The DrugSense Weekly March 3, 2000 #139

The DrugSense Weekly March 3, 2000 #139
Posted by FoM on March 03, 2000 at 12:27:53 PT
Evolution & Hints for Easy Reading -Tom O' Connell
Source: DrugSense
The DrugSense News Archive is now just three years old and the Weekly, which attempts a comprehensive review of the latest trends in drug policy, is half-way through its third year. With that in mind I thought it might be useful to review their origins and explain how the current format of the newsletter evolved. Shortly after MAP began, the News Archive- almost an afterthought to the main goal of encouraging letters to editors (LTEs)- grew quickly and was soon recognized as an asset in its own right. 
Kevin Zeese and Mark Greer decided a newsletter focused on the latest additions would help advertise the archive. It was our good fortune that webmaster Matt Elrod was both librarian and computer genius; thus, our database has always been well organized, searchable, and expandable; qualities which later proved indispensable. Also indispensable was Richard Lake; he recruited and organized a corps of volunteer NewsHawks to find and transmit pertinent material from around the world; he also recruited editors to follow high standards in rapidly formatting and archiving submitted items. The bedrock of the newsletter has thus always been a timely, reliable, and ever more inclusive database representing (for the past year or more) most of the drug policy material published in English by the popular press. At first, newsletters were just lists of excerpted articles and URLs deemed by informal consensus to be the more interesting- with no effort to determine significance or relate them to reform efforts or media patterns.I first became involved when the newsletter was about 6 months old; since I'd never done anything similar before and was also a computer novice, it was very much a learning experience. I had to struggle just to track the constant (and ever-growing) stream of submitted items; let alone make some sense of them and communicate that sense to a busy, informed, and growing readership.Trial and error eventually produced the four durable categories now in use: policy, law enforcement, cannabis and international. I gradually learned to use the briefest possible excerpts of each item in order to cover the most policy ground in the fewest words (4000, plus a short feature is ideal). In that sense, HTML links are invaluable; readers with a good Internet connection can go directly to the text of articles which interest them; they can still get a useful gist of other items from the combination of headline, COMMENT, and excerpt. Since most of the words in each issue are either boilerplate or were written by others, developing a style was a challenge. The guiding principle turned out to be Joe McNamara's observation that "the drug war can't stand scrutiny." This is especially true when comparing proclaimed goals with obtained results- even when reported by a supportive media. Over time, my weekly immersion in press reports of the drug war made clear that the policy is not only much worse than I first imagined, its patterns of failure are monotonously repetitive within the same policy areas. They no longer have to be sought, but literally jump up from the long lists of articles received each week in my Eudora Pro mailboxes. Recognition of various items' relationship to each other allows presentation in groups of two and three; thus enhancing flow and readability. Spotting a repeating pattern of failure has also allowed linkage of related items with increasing facility. The best measure of this is uncannily accurate: the more aptly two items illuminate their mutual absurdity, the shorter the COMMENT necessary to point that out; the shorter the COMMENTS, the more readable the Newsletter.The more readable the newsletter becomes, the more ridiculous the drug war appears.Click the link to read all of DrugSense Weekly's Update News:The DrugSense Weekly March 3, 2000 #139 Search of DrugSense, MapInc. News Articles Plus New MapInc. Archives:
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