A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Odds & Ends

By Quill

Pot columnist charged with growing it

Ed Rosenthal, who has authored how-to books and columns on growing marijuana and not getting caught, has gotten caught. He went on trial Jan. 21 on federal charges of cultivating pot illegally.

The case is another clash between state and local authorities and the federal government about using marijuana for medical purposes. The former columnist for the pro-marijuana magazine High Times said he grew pot for the sick, which is legal under California law. It is still against federal law, however.

Agents seized approximately 3,000 plants in a warehouse Rosenthal had in Oakland, according to what prosecutor George Bevan told the jury. If convicted, Rosenthal, 58, could be given a life sentence.

California, in addition to seven other states, allow the sick to receive, possess, grow or smoke marijuana without fear of being prosecuted by the state – if it is used for medical purposes. The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court, almost two years ago, ruled that medical marijuana clubs were in violation of federal drug laws when they dispensed pot. The government has used that ruling to justify raids on marijuana clubs and growing operations in California, despite objections from marijuana advocates, local prosecutors and politicians.

CNHI to buy two TV stations

Birmingham, Ala.-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., bought approximately 100 small dailies during the late 1990s. After a short break, the company is buying again – but this time, it’s looking for TV stations.

CNHI will purchase WFXG-TV in Augusta and WXTX-TV in Columbus, both Fox stations, from Fisher Communications Inc., a Seattle-based company. The purchases come from a Fisher asset sale. A subsidiary of CNHI will pay $40 million, in addition to working capital, according to a Fisher announcement. The deal is subject to FCC approval.

“This is our first foray into television, but it will not be the last,” CNHI CEO Mike Reed told The Augusta Chronicle.

Ralph Martin, the previous CEO and architect of CNHI, began buying options for stakes in radio stations while the company was still only a newspaper owner. A believer in cross-media ownership, Martin left in November 1999 over disagreements with Retirement Systems of Alabama, the company’s backer.

FCC’s Copps will hold media hearings

Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell has made it clear that Democratic commissioner Michael Copps cannot schedule official FCC public hearings on media concentration rules.

Copps, without consulting Powell, a Republican, announced that he had scheduled two commission hearings – one in Seattle at the University of Washington in early March and another at Duke University in Durham, N.C., at the end of February.

A corrected press release was issued by the Powell camp, stating that the public meetings by Copps are “field” hearings, and not FCC events.

Powell originally said that no public hearings would be necessary, and he has seemed frustrated over outcry about the agency’s unprecedented review of multiple regulations dealing with media ownership. Copps, the most outspoken member of the five-member panel, has made it clear that he is leery of loosening media-ownership rules. If such rules are loosened, mega-media companies like News Corp. and Viacom Inc. will be able to tighten their hold on multiple media outlets within any given area.

A public forum at Columbia University in New York and another hearing at USC’s Center for Communication & Law have been organized with the help of Copps. Powell did not plan to attend either event, citing scheduling difficulties. He did, however, plan to host the only official FCC hearing on ownership regulations in Richmond, Va., in late February.

U.S. policy on Iraq gains support among papers

Secretary of State Colin Powell presented his speech before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, and just a day later daily newspapers in America shifted their editorial stances dramatically.

A survey by Editor & Publisher found that many dailies now support the Bush administration’s hard-line belief that a preemptive war with Iraq is necessary. Those results greatly contradict the results of previous E&P surveys from January, which found that many dailies – especially among the nation’s largest papers – strongly opposed plans for a quick, preemptive war.

The number of dailies that support using force has grown more in one day than in an entire month. Just after a report to the United Nations by weapons inspector Hans Blix – and the State of the Union address – more than two-thirds of editorial pages in the U.S. insisted that more detailed evidence and diplomatic efforts be made instead of using force.

But a survey of 40 of the top 50 newspapers by circulation found that support shifted toward the administration’s Iraq policy.

News rustler hits Durango, Colo.

Who’s stealing the vending boxes from Colorado’s Durango Herald? Police believe one man is responsible for the thefts that have afflicted the 9,588-daily-circulation Herald.

As Circulation Manager Gretta Becay tells the story of the disappearing racks, particular characteristics of the bandit begin to emerge. First: He’s busy. The rack rustler is suspected in the disappearance of eight of them since November. Second: He’s strong.

“We’ve got the guy on videotape – unfortunately, it’s just his back – grabbing one that was just filled with Sunday papers,” Becay said. “He just picks this thing up and carries it off.”

And third: He’s going to a lot of trouble for a very little payoff. “Instead of just cutting the lock with a bolt cutter, he’s got a cutting torch and cuts out the whole [change box].” And after he’s destroyed the Kaspar Sho-Racks, which go for about $500 apiece, how much does he pocket from the change box? “Oh, maybe $7,” Becay said.

Most frustrating about the crimes is that, in all but two cases, the racks just vanish. “That’s what I want to know,” Becay asked. “Where are the racks?”

Kmart launches newspaper supplement

Kmart Corp., riddled by bankruptcy problems, has launched a monthly newspaper supplement targeting urban minorities.

The supplement, which began going out Feb. 2, is known as Urban Direct, and began with 1 million copies in publications of black interest in nine top markets. The publication wraps around Kmart’s weekly inserts, and it may be expanded to general-interest newspapers.

The insert included entertainment and lifestyle news, and it is surrounded by ads announcing in-store promotions. The magazine is similar to La Vida magazine, another Kmart advertising section that targets Hispanics. La Vida is six months old.

Charges filed after man confesses in ad

Criminal charges have been filed against a man who confessed his guilt in a full-page newspaper advertisement.

The ad, in the Jan. 26 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, included a confession by Regino Salinas that he drove through a red light while on his cell phone, colliding with another vehicle on Jan. 11 and killing two people.

“I allowed myself to be distracted and I didn’t give my driving all the attention it deserved,” he wrote, adding that other drivers should be careful not to make his mistake.

A man and his 68-year-old father died in crash, and the man’s mother escaped with injuries. The case was rejected by the Nueces County district attorney’s office due to a lack of evidence, but prosecutor Carlos Valdez said the ad has revived it.

“My jaw just dropped when I was reading the Sunday paper and saw this … which amounted to basically a confession,” Valdez said.

Salinas was indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 6 with two counts of criminally negligent homicide. He faces up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He attorney, Lamar Clemons, said the indictment is a “travesty.”

According to Clemons, the ad was required by an out-of-court settlement with the victims’ family, Salinas and L.O. construction, his employer. Clemons added that no new information was revealed by the ad, and that investigators knew Salinas was on his cell phone at the time of the accident.

Treasury budget would close gun databases

Included in the final $397.4 billion Department of the Treasury budget is a provision that would prohibit gun ownership date disclosure, which is held by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The data shows who the owners were of weapons used in crimes.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has ordered that that information be disclosed to the city, which has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the government. City officials say they asked for the information to track gun sales used in crimes.

The federal government has insisted that releasing the information will interfere with investigations and will “intrude upon the privacy” of gun sellers and owners.

A friend-of-the-court brief has been filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists. The groups have said that the information, in the past, has been used by journalists to follow the path illegal guns take to end up in the possession of criminals, and access to the records is in the public’s interest.

Reuters announces record loss, job cuts

Reuters Group Plc, the largest provider of news and financial information in the work, reported a record loss in February and will cut an additional 3,000 jobs. The cuts come as part of a three-year strategy to increase its holdings.

The company focuses on providing news, data and trading facilities for banks, brokerages and fund managers. Its shares have fallen to a 14-year low after Reuters the reported loss, which included a forecast that said revenues will see an accelerated slide during the coming year.

The company had a net loss of $631 million, the biggest in its 151-year history. Investors were most upset by the company’s gloomy outlook. After media analysts cut revenue and profit estimates, due to a larger than expected drop in 2003 core revenues, bonds also fell.