Both Times and P-I readers learned this morning about the sad case of Tim Garon, who died of liver failure a week after being denied a transplant for the third time because of his use of medical marijuana. The dead-tree editions of both papers placed the story front page, top-left, a testament to the newsworthiness of Garon’s death, and the issues it raises.
But loyal HA readers have been following this story for weeks, thanks to Lee’s thoughtful and engaging coverage. We first learned of Garon’s plight back on April 22, and it was Lee who broke the news of his death on Thursday. But I don’t bring up the timeliness of Lee’s posts in order to tout a scoop, but rather as an illustration of the relevancy and legitimacy of the brand of advocacy journalism both Lee and I practice.
While I share Lee’s general perspective on the utter failure of our “War on Drugs” and its negative impact both at home and abroad, I don’t share his passion for the topic, and I didn’t grant him posting privileges in order to transform HA into one of our state’s most vocal advocates for legalization. But my, um, libertarian approach to the editorial choices of Lee and his fellow co-bloggers has paid off in spades, producing a long series of posts on our drug laws that have generated a coherent and accessible conversation that rivals anything I have read on the subject in the popular press.
This is not intended as a knock against the coverage in today’s Times and P-I, except to point out that if the newsrooms at our two dailies had permitted themselves to indulge in a little bit of advocacy — an exercise most “serious” reporters look down on as a journalistic vice — they might have championed Garon’s cause before his death rather than after, thus potentially changing the outcome, or at the very least allowing Garon to die knowing that the publicity surrounding his case might ultimately help to save the lives of others.
I’m not arguing that our dailies should have championed Garon’s cause, just that they could have, and that Lee’s urgent and unabashed advocacy was at least as legitimate a journalistic approach to this story as the after-the-fact reporting in today’s Times and P-I. My friends in the legacy media misread me if they think that I believe for a moment that the blogging paradigm is inherently more credible than that which guides their efforts, but I insist that if pursued professionally and honestly blogging can be just as credible, because we wear our bias on our sleeves, not in spite of it. Moreover, while our efforts can be hit or miss, it is our freedom to advocate that often makes the blogosphere more relevant and timely than the daily fare we tend to get from our corporate media.
Which I guess is just a long-winded way of saying, “Thanks Lee, for a job well done.”