Monday, September 19, 2016

Community newspapers need to report on drug overdose deaths, says writer

Ken Blum
Community newspapers need to confront the drug epidemic by reporting on individual drug overdose deaths, writes Wayne County, Ohio resident Ken Blum in a story that originally appeared on his blog, Black Inklings. Newspapers often write about drug abuse and drug arrests, but refer to drug overdose deaths by saying the person "died unexpectedly."

"It’s not that the problem hasn’t been reported," he writes. "It is that the quantity and quality of the reporting in no way matches the scope of the crisis in this country—not drug use, mind you, but overdose deaths from lethal and illegal drugs, particularly the most demonic and deadly of all, heroin and its monstrous new cousin, unimaginably 50 times more potent than pure heroin—fentanyl."

"My guess is the stigma associated with drug like heroin, and the newspaper’s sensitivity to the feelings of the family of a person who died from overdosing on the most stigmatized drug of all," Blum writes.

"But what good does hiding the cause do?" Blum writes. "Does it inform readers about the human tragedy of an epidemic that’s right under their noses, happening to people they know and respect? Does it alert readers to the danger in their midst—not only the danger of taking opioids, but also the danger of the crimes associated with the culture of drug abuse, such as break-ins, robberies and any one of a hundred crimes to obtain the money to make a buy. Does it help raise the community’s awareness of drug dealers in its midst, and encourage citizens to report suspicious persons to law enforcement?"

Blum continues, "And is it a violation of the fundamental ethics of journalism? A crime has been committed in that someone sold the illegal drug to the victim and possession in itself is a crime; there has been an investigation by law enforcement and an autopsy, and the most ominous result of all for that crime has occurred—a death in your town. How can you not report it, including the name of the victim?" (Read more)

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