Following recent contract negotiations, the Seattle Times removed marijuana from the list of drugs prohibited under its substance-abuse policy. Congrats to the newspaper bosses and Communications Workers of America Local 37082 for bringing Washington's biggest paper up to speed with state law.
Bringing down the green barrier was long overdue. Consider: When the Seattle Times' editorial board drooled over the "pot of money" that legal weed would bring to Washington, the paper still screened its employees to make sure they weren't smoking it. The next year, when the Seattle Times assigned Jonathan Martin as the paper's first marijuana reporter, he was ostensibly liable for marijuana testing. (A Seattle Times spokesperson said, "As a privately held company, we don't have a practice of making our internal policies and procedures public.")
Now that publisher Frank Blethen's flagship paper has abandoned this 1990s mentality, the paper might as well take the full leap and end drug testing, period. Urinating into a cup to prove one's suitability for employment is both demeaning and unnecessary.
Employees of the Seattle Weekly and local news site Crosscut do their jobs without fear of having to submit urine samples. Sarah Rupp, executive producer of SeattlePI.com, said the website also does not do drug testing. But it used to. Over e-mail, columnist and reporter Joel Connelly shared fond memories of the delicate procedure he underwent in 2009 to prove he had not recently consumed illicit substances—presumably showing his fitness to criticize The Stranger's starry-eyed millennial news team.
"I had to piss in a bottle," Connelly said. "At my age, it was flattering. The testing lab was just off Aurora, and right around the corner from legendary Beth's Cafe, the city's premier late-night destination for those with the munchies. I told a joke about proximity to the testing guy. He did not laugh."
When asked whether someone observed him during the test, Connelly said, "The door was guarded, but nobody saw my unit."
Stranger publisher Tim Keck repeated his stance that he never adopted drug testing for fear of fostering "a competitive environment" in the newsroom.
As long as he's being a huge hippie, Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen could also consider rethinking the policy prohibiting employees from bringing alcoholic beverages into the newsroom. Specifically, the Times' rule book states that "maintaining a drug and alcohol-free work place is essential" to the objective of providing "a safe, healthful, and productive work environment."
While this prohibition is less patronizing than drug tests, give your reporters a break, man. They're some of the best out there, raking in prizes and rarely missing a beat. Meanwhile, the president of the United States spends his time attempting to delegitimize the press, and all of us continue to feel the slow and painful death of our industry. It's enough to make any journalist seek the comfort of a stiff drink.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified Bob Young as the Seattle Times' first marijuana reporter. In fact, Jonathan Martin first held the position.