A Chronic Problem: SF Chronicle Disses Humboldt's Concerns
North Country residents have complained for years that one of their most trusted news sources fails to report correctly and in-depth on North Coast concerns. This Monday’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle on The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo was another example of the problem.
The piece described a “panel discussion Saturday on how legalization would impact large California growers. A contingent from Humboldt County argued against the ballot initiative, complaining it could devastate a key local industry.” Horrified local marijuana producers and friends turned to each other asking who could have pitted grower against smoker at such a public forum.
While some cannabis providers are hoping this fall’s Tax Cannabis fails, the vast majority of those speaking out appear to be for legalization. In fact, Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML–a group striving to change the current laws, has been a participant in the newly formed HuMMAP (Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel), an umbrella organization of business owners and farmers associated with the production of cannabis.
According HuMMAP Chairwoman Syreeta Lux, “The majority of our farmers in Humboldt are small Mom and Pop growers unlike in urban areas where commercialism is going big–where a small industry has become totally commercial. Many of these small growers are smokers, too, they sympathize with their buyers.”
When reached for comment, Justin Berton, the writer explained:
… it’s now clear to me that for the sake of reader’s clarity, it could have been attributed differently.
… A few folks said they’d attended Saturday’s panels and said they were surprised to hear from people who, describing themselves from Humboldt, weren’t sold on the idea of legalization. They felt legalization could drive prices down and devastate their industry.
Since I wasn’t there, nor did I meet anyone Sunday who held that particular view, I interviewed Russ Bellville, a NORML worker who was covering the event as well. I asked about this Humboldt County grower contingent who objected to legalization I’d heard about. He dove right in with his answer, which is reflected in my article. …
…In hindsight, I easily could have attributed the paragraph to my sources…But after hearing it enough times from people, … I thought it was unnecessary to attribute as I wrote it.
I certainly didn’t write that “growers spoke on a panel” as you suggest because I wasn’t under the impression they were on a panel. I agree with you many growers are pro-legalization; from my experience some are also challenging the initiative, and some of those shared their opinion at The Expo.
I appreciate Berton’s response. On the other hand, in spite of his assertion to the contrary, all the readers we spoke to here felt that the article was saying that the “contingent” was on the panel not in the audience (In addition, I understand that others attending the discussion did not hear any Humboldt grower or growers arguing against legalization publicly.) Ellen Komp asked the Chronicle to print an explanation. To quote her email, “It’s a complicated picture here in Humboldt made more-so by a media quick to jump on their perception of a fresh and fantastic wrinkle in the debate. If you want to get the full story, let me know. Meanwhile, I hope to see your paper fix this misreport with a correction.”
The Chronicles’ Metro Editor, Audrey Cooper stated firmly in response, ” We will not be correcting this story nor printing a retraction.”
Sadly, once again the Chronicle fails to represent fairly to its readers the attitudes and values of those who live here on the North Coast.
Note: Lux explains the HuMMAP site is not up as of April 23 but should be soon.