More issues with Gazette's marijuana opinion series



It's been three weeks since the Gazette published "Clearing the Haze," a four-part opinion series written by the paper's anti-marijuana editorial board and a Denver-based anti-marijuana activist named Christine Tatum, who's married to anti-marijuana activist.

We asked if it was a joke, then heard about the communications company banning its employees from discussing its own stories on social media. Eventually, in came national criticism from the Columbia Journalism Review. In that last piece, which was also covered by Colorado Public Radio, publisher Dan Steever essentially acknowledged that the Gazette's goal wasn't to report on reality. Instead, it was an exercise in weaving cloth, "to try to tie some of those facts and data so that readers say, 'Huh, maybe this isn’t going as swimmingly as everybody has said.'"

Now comes news that co-writer Tatum is releasing a book with her husband with the exact same title as the Gazette's series: Clearing the Haze. The 160-page effort is aimed at parents worried their kids are on drugs; will cost $36; and includes fun recruitment bits like: "The authors encourage families entering the 12th step of 'giving back' to consider advocacy for smarter public policies surrounding drug access and addiction treatment."


Considering the timing, and the fact that a Google search of the ISBN reveals pages dated before the series ran, it makes it look like the Gazette's series was also a back way to promote Tatum's book.

So, not only did the paper deceive its readers into thinking opinion was news, but it may also have been offering a quid pro quo to the anti-pot activist.

Emails to editorial-page editor Wayne Laugesen, editor Joanna Bean and Steever were not returned. On Twitter, Tatum responded, "The two projects have nothing to do with each other, but thanks for the promotion of both!"

Some more:

 • It's not very interesting to watch a national corporation inject its opinion into the public consciousness, but because it's local, here's the deal: Phillip Anschutz's Clarity Media, which owns the Gazette, used its PR arm at MediaDC to solicit coverage of its opinion dump. FOX News talk show Fox & Friends bit, so Laugesen did four-and-half minutes with them. Another Anschutz newspaper, the D.C.-based Washington Examiner, also ran the series.

• The Gazette found a market for its opinion, and is selling reprints of the series for $2.95 plus $1 for shipping. As Laugesen wrote on Facebook a few weeks ago: "This package will wind up in the hands of every state legislator, every member of Congress and every governor in the country. It is also making the rounds among politicians throughout the world. ... To call this a 'whopping success' is an understatement."

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