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Jake Browne @fakejakebrowne
, 23 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
(THREAD) One of the great experiments in journalism is, for all intents and purposes, dead today. The Denver Post's marijuana vertical, The Cannabist, has cut all editorial staff and will replace them with bots. This is the story of stupid, stupid hedge funds.
(2) I started as one of the first "hires" back in December of 2013, brought on to review strains and cover the occasional event. There was an excitement around The Cannabist—my EIC @bruvs was fresh off appearances on The Colbert Report and The View.
(3) A major daily dedicating an entire vertical to cannabis coverage hadn't been done before. Bill O'Reilly accused us of promoting pot. Colbert renamed Colorado "Bongistan." But others asked the question: "Can weed save the newspaper business?"
(4) I'm not being hyperbolic—that was an actual Salon headline from a review of a documentary covering our first year on the beat.
(5) What made The Cannabist special was this was a journalistic approach to pot. The landscape had been dominated by advocacy from institutions like High Times, but we were telling both sides of the story. (No offense to HT and what they did for cannabis education)
(6) Stories on inaccurate THC levels in edibles or pesticides in products being consumed certainly didn't curry favor with those in the industry. Watch "Rolling Papers" on Netflix and wait for the scenes with one of those edibles manufacturers. It's hilarious/cringeworthy.
(7) On the other hand, you have the Pulitzer Prize-nominated piece by @johningold covering families moving here with children that suffered from debilitating illnesses. It didn't make the headlines that Whoopi's ode to her vape pen did, but it's brilliant.…
(8) Readership (or eye-balls) followed. By November 2016, we had beaten High Times' comScore in consecutive months, attracting nearly 1 million unique visitors. We had our own awards show, studio talk show, and the mile-high sky was the limit.
(9) Enter stupid, stupid hedge funds. This whole Cannabist thing wasn't raking in money—monetizing digital was something DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA struggled with—but why not double down and launch an identical vertical in California?
(10) I imagine we needed a larger budget. I avoid talking about rates, but I'll say that two years in I was making $50 for 500-word reviews. This doesn't factor in the money I was spending on the weed itself. A little extra cash would have been appreciated.
(11) Instead of bolstering a successful web property, they sent resources to a site that would ostensibly compete. A month after we hit our "high score" my boss, friend, and mentor Ricardo Baca stepped down. Why he left is his story to tell.
(12) He was the face and frankly the soul of The Cannabist. That's not to denigrate what a number of talented people did, day in and day out, to keep it afloat. But losing him was crushing on a number of levels.
(13) It took FOUR MONTHS to find his replacement, @beingalexp, who is stepping down today. Alex worked his ass off, but he was given a dixie cup to bail water out of an ocean liner. Increasingly, our content came from the AP feed. Local was almost entirely jettisoned.
(14) I had taken over Ricardo's role as host of The Cannabist Show, a weekly podcast that I made with the incredibly talented @VinnieChant and @negativenegro. I know it's tempting to overstate the importance of one's own podcast, but it did not suck.
(15) I knew I was leaving when there was no budget for our final episode. No goodbye to our possibly hundreds of listeners. After almost 150 shows, we would simply cease to exist, just as I imagine The Cannabist itself will soon, thanks to its stupid, stupid, hedge fund.
(16) The site isn't ending today. I'm guessing the inimitable @AliciaWallace has a few stories before leaving for her well-deserved fellowship at Columbia. Then, the bots take over.
(17) Content will be aggregated based on what's tagged "marijuana." There will be no editorial team to give the site a voice, perspective, or blood. Readers will pick up on this, and it will wither on the vine.
(18) For me, this is great news. My old stuff is terrible.
(19) But you may have read how Digital First Media (owned by stupid, stupid hedge fund Alden Global Capital) is systemically dismantling journalistic institutions across the country. Scrapping them for cash to buy more mansions for its owner.…
(20) Here is the rare story of how they let an incredibly valuable asset slip through their hands and disintegrate before their own eyes. They'd be lucky if they could get pennies on the dollar for it now. They were, in a word, stupid.
(21) So I take solace in that. Today, a stupid, stupid hedge fund made a few fewer dollars off of my colleagues and me.
(22) Best of luck to the incredible people from that team: @bruvs @BeingAlexP @aleta @PollyWashburn @VinnieChant @negativenegro @bradbogus @CannabisEncyclo @s0humshah @brittanyblue @aliciawallace and many more. You're all crushers. (/THREAD)
(PS) I encourage you to still read The Denver Post. There are so many talented people in that newsroom and they need your support now more than ever. Also, if you have a few million laying around, maybe join forces with people trying to save them.…
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