Nushin Rashidian, Journalist-Entrepreneur
“Our interest began with the contradiction of the laws. At the time, I didn’t even know the social justice component. I was fascinated that, at the time, California was threatening to pass legalization and what confusion that would bring.”
Meet Nushin. Nushin is the co-author (with Alyson Martin) of A New Leaf, (The New Press, 2014) and research lead for Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Publishers & Platforms project which is based out of the Columbia Journalism School. As a journalist-entrepreneur, she and Alyson Martin co-founded Cannabis Wire, part of Civil’s First Fleet Newsrooms, this past June. You can reach Nushin via email and follow her on Twitter.
What Does She Do?
“I am the co-founder of Cannabis Wire, an independent news organization that publishes the definitive daily newsletter with original news and analysis about the booming billion-dollar global cannabis industry.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
In 2010, as Nushin and Alyson set out on a road trip across the country to study the state of weed in America, they began with a blank slate, knowing next to nothing about the issues surrounding legalization. “Our interest began with the contradiction of the laws. At the time, I didn’t even know the social justice component. I was fascinated that, at the time, California was threatening to pass legalization and what confusion that would bring.”
During the course of their research, medicinal pot users first shared their stories: “In Rhode Island, we met a sixty-something schoolteacher who suffered from a rare condition, ligamentous laxity, where one’s ligaments come loose. She was in a lot of pain and was allergic to opioids. She would have cannabis oil in her applesauce every day; this was objectively a practical solution.”
“As the country’s first legal sales went live in Colorado, we knew we needed to stay on the story. That the story was changing too quickly for another book, and that existing publications weren’t giving the story the attention it deserved. So we started our own news organization.”
What Project Is She Working On?
“In 2015 when I first heard about Emily (Bell’s) interest in this project she was sounding the alarm even then!”
In addition to launching Cannabis Wire, Nushin is the research lead for The Tow Center’s Publishers and Platforms project. Under the guidance of Emily Bell at Columbia, the team has been studying how platforms (Facebook and Google, primarily) have upended journalism.
Nushin contributed to the 2017 white paper, The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism, by interviewing approximately 100 members of the media – from audio to digital, to national, to print — asking them all the same questions about how the platforms were changing their audience. You can download the paper here. For anyone interested in media and democracy, it’s required reading. In addition, the project has published an interactive timeline of major platform developments that affect publishers.
Since Nushin has been studying platforms and is part of Civil’s Ethereum-based distributive newsroom, she has some thoughts on blockchain: “I think we’re just at the beginning. Civil’s token sale seems like a pre-narrative to the whole thing. Let’s put the product in front of people and see if they use it. At the very least, it’s provoking people to think about things differently. Still to be answered: how will people use it, and why?”
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
While Nushin had worked out of the Made in NY Media Center by IFP in DUMBO, Brooklyn — and loved the experience — when she met member David Moore (who co-founded Sludge) at SXSW this past spring, he described Civic Hall and, given that Cannabis Wire was about to staff up, she thought, “No shit, of course. This is a natural fit for what we’re trying to do.” Cannabis Wire joined right after Documented (another Civil First Fleet Newsroom) and Mazin Sidahmed came aboard four months ago.
What is She Reading?
All things blockchain.
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
For Cannabis Wire: “Whatever intersects with cannabis, if there’s a story, we’re an outlet.” By example, Nushin notes that while Governor Cuomo received nearly $100,000 in campaign donations from the pot industry, that there might be a story coming from the criminal justice reform activists in our community who are tracking how many people of color are still being incarcerated for dime-bag use.
On the Platform & Publishers side: “We’re less about coverage than research. It usually takes six months or more to get something out – we’re trying to do some things faster – but let’s think together about these issues.”
“If anything, I feel like there’s so much that this community has to offer. We’re just coming up for air. Having a vibrant active collective of humans — more or less oriented around a set of guiding principles — is a fantastic thing. Even though we haven’t been at the space, we want to stay plugged in. It’s a good thing to know that when there is an ask, the place has a lot to offer.
You can sign up for the Cannabis Wire newsletter HERE.
— at Civic Hall.