“It’s the end of the year, and this is part of our strategic vision to invest more of our resources on our local coverage when it comes to marijuana,” said Andy Van De Voorde, a Denver-based executive associate editor with Voice Media Group. “I believe, and this is something we’ve talked about a lot over the last couple years, that local, original reporting is our bread and butter.
“That’s where we want to put the focus and emphasis and our resources.”
As the media company shutters Toke of the Town, essentially an aggregate site of national cannabis news, Voice Media’s Denver-rooted alt-weekly Westword has just hired (as in, he started Dec. 29) a position to amp up the company’s marijuana reporting and listings in Colorado, said Van De Voorde: “We’re expanding coverage in Denver, and we’re committed to doing more than we already have at the local level.”
In the meantime, Toke of the Town editor William Breathes (yes, it’s a pen name), who is one of the world’s longest-running marijuana critics with more than five years on the beat, will continue to write his reviews of pot shops — as well as his Ask a Stoner column, both of which will appear on westword.com.
“I’m just happy for the opportunity that Voice Media gave me, and I’m glad to have steered it for two great years,” Breathes said about Toke of the Town. “Some things are out of our control as writers though, and this is just one of them.”
News spread of Toke of the Town’s demise early Tuesday after Breathes posted the news to his Facebook page.
“Due to circumstances *well beyond* my control (because if I could control them this wouldn’t be happening), TokeOfTheTown.com will no longer be operational as of tomorrow,” Breathes wrote. “Thank you to everyone who read and supported me as the editor for the last few years — I’ve had a blast and hope to do more with national news in the future.”
The “deactivating” of Toke of the Town doesn’t mean the site failed, said Van De Voorde.
“It wasn’t a failure or not well read or unpopular,” Van De Voorde said, “but we have to make decisions all the time on how we want to allocate our resources, and we’ve seen explosive growth locally, and that’s where we want to put the focus — and it will also be in line with the overall vision of the company.”
Is Voice Media looking at hiring new positions in its other big marijuana strongholds of California, home to its LA Weekly and OC Weekly, and Arizona, where its Phoenix New Times resides?
“We’re looking at all of our options, and that’s a possibility,” said Van De Voorde, noting that nothing was yet in the works for markets outside of Denver. “We’re expanding in Denver, which was our original pot market, so it’s always led the way. Anything’s possible.”