As student journalists, we are not obligated to take on subjects that are difficult, complicated, or contrary to our own personal world view. But we do so anyway, not because we are sadistic (well, a few of us are), but because we’re natural storytellers, and have personally made it our purpose to pursue tough stories.
This past summer, the Ka Lā news blog was refreshed by a small band of newsroom knuckleheads (albeit dedicated newsroom knuckleheads) who I must say tried hard to abide by the ethical standards expected of objective journalism, driven by a collective passion to inform and entertain our campus community, all the while not taking ourselves too seriously. News gathering, while being a traditionally serious endeavor, should also be fun, you see, and hoo boy, we had some fun this past summer.
I think we do our best within our resources and limited amateurish experiences to go the full distance, even if it means setting aside personal feelings or going into uncharted territory, in order to get as close to the center of a very difficult or painful story.
Reporting on the cannabis dispensaries happened to be one of these stories. The process was not easy for the writer who accepted this assignment. It was frustrating for me as the unofficial editor, who oversaw the development of this story.
Speaking as somebody who suffered the consequences of substance abuse (with debilitating repercussions to this day), and now making a humble living as a substance abuse prevention counselor, I found the developments leading up to the eventual approval of these dispensaries had me occasionally wrestling with my own personal moral conflicts. Hearing reports of how excited people were to see cannabis dispensaries finally open, so they could legally obtain the drug not for medical purposes, but simply to get high, angered me and caused me great disappointment in these people. Then there were (unconfirmed) reports of physicians who simply took a person’s word regarding a particular ailment and gave their easy approval to use cannabis without a comprehensive medical and psychiatric evaluation. It seemed to me that people were almost nonchalant in skirting the medical cannabis use laws so people could simply and freely indulge.
Yet, I had to support the writer pursuing this story, personal morals and sharp opinions be damned.
I am not a professional journalist. I am not the editor of this paper. Despite this, I believe that in order to empower our readership, especially in regards to stories that involve ethical and moral questions, I must set aside my own biases so that the highest quality, ethically-based reporting our news crew can muster can be brought to our campus community to read, discuss, and debate issues and topics – topics that are current and relevant in today’s times, like cannabis dispensaries.
I want to thank the writer who took the dispensary story as far as he did and could, and kept working on it until he couldn’t work on it anymore. He, along with I and the rest of the news crew felt it was a story that needed to be told. I’m glad it’s on the front page of this August issue.
I can’t write this without thanking the new Fall 2017 staff (Eddie, Jonz, Freddie) who came on board during the summer and helped to get stories posted for this month. In fact, it was Eddie Meza who strongly suggested this story be covered, and how fortuitous a suggestion was this, now that it’s the current buzz on the news circuit.
Of course I have to give props to Michael Leidemann, old-skool newspaperman and advisor to Ka Lā, who supported this and other stories and our past summer endeavors while he partied in Mexico.
Eric Paul Shaffer, Assistant Professor of English on campus, is mentioned here not only to stroke his ego, but also to warmly give him credit for kicking my ass and drilling into me the finer points of the English language, of which newfound powers I sadistically turn on the newsroom’s writers when I copy-edit their submissions.
Lastly, I want to thank those readers who have the maturity to objectively and cooly read our stories without succumbing to rash over-reactions, paranoid fears or unformed, unsupported conclusions. These are the same readers who instead support and applaud our independent news-gathering efforts, and for sharing our articles with others so they may be part of the discussion.
Mahalo for reading this. Now go read the other stuff and look at the photos and videos we worked hard over. And why not stop by the newsroom and say hello? We have a Keurig and the coffee is free.
Larry L. Medina
Writer, Ka Lā