A longtime online journalist at NBC News is leaving the staid world of mainstream reporting for a new assignment: writing about weed.
“I’ve been a journalist for as long as I’ve been a marijuana advocate,” said senior editor Al Olson. “My first byline was at the age of 14, the same age I smoked my first joint.”
Olson announced in mid August that he would move from NBC to Marijuana.com, a journalism website dedicated to news about cannabis. He took the job of managing editor at the site Aug. 18.
There, he will head up the site’s growing coverage of news related to pot and will build a new team of reporters.
“For the last three and a half years I’ve taken this deep dive into this marijuana industry and movement and just what is happening to this country,” Olson told The Huffington Post. “I think this is a real interesting time for America.”
Olson said he’s used recreational pot for more than four decades. And he’s a medical marijuana patient in Washington State. He said the drug has helped family and friends with a variety of conditions.
The makers of WeedMaps, the popular app that allows users to find nearby dispensaries, own Marijuana.com. The site is based in Irvine, Cal., but Olson will start his new job by covering the recreational market in Washington.
Olson said he expects to travel widely to cover cannabis, with frequent stops in Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, and other places where some form of weed is legal.
“Basically, I’ll be going wherever the marijuana story takes me,” he said.
Olson has a long history in journalism, from traditional print to the Web. He started his professional career as a newspaper reporter in California in the 1970s and left print for online reporting in 1995.
He was one of the founding editors at MSNBC.com when that site first went up in 1996. For the next 20 years, he held various online jobs at NBC, including NBC.com, CNBC.com, and Today.com.
The move to marijuana represents a major change of venue. News about cannabis isn’t always “straight,” so Olson will have to wear a new editorial hat. But his history as a weed smoker should help.
“We’re going to shake things up a little bit, have some fun,” he said. “We’re going to tell stories in a new and exciting way and not in the mainstream way. It kind of angered me, frankly, to see how mainstream media is covering this issue. There has been a real lack of understanding of what was happening here. I’m very excited to do this.”