The Cannabist Suffers Death Blow As Denver Post Cuts Staff

The Denver Post has been making its own headlines lately because of historic staff reductions and the resulting editorial-page public push back against the newspaper’s hedge-fund ownership. Now it turns out that The Denver Post is no longer staffing its marijuana news site The Cannabist.

“I am absolutely gutted today,” said veteran journalist Ricardo Baca, who founded Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency in early 2017 after resigning from The Post, where he worked as a reporter, critic, and editor for 15 years. “We were so lucky to know The Cannabist as we did, and The Denver Post was lucky that we caught this lightning in a bottle during those historic days. We avoided the blind, pro-legalization activism of publications like High Times, and we also were an objective news source to counter prohibitionist misinformation that had plagued so much of the mainstream media’s irresponsible coverage of cannabis throughout the last eight decades.”

The Cannabist was founded in 2013 by Baca as Colorado launched the country’s first adult-use cannabis market. As The Post’s first-ever Marijuana Editor, Mr. Baca and his team built the site from scratch and developed a robust national readership that appreciated the site’s journalism-first approach to covering the newly legal cannabis industry. It even spawned a feature-length documentary called Rolling Papers—a film “more about marijuana journalism than the big picture, and as such it’s a worthwhile endeavor,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper in his three-star reviewdocumented both The Cannabist’s debut and the 2014 world premiere of state-regulated legal marijuana sales.

“These layoffs are putting The Cannabist on life support and destroying The Post’s ability to comprehensively cover Colorado, and it is entirely to blame on Alden Global Capital, the black-hearted hedge fund that owns Digital First Media and 100 American newspapers, including The Post. These vulture capitalists are literally hated throughout Denver, and while everyone from Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock stands in support of The Post, we need to continue to let Alden Global Capital know that they are not welcome in Colorado, and they need to sell The Denver Post to a more responsible owner who will finally curb this undemocratic bloodletting.”

Journalism Jobs In Decline Overall

Of course, this story is being played out across the country and isn’t unique to Denver. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts is projected to decline 9 percent from 2016 to 2026. Employment of reporters and correspondents is projected to decline 10 percent, while employment of broadcast news analysts is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026.

The BLS wrote that declining advertising revenue in radio, newspapers, and television would negatively affect the employment growth for these occupations. Some organizations will likely continue to use new forms of advertising or offer paid subscriptions, but these innovations may not make up for lost print ad revenues.

The BLS also forecast that declining revenue would force news organizations to downsize and employ fewer journalists. It suggested that increasing demand for online news may offset some of that downsizing. However, because online and mobile ad revenue is typically less than print revenue, the growth in digital advertising may not offset the decline in print advertising, circulation, and readership.

The Beginning Of The End

According to Baca’s new company Grasslands, after Baca resigned from The Post in December 2016, the newspaper started making cuts to the vertical’s staff, cutting the General Manager advertising position and reassigning the remaining two Cannabist-focused sales staff in early 2017. This past December, The Cannabist’s editorial staff was cut from four to three during a separate newsroom-wide staff reduction.

Grasslands also stated that in April 2018, after the newspaper’s editor told newsroom staff that it would be laying off one-third of its editorial employees, two Cannabist staffers announced they were leaving for other opportunities; later that month, Cannabist editor-in-chief Alex Pasquariello was told the paper was cutting editorial staffing to the site and that his position no longer existed.

Debra Borchardt

Debra BorchardtDebra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor-In-Chief of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Masters degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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