New marijuana verticals are new opportunities to center the underserved


New marijuana verticals are new opportunities to center the underserved

The following is a republished edition of GroundSourced, a weekly newsletter from GroundSource on listening and community engagement. It features successful community engagement efforts, highlights missed opportunities for listening, and offers strategies that help you engage and listen to your community. You can subscribe to GroundSourced here.

This week, committees in my state legislature advanced a recreational marijuana bill. It is expected to pass and be signed by the governor, adding New Jersey to a list that includes one fifth of states in the US.

Unfortunately, few of those laws have been very proactive in tackling the injustice spurred by marijuana prohibition. That includes the over-policing and mass imprisonment of communities of color as well as the suffering of people from chronic pain or opioid addiction. And, unfortunately, some news organizations are following suit.

Across the US and Canada, news organizations are launching marijuana verticals to cover this “new, legitimate industry.” Focused on macroeconomics trends with $999 subscriptions and behind hard paywalls, they are ignoring the cannabis communities that have been there all along, suffering imprisonment, violence, and addiction under prohibition of a drug less dangerous than alcohol.

That doesn’t mean that news organizations shouldn’t launch verticals that provide news and information to emerging businesses and markets. It just means that — as always — news organizations need to be conscious of who they have systemically ignored and move to center their reporting around those communities when the opportunity arises.

That’s why we’re sharing two examples of how news organizations are centering the underserved in their work this week. And if you have any questions for us or things you’d like to see in GroundSourced, please let us know.

Photo by  Kyle Glenn

Broke in Philly

Broke in Philly is a Philadelphia-based collaboration of 19 local news organizations reporting on the issues of poverty and economic justice.

Reporting on gentrification often centers real estate developers and local politicians, leading to reporting that is reactive and not emblematic of the conversation folks on the ground are having. That’s why Broke in Philly is a solutions-oriented collaboration that focuses on what’s working in economic justice movements to tackle poverty and empower underserved Philadelphians.

Organizations in the collaboration still cover Philadelphia’s real estate market. It’s just that now, they’re reporting is more balanced, centering the communities that journalism has traditionally underserved.

Check out Broke in Philly here.

Making Strangers Less Strange

One underserved segment of many communities are people who don’t default to division. These are folks that are looking to connect with people who are different from them in order to understand others, not just disagree with them. This research from The Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin explores how news organizations are serving them.

The report highlights several things news organizations are doing well. That includes creating “contexts that allow for positive interactions” and analyzing the effects of their work.

Doing more to normalize divergent opinions and being more creative with mediation are among the suggestions for improvement.

Read the more from Making Strangers Less Strange here.

GroundSource is here to help you center underserved communities.