Writer's disclosure: I used to buy pot from my story subject

Baltimore City Paper

Van Smith's story about Reptilian Records owner Christopher Neu pleading guilty to drug charges includes this passage in the 14th paragraph:

“I sold weed for years,” Neu says - something that this writer, as a patron of Reptilian Records and acquaintance of Chris X’s, had known, having purchased small quantities of marijuana at the store more than 10 years ago while working as a freelance journalist and bartender.

Romenesko asked Smith about bringing up his pot days. His response:

Journalistic reasons. Had to. No other options, given deadline, foreclosing possibility of someone else writing the piece instead, which would've been preferable. My long-ago interactions with the subject only dawned on me after I'd interviewed him and was writing up the part in which he poured out his guts and said he'd dealt weed for years. After giving it some thought, including trying to rationalize NOT disclosing, I realized there simply was no other way to deal with the situation. Disclosure was the only thing to do, and let the chips fall where they may - including, I suppose, a Romenesko mention. Believe me, I'm not as Gonzo as this may make me seem.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his MediaGossip.com, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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