Pete on Drug WarRant mentioned something the other day that I, too, keep running up against as I follow reporting on drug issues: the tendency of reporters to turn every piece about medical marijuana into a joke. It’s as if the American public were all 14 years old and incapable of having a coherent discussion about drug policy. It’s as if medical marijuana were an obscure fringe issue instead of something supported by Americans by a 3-to-1 margin. And of course I have my own beefs about another type of drug story, the type that is little more than a paint-by-numbers attempt to generate drug-related hysteria, with zero context or empirical support.
Today I opened up a particularly inane column on medical marijuana by a writer named Dan Calabrese and began wading through the swamp of cliches: the faux-surfer speak, the use of the word “buzzkill,” the references to munchies, and so forth. It was the same sophomoric drivel that every third rate scribbler from Bangor to Barstow uses when they’re trying to cobble together a really “clever” take on this issue. Reading the wretched piece of work made me wonder just how many ways a journalist could be possibly be a hack, a nitwit and a stooge for the government all in a single article.
So, I’ve decided to find out.
Starting today, I’m taking an informal survey of drug reporting, which will culminate in a few months in the Crappy Hackington Awards for Meritorious Service of the Status Quo, the award that will go to the journalist who does the best job of feeding the public absolutely nothing but tired cliches, fact-free assertions, ONDCP talking points and generalized paranoia.
Scoring will be as follows:
- 1 point for every gratuitous reference to a marijuana cliche.
- 3 points for every egregious example of tabloid-style hyperbole.
- 5 points for every discussion of a drug phenomenon that is said to affect “more and more” people or “increasing numbers” of people, with no attempt to quantify the claim.
- 5 points for every pro-criminalization legislator or law enforcement official quoted if no other perspective is provided to suggest there might be another side to the issue.
- 1 point for every discussion of drug-related violence that ignores the role of drug law in creating such violence.
We’ll see how it shakes out. Any submissions of particularly awful articles are welcome, as are suggestions for changes to the rules or scoring. The name “Crappy Hackington,” by the way, is a creation of Sandra Tsing Loh and the late LA writer Cathy Seipp. The name serves, as Seipp explained in this article, “as a kind of shorthand reference for our regular gripefests about rancid local journalism.” So if the shoe fits….
For the record, Dan Calabrese scored 10 points for marijuana cliches in that one article alone. Crappy Hackingtons of the world, you better hurry if you want to catch up.