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Winnipeg Free Press rolls out marijuana news site The Leaf to attract readers

Last Updated Nov 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm EST

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn.in a June 17, 2015 file photo. The editor of the Winnipeg Free Press says its specialized cannabis news website called The Leaf is generating quite a "buzz" since launching earlier this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jim Mone

A specialized cannabis news website called The Leaf is generating quite a “buzz” since launching earlier this week, according to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Paul Samyn said the newspaper thinks there is growing reader appetite locally and nationally for news about marijuana as Canada moves toward legalization of recreational pot use next summer.

“What we thought would be a smart thing in this digital age is to try and create a destination that would serve anyone looking for information, not just those who would normally be seen as in the readership footprint for a regional newspaper,” he said.

To serve that need, it has hired a full-time cannabis reporter to generate articles such as the site’s first locally written piece, “So, you want to grow your own (legal) weed.” It’s also looking for advertisers to help offset its costs.

The site’s logo includes a cannabis leaf combined with a red maple leaf and it invites readers to ask for advice from a columnist named Dear Herb.

Samyn said the newspaper has let its readership know over the past few months that the website is coming. He said he’s had no complaints from readers that the resources should be spent on other priorities.

Other major Canadian newspaper editors said they likely won’t be following the Free Press’s example.

Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke and Calgary Herald and Sun editor Lorne Motley both said their newspapers’ coverage of marijuana news is shared by several reporters and there is no plan to hire a specialist reporter or set up a standalone website.

The Leaf site generated about 1,300 page views in its first 12 hours, despite not being widely promoted, Samyn said. About 20 per cent of the views were from Toronto, he said, with most of the rest from inside the province.

Samyn said he believes The Leaf is the first cannabis news-specific site operated by a newspaper in Canada although there are similar sites in the United States such as The Denver Post’s site called The Cannabist.

The Free Press uses a pay wall to limit online access for non-subscribers but The Leaf is free to access.

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