabis has been improperly covered for decades and needs serious analysis and reporting.

    Some friendly suggestions:

    – Use the term Cannabis rather than Marijuana or Pot (especially in headlines) which carry historically negative connotations. Cannabis is neutral and scientific.

    – Refrain from snarky pot jokes or plays on words. How would you like everyone to endlessly joke about “Baker covering the pot beat”? It’s so overdone and insulting.

    – Make clear during reporting on scientific results the difference between “association” and “causation”. I’m sure your journalism standards cover this but it is especially important for this topic.

    – Try to sort the myths from the truth and don’t blindly repeat prohibitionist tropes such as the Gateway Theory or the like. Just because a government agency or some scientific studies declare something to be true doesn’t make it so. Look for bias in sources (pro or con.)

    – When reporting on scientific results try to give perspective on the scale/impact (negative or positive) of the results. For example, Cannabis does have an effect on memory but only while under the influence. That doesn’t mean it makes people stupid or do permanent damage to memory function.

    I’m sure most of this is common sense and something you already know but I’m just so sick of how Cannabis and it’s users are unfairly portrayed in the media. Prohibition has been way more harmful than the substance itself and too many lives have been ruined as a result.

    Thank you for giving this important topic the coverage it deserves! I’m especially glad the AP, as a co-op, is doing this.

    Reply
    • May 14, 2018 at 4:32 pm
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      You hit the nail on the head. Great points. I look forward to the coverage. I too only use the term Cannabis unless I am quoting.

      Reply

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