How not to report about meth.

Media criticism.
March 21 2006 6:57 PM

How Not To Report About Meth

The Washington Post shows the way.

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Richard Rawson, a UCLA researcher who has studied meth for two decades, tells Paley that emergency-room visits and patient admissions tend to lag five to seven years behind the emergence of the drug, and that observed use by gays and any lab seizures are good markers of a potential wave of use. Or, maybe not.

The easiest way to end a bad article like this is to return to the anecdotal user, whose life was destroyed by drugs. The Post obliges, reintroducing us to Jimmy Garza, who was arrested for meth possession, lost his freedom, lost his job at AOL, lost his two cars, was evicted from his "posh" home, and declared bankruptcy. "His primary mission is to tell his story so that people realize the dangers of meth," Paley writes.

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As much as I am prepared to believe that a meth epidemic is gathering speed and will soon rush through the Washington metropolitan region like Hurricane Katrina on a rocket sled, Mr. Garza's drug confessional and the Post's sketchy reporting leave me as ignorant about the drug's local incidence and prevalence as I was before I opened the paper.

Addendum, March 22, 2:30 p.m.: Don't miss Angela Valdez's brilliant critique of the Oregonian's multi-part methamphetamine series in this week's Willamette Week.

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A friend recommends that I combine my obsessions with press coverage of methamphetamine and Judith Miller's reporting. What sort of monster that would breed? Send your ideas via e-mail to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

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