Is it OK for a reporter to smoke pot to get a source to trust him?

Washington Post
Gene Weingarten says this is based on a true story:

A Washington Post reporter is sent to a small Midwestern city to profile an ordinary man involved in an issue of national importance. By the second day, the writer feels he isn’t trusted by the source — the two have dramatically different backgrounds, with different levels of education and sophistication — and that his piece is shaping up as a B-minus story at best. On day three, the story subject offers marijuana to the writer, who knows it’s against the Post’s policy to do anything illegal on assignment. He believes, though, that taking the pipe might well finally persuade his subject that he’s someone to be trusted.

What should the reporter do? asks Weingarten. (At last look, more than 73 percent of his poll-takers said, “Yes, he can take the pipe.”)

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  • Anonymous

    Explain to the source that you get urine-tested. That breaks the ice even better, as a pot smoker will no doubt have experience in that regard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PeterAmesCarlin Peter Carlin

    That hardly ranks as a moral/ethical puzzler, in my view, because smoking pot is not only a victimless crime, but not even close to being worthy of its classification as a criminal act. What if the source had wanted him to do tequila shots with him? Anyone going to question the ethics of that? Probably not, b/c alcohol is totally legal, despite its voluminously recorded connections to ill health, destructive behavior and death. Oh, what a quirky society we are.

    And yet I would also like to reiterate the previous poster’s assertion that the reporter, with all of his educational and social sophistication, makes himself sound like the sort of blowhard who compels other people to really, really want to get loaded when in his presence. I’m sure he’s way cooler than that, but that’s how he comes off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loualexander Lou Alexander

    One thing the reporter could do is be less of a snob, needlessly aware that he and his source have “different levels of education and sophistication.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Wait, what was the question?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Loosen up, Sue. Smoke a J and inhale.

  • http://twitter.com/Devon2012 Devon Edwards

    The reporter probably smokes weed already. The real question is “is it okay to light up with a source?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/charley.stough Charles Stough

    As if no reporters smoke pot already? Or publishers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=691664022 Sue MacDonald

    A non-issue, in this ex-reporter’s opinion. Part of a reporter’s skill is being able to talk to anybody about anything at any time. If you can’t, maybe you’re in the wrong profession, and lighting a doobie won’t solve that. Maybe if everyone who calls himself/herself a reporter these days paid more attention to the basics (asking open-ended questions, learning and using basic communication skills, asking hard questions (and the one everyone seems to have forgotten in the 10 years since I bailed out of newspapers – asking hard FOLLOW-up questions)), then maybe some reporter somewhere wouldn’t feel uncomfortable talk to, you know, an “unsophisticated person.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicmart Nicolas Martin

    I’d trust a reporter who smoked pot socially long before I’d trust one who socialized with cops.

  • Anonymous

    Note to Post: Perhaps this problem can be avoided if you hire fewer people from obviously privileged backgrounds and try, I don’t know, hiring a smart working class reporter who’s comfortable amongst people of various backgrounds (who are also comfortable with him or her). I believe this would be more along the lines of the Bernsteins, not the Woodwards. You used to do this back in the 1960s. But now anyone who works at the Post needs a post-graduate degree from Georgetown or something, or to be wealthy enough to afford to work an unpaid internship. (Both generally beyond the means of normal people.)

  • Anonymous

    Note to Post: Perhaps this problem can be avoided if you hire fewer people from obviously privileged backgrounds and try, I don’t know, hiring a smart working class reporter who’s comfortable amongst people of various backgrounds (who are also comfortable with him or her). I believe this would be more along the lines of the Bernsteins, not the Woodwards. You used to do this back in the 1960s. But now anyone who works at the Post needs a post-graduate degree from Georgetown or something, or to be wealthy enough to afford to work an unpaid internship. (Both generally beyond the means of normal people.)

  • Anonymous

    I would think the reporter could come up with a better excuse for getting high than that.