Ex-NY Times Editor: Screening for Pot Now Hard to Defend

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 08:31 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller says company policy to screen new employees for marijuana use is "increasingly difficult to defend" in light of the newspaper's call for legalizing pot.

In a portion of a Reddit online conversation Tuesday, Keller wrote that the Times' pot policy "proves that reports of the death of irony are much exaggerated" in a response to a query from Tom Angell, chairman of the reform group Marijuana Majority.

"Would you consider signing the petition asking them to match their great new editorial position on the need to stop government discrimination against people who use marijuana with a better internal HR policy that doesn't discriminate against people who use marijuana?" Angell asked.

To which Keller replied:

"I make a policy of not second-guessing my former colleagues in public, but I agree (and expect a lot of people at the NYT do, too) that the inconsistency is increasingly difficult to defend."

Later in the online talk, Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor at The Times, weighed in, saying drug testing "is a matter of corporate policy, and I don't make corporate policy, and neither does anyone else in the editorial department."

"I was asked about this the other day . . . and I said that if they asked me, I would say we should stop testing for marijuana use, but that I'm not all that sure I will be asked," he wrote.

Angell then observed, "The publisher makes corporate policy, and you've said he agrees with the editorial position on legalizing marijuana."

"What do you think explains the gap in how he wants the government to treat people who use marijuana and the way his company treats people who use marijuana?" Angell asked, prompting Keller to comment to Rosenthal:

"Yeah, Andy. Good question."

Even rapper Snoop Dog, signing into the Reddit conversation as "Here Comes the King," asked what was wrong with using marijuana, calling a first-morning joint "a lil wake n bake."

Rosenthall answered: "absolutely nothing wrong with it."

The Times is one of several media companies that require new hires to take a drug test, Gawker reports, including Newsday; Gannett, publisher of USA Today; the New York Daily News; and The Washington Post.

"I've been a subscriber to the print edition for nearly a decade, and I could not care less if the journalists who wrote the articles in the newspaper on my doorstep every morning happened to use marijuana on their own time," Angell told the Huffington Post
on Wednesday.

"With people like Snoop Dogg and the Times' own former executive editor asking for an explanation, it's going to be very hard for publisher Arthur Sulzberger and his executives to keep ignoring this," Angell said.

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