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(USA) Journalism’s New Beat: Marijuana Critic

On Tuesday, the Denver Westword, a respected alt-weekly, posted an unusual job opening on its Web site. “Calling all potential pot reviewers: Westword wants you!”

The ad went on to ask, “Do you have a medical condition that necessitates marijuana? Do you have a way with words?” It turns out the paper wants to hire someone to review the dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries that have recently popped up in Colorado — at least 70 since January — for a weekly on-line column, “Mile Highs and Lows.”

The reviewer would work on a freelance basis and be “an objective resource on the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana scene,” according to the classified ad. In this era of contracting newsrooms, Westword is seemingly creating a new journalism beat: Pot Critic.

Whoever gets the job will have the terrain mostly to himself. A few Web sites like Cannabis CoPilot offer cursory reviews, but even High Times has yet to formally review a dispensary (the magazine is working on an upcoming special issue that will provide a guide to the medical marijuana scene, including reviews).

Westword has already published a few reviews by a fill-in critic; the pieces mix basic information like hours of operation and “raw marijuana price range” with a critical appraisal (of the facilities, not the foliage). For instance, Patients Choice of Colorado on South Broadway in Denver ”offers strict but high-caliber service — sort of like the Ivy Leagues of dispensaries.”

The rapid spread of marijuana dispensaries in Colorado is a serious issue, but Westword is handling the search for a pot critic with tongue firmly planted in cheek. They’ve asked candidates not to submit resumes on rolling papers, for example. Editor Patricia Calhoun said the paper is going about the process much as they did when they hired their current food critic, by posting an ad and asking for a sample review. “Our restaurant critic, Jason Sheehan, won a James Beard award,” Calhoun said. “We’re hoping we’ll have similar success, although there don’t seem to be as many rewards for marijuana reviewers.”

As with a dining or architecture critic, a background in the subject helps but Calhoun said the paper is looking for someone who displays a talent for writing and analytical thinking rather than getting baked. In other words, she said, ”You don’t have to smoke pot for 30 years.”

Calhoun is asking candidates to submit an essay on the subject of what marijuana means to them, and hopes to pick a reviewer by next week. “We’ll see what we get,” she said. “I know that within five minutes of the posting, we already had an application — which is very fast turnaround for a stoner.”

By Steven Kurutz
Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2009/10/01/journalisms-newest-beat-marijuana-critic/

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