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Just as Canada made a sweeping decision to fully legalize marijuana, former Mexican President Vicente Fox made headlines of his own after joining the board of “High Times”, a publication that has carried the crusade for cannabis legalization since its inception. In an interview with the Associated Press, Fox argues in favor of extending legalization not just to marijuana but to all so-called street drugs. Fox cites as a reason for his position the brutality associated with the illegal drug trades. Government cannot successfully regulate people’s behavior, he argues, and so individuals ought to be free to do what they wish without fear of criminal repercussion.

Fox’s support of drug legalization is no longer the minority opinion it once was among national leaders. In the U.S., eight states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Maine and Vermont — have legalized recreational marijuana. Lawmakers are increasingly supportive of marijuana legalization not just as a means to relieve prison overcrowding but as another source of jobs, tax and investment revenue. When it comes to an across-the-board legalization at the federal level, however, a wait-and-see approach ought to be embraced. Why? Because early evidence in the wake of successful State-based decriminalization initiatives reveal problems policymakers have yet to resolve.

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Journalism is in the midst of a slow-motion crisis.

When I was in journalism school, students learned how to write using the “inverted pyramid” approach. The inverted pyramid is a style of writing that dates back to the days when paper real estate — in a print newspaper — was limited. Editors who wished to make room for breaking stories needed the option to lop the bottom of the story off with minimal risk of omitting critical details. The inverted pyramid calls for the most vital aspects of a story to appear at the top. This allows editors more flexibility while recognizing the fact that not all readers make the page jump to continue reading an article that concludes elsewhere. As a result, it was important then — as it is now — to lead with the most relevant details. A properly crafted story lede (introduction) encapsulates the basics: Who?, What?, When?, Where? and Why?.

In the Digital Era print real estate isn’t the limiting factor it once was. But there are indications the digital medium has shortened readers’ attention spans. It is of vital importance, as a result, to impart key facts “up top” — if only because web viewers are likely to skim content and move on.

Something, however, has changed in the way a lot of news organizations craft and promote stories. Call it sloppiness — lax editing — or journalistic “spin”. Some of the most controversial stories to appear in mainstream media are prefaced by misleading headlines on social media — titles that don’t square with a complete read of the content. Misleading headlines on social media posts are far from the only problem, however. Take, as an example, two contradictory narratives: Person/institution “X” and person/institution “Y” disagree over who did what or why. What should a responsible journalist do with this unwieldy story line? The answer is to disclose the ambiguity very early on  — to make clear to readers that a situation is in flux and/or that key aspects of the story are in dispute.

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Violence is inevitably senseless, as it was again on Wednesday when a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, went on a shooting spree that took 17 lives and injured dozens.

Senseless though it is, scarcely a month passes without news of yet another mass shooting — defined as four or more gunshot victims in a single incident. The question: How do we prevent gun violence? The obvious answer: Restrict access to guns. Indeed, there is truth to the argument that the ease with which guns can be obtained in the United States contributes to the ease with which they are available for use in crime.

While gun-control measures are often touted as a solution, such measures are far from foolproof. Take the case of Devin Patrick Kelley, who despite a discharge from active-duty military service in the wake of domestic violence charges, managed to pass a background check that allowed him to lawfully purchase the firearms he used in the Texas church shootings in 2017. On the flip side, some — the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, among them — have no criminal record by which to prevent the legal purchase of firearms. Others are not mentally fit to own firearms and yet manage to pass background checks — as describes Jared Lee Loughner who, in spite of mental health problems that resulted in suspension from a community college, legally purchased the weapon with which he shot Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona politician. Restricting access to firearms through more stringent gun-control measures also falls short when the weapons used in a shooting are unlawfully obtained.

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