I'm Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor of The New York Times. The editorial and opinion pages are independent from The Times newsroom, and we're happy to answer as many questions about our journalism and the work we do.

I'm here today with David Firestone and Juliet Lapidos, who contributed to a series of editorials calling on the federal government to lift the ban on marijuana: http://www.nytimes.com/hightime . The editorial board decided to make the call after considering the high social costs, and general absurdity, of the ban -- which is still based on the classification of weed as a Schedule 1 substance, like heroin and LSD.

The series, which considered health, politics, history, criminal justice, and the experience in Colorado with legalization, led to a vigorous and fascinating conversation among readers on the Times site. We'd like to open up that conversation with you here, on Reddit. Please let us know what questions and thoughts you have about legalization or about the Times's position and we'll do our best to get to as many of them as we can. But we also look forward to answering your other questions about The Times Opinion section and the work we do.

Update 4:14 PM ET: Proof: https://twitter.com/andyrNYT/status/496750728439152640

Update 2: It's 4:20 PM ET and we're answering your questions now. Keep 'em coming!

Update 3: Thanks for the opportunity, Reddit. It's 5:20 PM ET and we really enjoyed answering as many of your great questions as we could. Time allowing, we'll try to check in on some more of your questions later on.

Comments: 250 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

Here_Comes_The_King344 karma

whats wrong wit a lil wake n bake??

andrewrosenthal161 karma


Absolutely nothing wrong with it. Please, come visit the Times editorial board soon, but we have no-smoking building.

MarijuanaMajority68 karma

Former Times executive editor Bill Keller said on reddit earlier today that the Times endorsing marijuana legalization while at the same time drug testing journalists for marijuana is "increasingly difficult to defend," pointing out its "inconsistency." Do you agree with him and the nearly 5,000 people that have signed a petition asking the Times to end the practice of checking the content of reporters' urine before they're allowed to byline stories?

andrewrosenthal59 karma

The issue of drug testing is a matter of corporate policy, and I don't make corporate policy, and neither does anyone else in the editorial department. I was asked about this the other day by Chris Hayes and I said that if they asked me, I would say we should stop testing for marijuana use, but that I'm not all that sure I will be asked.

kneeco2824 karma

1) Why now?

2) In recent elections, legalization has been treated as somewhat of a joke or afterthought by candidates, and been ignored in serious debates. What should the candidates for President in 2016 say about this issue? If the NYT moderated a 90 minute debate, would this issue warrant a question to the candidates?

3) In retrospect, how does the New York Times Editorial Board feel about David Brooks' January 2014 Op-Ed accusing Colorado of "nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be"? (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/opinion/brooks-weed-been-there-done-that.html)

andrewrosenthal21 karma

I think the candidates should be honest in saying what their views are. This is just not a third-rail issue anymore. I'm hoping that a serious candidate will in fact endorse the repeal of the federal ban on weed. If I were moderating a debate in 2016, assuming things go on like they are now, then I would certainly ask about it. With any luck, more progress will have been made on this issue by then.

What we have called for is an end to the federal marijuana ban, which will allow states to decide for themselves, based on the very kind of value judgments that David made in his column, and in other places. David would agree with us that the federal ban should be ended. He would then go on to argue that states should not legalize recreational use. That is just the kind of debate we need to have about marijuana.

Frajer11 karma

Are you responsible for things like this correction about My Little Pony? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/pageoneplus/corrections-december-30.html?_r=0

andrewrosenthal9 karma

That was one of the best corrections ever. But it was to a news article, and I don't have anything to do with the news articles.

mcwm8 karma

Is it possible for a young journalist to get their start at The Times any more, and should it be?

Also, can I have a job?

andrewrosenthal12 karma

Yes it is easier now than it ever was, because we have many more jobs for younger people since we integrated our print newsroom with our web newsroom. It certainly should be possible. I don't have any openings right now, but you should apply to the Times newsroom if you're really interested.

UncleJoeBiden6 karma

When is torture torture and when is it enhanced interrogation? I believe that the NYT still cleaves some distinction between the two.

andrewrosenthal9 karma

I think you are referring to waterboarding, exposure to extreme heat and cold, painful positions and sleep deprivation. The editorial board has always called those things torture. We don't use the phrase "enhanced interrogation" except to criticize its use by the Bush administration.

washereDS5 karma

I have always greatly enjoyed Margaret Sulivan's public editor's blog posts. She has been forthright and direct in her critcism of anonymous quotes and other areas where governments may attempt to direct the conversation. Though in her recent post on the Israeli military censor she stopped short of declaring that the Times Israeli reporters will not follow the censor. She has mentioned that the Times can always have the information published by their U.S. office. How do you ensure the information is passed along, and wouldn't sending it to foreign media to be published also violate the censor?

andrewrosenthal5 karma

I'm going to email this question to Margaret. Thanks.

comababy5 karma

Hi! Copy editor here. Do the opinion and editorial pieces see the copy desk, like other pieces of content that go through the NYT newsroom? Or do they have a different copy flow?

andrewrosenthal3 karma

All editorials and articles published on the Op-Ed page, including our marijuana series, go through copy editors. The editorial department has its own copy editing staff.

Gizza895 karma

Dear Editorial Board,

As a young black man and a veteran how do you feel about the hypocrisy of black men being arrested and penalized for decades for illegal selling marijuana now the only imagery I see throughout your newspaper and other media outlets are "Whites" making money off legal and medicinal marijuana?

andrewrosenthal6 karma

Perhaps the biggest motivation for doing this series, and making such a big deal out of it, is that prohibition repeal is a criminal justice and civil rights issue. The enforcement of marijuana laws has a heavily racist slant in this country. An African American is far more likely to be arrested for simple possession, put on trial, convicted and sent to prison. Righting this wrong is imperative. As a society we should never tolerate a situation in which young black men go to prison for doing some that well-off white people are doing with impunity.

bryanwithY5 karma

Lots of people say the same questions are being asked now that were asked 50+ years ago, so nothing is going to change. Yet with big endorsements, including the New York Times, and states acting against federal legislation, it seems plausible that this push against prohibition might be different. Do you think this time around will be any different? If so, why?

Also, I understand your reasons for pushing against prohibition, and agree with all of them. My other question is about the choice of timing. What made now feel like the right time for a group as well-established and respected as the New York Times Editorial Board to speak out against prohibition?

Thanks for hosting this AMA.

andrewrosenthal9 karma

I hope it will be and there are reasons for that hope. For one thing, 37 states have now legalized some form of marijuana use. The federal government cannot simply ignore that powerful movement, as allergic as Congress is these days to doing anything of substance.

We chose this moment because, again, so many states are acting on their own. After Colorado legalized recreational use starting in January, we found ourselves comment favorably on so many developments in this area, without really articulating where we stand now on the biggest questions. So we decided to do it.

julheimer4 karma

What are your thoughts on NYT's monetization strategy, particularly paywalls?

andrewrosenthal4 karma

Broadly speaking, I think that instituting subscriptions online was a great idea, perhaps even overdue. It has produced a stream of revenue for the Times and will continue to do so in the future. The challenge for us, like all news organizations, lies in increasing our paying readership over time, by attracting new and younger readers. The other huge challenge lies in what has always been the other pillar of our business -- advertising. Digital advertising is growing, but not fast enough, and print advertising has been declining.

AloysiusTravers3 karma


andrewrosenthal7 karma


I think he was a great hire, but it happened in 1981, which was six years before I joined the Times.

*I fixed seven years to six years. My math is off.

challam2 karma

When you take a position on an issue, as you're doing on pot, do you expect to influence policy or do you mainly hope to open and broaden the conversation about it? Do you think your position carries significant weight with Washington and ordinary US citizens?

(Thanks for doing the AMA.)

andrewrosenthal3 karma

We hope to do both -- to foster a dialogue (especially in this case because Congress does not seem like it's chomping at the bit to act on marijuana legalization) and to influence policy -- both through our own statements of opinion and by starting that conversation. I think the weight our positions carry varies widely by who is reading them, which I guess is how it should be. (You're welcome. It's fun so far.)

zenithdeanarguably2 karma

Would you (Andrew, David, Juliet, or the opinion section collectively) rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

andrewrosenthal3 karma

I really like horses and don't want to fight one, so I'm going to have to choose the duck.

rar6242 karma

15 years ago the NYT banned tobacco advertising. Yet this week it ran a full page ad for Leafly, a marijuana information community.

Is this disparity because you view marijuana as "less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco." (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/opinion/what-science-says-about-marijuana.html)

andrewrosenthal4 karma

That was an advocacy ad about marijuana for medical use in New York State. We have not taken an ad offering marijuana for retail sale, as far as I know.

nerdfighter7672 karma

What was the funniest thing/typo that you found while editing?

andrewrosenthal5 karma

I can't recall a really funny typo that I found. Personally, I've made some pretty funny ones, including putting the word "boys" into an article instead of "buoys" when I was writing about a group that President George HW Bush was giving an award to many years ago.

firedroplet1 karma

As the current editorial page editor (of a slightly less prestigious paper) up the street from you, I often find that the standard staff editorial can be limiting.

It has to follow a specific style, be within a hundred words or so of the wordcount (for tradition and standards, if not for readers), and ends up spending too much time trying to educate the reader or too much time opining about the subject.

How do you negotiate the difficulties of addressing issues through staff editorials? Have you considered going more "outside the box" with series like "High Time"? If so, how? If not, why not?

Thanks for stopping by!

andrewrosenthal3 karma

I'm not sure it's a question of word count, but we are in fact talking quite a bit about the value of unsigned editorials versus signed editorials. We have long had signed articles on our editorial page, but we call them observers or notebooks. As for signed editorials, if you look at this series, you will see our current state of experimentation. We decided that the big editorial statement -- end the federal ban -- should be contained in a traditional, unsigned editorial and that what followed would be more in the realm of argument, expansion, detail and discussion. Having those signed by individual editorial board members seemed like a sensible thing to do. We are going to continue experimenting in the future.

Marc_Vesper0 karma

what are the strangest topics you've written about?

andrewrosenthal2 karma

The first editorial I ever wrote was about the awarding of the National Book Foundation's lifetime achievement award to Stephen King. Didn't seem like such a bad idea to me. I just wondered how he managed to make so much money writing, when the rest of us do NOT!