By MARK THIESSEN
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A television reporter quit her job on live TV with a big four-letter flourish after revealing she owns a medical marijuana business and intends to press for legalization of recreational pot in Alaska.
After reporting on the Alaska Cannabis Club on Sunday night’s broadcast, KTVA’s Charlo Greene identified herself as the business’s owner.
“Everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all my energy toward fighting for freedom and for fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said during the late Sunday evening newscast. “And as for this job, well not that I have a choice, but f— it, I quit.”
She then walked off camera.
KTVA News Director Bert Rudman apologized for Greene’s “inappropriate language” and said she was terminated in statements Sunday. He apologized again Monday, this time for Greene’s ethical lapses.
“She had a personal and business stake in the issue she was reporting, but did not disclose that interest to us,” Rudman said in a statement.
“At KTVA we strive to live up to the highest journalistic standards of fairness and transparency. Sunday’s breach of those standards is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” he said.
Greene is the professional name used by Charlene Egbe. She told The Associated Press on Monday that she knew about a month ago that she would be leaving the way she did. No one else at the station knew anything about it, she said.
Alaska voters will decide in the November election whether to join Washington and Colorado in decriminalizing pot.
Greene doesn’t believe the manner of her departure is harming her cause.
“Are we talking about it, or not, because of what I did. Period,” she said. “It always goes back to the issue.”
Greene, 26, said she always fact checked and was unbiased about the issue as a reporter.
“I’m passionate about doing my job, and at the time my job was being a journalist,” Greene said.
Alaska business records indicate Egbe registered the Alaska Cannabis Club name on April 20, or 4-20. The number “420” has long been associated with marijuana, though its origins as shorthand for pot are unclear.
Taylor Bickford, a spokesman for a group backing the measure to legalize pot, said he hopes Alaska voters look beyond Greene’s salty language.
“I hope that her language, which clearly was not appropriate for television, doesn’t distract from the importance of her message,” said Bickford, with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
After voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1998, the state of Alaska never set up dispensaries, forcing people to criminalize themselves to access pot, he said.
Passage of the initiative “would allow them to access the medicine they need,” Bickford said.
A spokeswoman for the opposition group Big Marijuana Big Mistake said it has twice complained to KTVA management about what it claimed was Greene’s biased coverage of the ballot initiative.
“While we are frustrated with these actions, we are further disappointed by this distraction from what needs to be a full and honest debate about a dangerous initiative that will hurt Alaska’s communities and kids,” Kristina Woolston said in a statement.
During a Monday news conference, the group outlined concerns it had with Greene’s reporting, including an Aug. 15 email from Kalie Klaysmat, the executive director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, which also opposes the marijuana initiative, asking Rudman to change reporters.
“She seemed only interested in information that supported her point of view. She did not explore contrary information; she attacked it,” the email states. “That she seems to be the primary reporter covering marijuana issues and has such a strong personal opinion on this very divisive topic causes me to question the station’s editorial judgment.”
“Alaskans should feel as if they had been disrespected, not only because of the use of the F word, but also because they did not receive fair and balanced reporting on this very important issue for our future,” said another spokeswoman for the group, Deborah Williams.
Associated Press writer Rachel D’Oro contributed to this report.
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