The initial problem? Pretending to be news stories, even investigative journalism, when it's not:
On Sunday, The Gazette, the daily newspaper here in Colorado’s second-largest city, published the first of a four-day series called “Clearing the Haze,” about the state’s marijuana legalization experiment.
So far, based on much of the public reaction, it might have been better called “Blowing Smoke.” …
By any measure it looks like a big investigation, coupled with a slick, parallax Web design. But casual readers of the series would be easily forgiven if they thought the four days of “Clearing the Haze” was compiled by a team of The Gazette’s reporters. It wasn’t.
Instead, the series is a product of two of the paper’s editorial board members, Wayne Laugesen, and Pula Davis, along with a Denver-based freelancer hired by the paper.
The Gazette editorial board is staunchly anti-legalization, and the freelancer, Christine Tatum, is a legalization opponent—not identified as such by the paper—whose husband, quoted in the series, is an anti-pot addiction specialist, which is disclosed in one instance but not everywhere.
“The general public reading this will have no idea that Christine is extremely opposed to marijuana legalization and that she’s married to a doctor that has been one of the most vocal voices in this whole process warning of the potential unintended consequences of all this,” says Ricardo Baca, editor of The Denver Post’s marijuana news and culture blog The Cannabist.
When it comes to the content of The Gazette’s series, made up of some 20 individual stories, it reads like a fact-dumping, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to proving the argument that pot legalization in Colorado was a bad idea.
Journalism 101, Error 2 — not even trying to make an op-ed look like news analysis, let alone straight news.
Which is why:
Not surprisingly, the series has come in for local criticism—outside and even inside the paper’s newsroom.
The word “propaganda” pops up in the many negative comments on online pieces and on The Gazette’s Facebook page.
And, does this mean that Willie Nelson will not set up business (or perform) in the Springs?