Wednesday, March 25, 2015

UPDATED: Gazette employees reportedly could be fired for commenting on marijuana stories

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 11:19 AM

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Update: This really is a disaster for the Gazette.

As Westword's Michael Roberts points out in his post, multiple former Gazette staffers have taken to Facebook to criticize the series, including former editor Jeff Thomas.

Former reporter R. Scott Rappold started it off: "I have held my tongue as long as I can. Shame on my former employer for passing off as 'news' what is clearly a 4-part editorial rant against voter-approved legalization of cannabis."

Former city hall reporter Daniel Chacón, who left the Gazette for Santa Fe in 2013 under a cloud of suspicion that Mayor Steve Bach influenced the move, wrote, "I'm not one to say, 'I told you so.' But I told you so!"

In a separate post, former reporter John Schroyer eloquently and thoroughly ripped the report: "I’ve contemplated this for several days, and in the end, I realized I just can’t think of enough negative adjectives to describe this journalistic farce," he writes. "... And incidentally, Gazette publisher Dan Steever has been completely mum when it comes to inquiries from other news outlets. ... Steever hasn’t uttered a word in defense of the series. Which is strange, because he was so vocal last year when the Gazette won a Pulitzer."

And here's former editor Thomas with a high-level take:
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———

Update: Editorial-page editor Wayne Laugesen writes on Twitter that Gazette website comments were "disabled to protect kid, per policy" on that particular story.

——— Original post: Tuesday, March 24, 3:15 p.m. ———

According to
 national media reporter Jim Romenesko, employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette are being told to sit down and shut up when it comes to its recent marijuana series, "Clearing the Haze," which, as we reported, is plagued with ethical problems.

Gazette employees have been strongly discouraged from commenting on or sharing opinions about the series," Romenesko quotes a source anonymous to readers. "Privately editors have mentioned that public criticism could jeopardize reporters’ jobs.”

An unnamed Indy source with knowledge of the Gazette's operations says, "From what I understand, it's dead silence in the newsroom on the subject of the Potgate." Which would help explain why the Indy has received no responses to inquiries made both yesterday and today about the series.

The problems stem from who wrote the pieces: editorial-board members Wayne Laugesen and Pula Davis, and anti-marijuana activist and former business reporter Christie Tatum. (She's pictured above debating the con side of Amendment 64 on Rocky Mountain PBS. We can't seem to embed the video, so click here if interested.) Her husband, an anti-pot activist himself, is even used as a source in today's piece.

In our initial post, we asked if the four-day series had gone through the traditional news process. Tatum writes on her Facebook page that it did not. The Gazette stories, released to the public to look like news features, stayed mainly within the paper's opinion department.

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Lastly, we'll just note that Dennis Huspeni, a former reporter for the Denver Business Journal and former head of the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, tried to post to the Gazette's Facebook page website that in his opinion their stories violate SPJ's Code of Ethics. His posts, he says, were removed.

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