Visual Management: The Cannabis Question

The Cannabis Question is a series by a University of Wisconsin-Madison investigative journalism class examining what would happen if Wisconsin were to legalize marijuana. The class was led by Dee J. Hall, managing editor for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, while I led the visual strategy. Here, a glass pipe, lighter and a bud of marijuana are seen at a party on Madison’s East Side on January 25, 2019. Photo by Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch.

The Cannabis Question — an investigative reporting series from Wisconsin Watch

In 2019, for the first time in a decade, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin seriously debated whether to legalize marijuana for medical uses. Investigative reporting students at UW-Madison worked with Wisconsin Watch to produce 15 stories exploring the history of cannabis in our state and examining what would happen if Wisconsin were to legalize it.

As multimedia director, I worked for more than six months with the students to plan, conceptualize and execute photos and graphics to help tell stories related to cannabis in Wisconsin. My visual approach was to bring the stories to life in a personal, factual, and in some cases, anonymous way. (Due to the illegality of cannabis, many of the subjects in our stories did not want to be identified.)

Distributed nationally, news outlets across the country picked up the stories 433 times, reaching an estimated audience of 5.3 million people.