Thursday, August 18, 2005

The media on drugs

The most awesomely excellent Jack Schafer who last week opined on why newspaper readers are not to be trusted, chides the New York papers (and the New York Sun) on their shoddy reporting on the killer heroin batch. Basically, "heroin overdose" simply doesn't happen all that often. In fact, it's the speedballing that gets you.

So forget what I told you earlier, kids. Shoot 'em up if you got 'em - one hit isn't gonna kill you. Just don't mix it with coke.

The mistake would be to look at this as an isolated case of collective ignorance. Yeah, we know journalists never ran with the cool crowd in high school so they were never exposed to anything stronger than espresso until they got to the newsroom but you know, it's the reporter's job to, like, research and collect facts. The media has always been guilty of misreporting drug-related stories while readers and editors have been happy to let them spread misinformation based on their myths about the effects and the culture of drugs.

And while Gawker may come off as a tad bit insensitive, god bless them for calling out Daily News for printing the bullshit quote, trying to frame this as a "good girl led astray by evils of drugs" story rather than a cautionary tale about stupid kids who make stupid choices. Drugs don't kill people. Speedballing doesn't kill people. People who speedball kill themselves.

Would it kill anyone if the papers had someone on the drug beat whose main responsibility is getting shit right? Maybe, but as Schafer points out, "saying, 'If you insist on using heroin, use it as safely as you can,' sounds too much like advocating a citywide BYO-smack party. Even if it saves a couple of lives."

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