KUSA Holds Back Some News Details For Safety's Sake

The RTDNA has an interesting story about KUSA Denver breaking some news about legal growers of medical marijuana in the market. The station obtained a list of all legal pot growers in the Denver area, but chose not to offer viewers an interactive map down to the street level out of concern that giving up too much information about the houses’ whereabouts might spark crime.

Instead, KUSA showing a Google map of the greater metro area, and highlighted the general neighborhoods where the medicinal marijuana is grown.

The KUSA reporters get one (legal) grower guy to let them in his house in a well-to-do neighborhood, a block from an elementary school.  He’s got an outrageous setup–think, Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory, only for pot–and brags about one of his plants appearing in the centerfold of High Times. Despite it being a legal operation, the guy talks about how important it is to stay under the radar and not have his neighbors suss out what he’s doing; it’s kind of odd that he chats on screen about his little pastime.

KUSA VP of News Patti Dennis speaks with Al Tompkins from the Poynter Institute about why the station opted to offer less detail instead of more.

What were your main concerns about publishing the location of the grow houses?

Because these homes are in residential neighborhoods and legal according to State drug investigators who have visited each home, we decided to publish the neighborhoods rather than specific addresses. Robbery and arson have been reported in homes that grow a large amount of pot. We felt our purpose was to show how widespread the suburban pot growing business really is. We used a map with animation to show the many, many neighborhoods with pot growing operations.

Do you see any downside to just giving general locations, nothing specific?

Because the new Colorado State law allows people to grow if they register with the State and have a Caregiver’s license, we thought publishing the specifics was not really fair. We are just beginning the process of investigating zoning laws and HOA’s that might prohibit the sale of suburban medical marijuana. Because the grower is not selling to the general public but only to dispensaries and those with prescriptions, the zoning laws may or may not be in play. That was not the focus of the first story.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.