Prescription drug story needed more facts

Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Katie Doyle's statements in the Empire's May 14 article, "Center addresses prescription drug use," make good copy, but when they're the only numbers in the whole article, that's bad journalism.

Why didn't the Empire print the actual numbers for emergency room visits (or police arrests, or anything)?

The article reads like the reporter went to the health center and got some juicy quotes, then happened to run into high school counselor Barbara Conant on the way back to the parking lot. It's the same scare story as when people in the 1950s were terrified about children huffing airplane glue.

Are painkillers more or less dangerous than alcohol? Does this current flap differ from the 1980s, when everyone was worried about teens using tranquilizers and muscle relaxants? How did Juneau-Douglas High School handle that situation then?

The article is a lurid press release for the drug of the month, a self-fulfilling prophecy that will help no one. Some parents will learn a new reason to suspect their children; no one will learn meaningful information about the scope of the current problem, or how it relates to drug scares in the past.

The Empire's responsibility to print meaningful, informative articles does not disappear when children start popping pain pills.

Alex Gagne-Hawes


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