Cannabis Journalism Course Offered at UC Berkeley This Summer
An insight into a new but thriving industry in marijuana.
Published on May 17, 2016

With the cannabis industry expected to thrive in states across the U.S., California is the next up to offer college courses to help those looking to get into the industry. UC Berkeley will be offering a summer journalism course that will include a special focus allowing writers to learn the rigors of reporting on the newly budding legal cannabis industry. 

The course is taught by Katya Cengel which will include a breakout on cannabis journalism by David Downs, a journalist currently working with the likes of Culture Magazine, Wired, SFGate and contributing author of Beyond Buds.

Cengel will help aspiring journalists to develop sources, conduct interviews, write quickly, revise and edit along with an introduction to multimedia and blogging. Downs will guide those with his experience working in the industry and offer insight into unfamiliar territory of covering cannabis through media and going in-depth into writing non-fiction books.

Downs started covering the cannabis industry with the East Bay Express in 2009 with a column called Legalization Nation and as co-founder of the Marijuana Business Report in 2010. Shortly after Downs became editor of Smell the Truth at SFGate it became one of the first major newspapers next to Denver’s The Cannabist to solely cover the thriving cannabis industry.

Downs stated that back in 2009 when he started the Legalization Nation column that there was minimal coverage on the cannabis industry. Then in 2012 Denver’s biggest newspaper started The Cannabist and coverage from media channels such as VICE through their Weediequette show gave new light to covering cannabis.

“Editors at other brands such as Wired started to take this seriously because the legitimacy of legalization. In 2014 Oregon and Alaska accelerated that trend and we see box media, buzz beats and entire media switching to covering the cannabis industry,” Downs told MERRY JANE.

UC Berkeley is following the same path as University of Denver who last year started an interim course on cannabis journalism being the first University in the U.S. offering such courses. These courses will help students investigate the scope of marijuana legalization movement and its many political and practical intricacies.

“Students will visit and interview dispensaries, industry professionals and private citizens to produce a portfolio piece of narrative journalism using the modes and methods of their choice, with direction of the instructor,” according to the University of Denver website.

While institutions are slower to evolve than publications according to Downs, the need for more professionals in the industry is evident and that there is more beyond editorial journalism such as confident cannabis communications and that every dispensary needs copy writers and much more.

“Now we’re seeing higher educations begin to back programs around this trending topic. Last year the University of Denver offered courses with the professors active there while I continue to do stuff with Katya at UC Berkeley,” said Downs.

With the rise of cannabis legalization across the U.S., the need for journalists who understand the cannabis industry will be expanding. If you’re looking to get into the industry this course is offered for Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Writing, or Specialized Program in Professional Writing all from the comfort of your home.

Michael Geslani
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