After reporting on the Alaska Cannabis Club on KTVA’s Sunday night’s broadcast, Charlo Greene identified herself as the business’s owner.
“Everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all my energy toward fighting for freedom and for fairness, which begins with legalising marijuana here in Alaska,” she said during the late evening bulletin.
She then swore and left.
News director Bert Rudman apologised for Miss Greene’s “inappropriate language” and said her position had been “terminated”. He apologised again on Monday, this time for Miss Greene’s “ethical lapses”.
“She had a personal and business stake in the issue she was reporting, but did not disclose that interest to us. At KTVA we strive to live up to the highest journalistic standards of fairness and transparency. Sunday’s breach of those standards is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” said Mr Rudman
Charlo Greene is the professional name of Charlene Egbe. She said she decided about a month ago she would be leaving in the manner she did. No-one else at the TV station knew anything about it, she added.
Alaskans will decide in a November poll whether to join Washington state and Colorado in decriminalising marijuana.
Miss Greene said she did not believe the manner of her departure would harm her cause. “Are we talking about it, or not, because of what I did? Period,” she said. “It always goes back to the issue.”
The 26-year-old said she had always checked her facts and had been unbiased about covering drugs stories as a reporter.
“I’m passionate about doing my job, and at the time my job was being a journalist,” she said.
Alaska business records indicate Miss Egbe registered the Alaska Cannabis Club name on 20 April, or 4/20.
The number “420” has long been associated with marijuana in the US, and is said to have been coined by American teenagers who met at 4:20pm to smoke the drug.
Taylor Bickford, a spokesman for a group backing the measure to legalise the marijuana, said he hoped Alaska voters look beyond Miss Greene’s “salty” language.
“I hope that her language, which clearly was not appropriate for television, doesn’t distract from the importance of her message,” said Mr Bickford, of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
After voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1998, the state of Alaska never set up dispensaries, forcing people to criminalise themselves to access pot, he claimed.
Passage of the initiative “would allow them to access the medicine they need,” Mr Bickford added.
A spokeswoman for the opposition group Big Marijuana Big Mistake said it has twice complained to KTVA management about what it claimed was Miss Greene’s biased coverage of the ballot initiative.
“While we are frustrated with these actions, we are further disappointed by this distraction from what needs to be a full and honest debate about a dangerous initiative that will hurt Alaska’s communities and kids,” the spokeswoman added.