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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    I was expecting to speak at midday today at the launch of an excellent pamphlet The media guide to drugs: Key facts and figures for journalists produced by an organisation called DrugScope.

    It is a superb, comprehensive piece of work, running to 140 pages, that should prove invaluable to all journalists who write at any time about drugs.

    Sadly, there are no trains this morning from Brighton to London because of the snow, so I will not be able to attend the launch after all.

    If I had done so, I would have said that newspapers have had a poor record in reporting on drugs. They have contributed to the widespread misunderstanding about the topic.

    I would have expanded on the theme outlined in the quotation in my name carried on the back of the guide:

    "I have despaired over the years about the hysterical and ill informed way in which the media, most especially the largest-selling popular newspapers, report on the subject of drugs. Journalists are too ready to accept myths and, by passing them on, contribute to yet further myth-making by their readers.

    By reacting emotionally rather than rationally to the topic, and by denying reality, newspapers do a disservice to society.

    This guide will surely help the next generation of journalists because it deals with facts that counter ignorance and prejudice. I believe it will prove invaluable."

    From the early 1960s onwards, drugs have been grabbing the headlines in newspapers and have received huge coverage on television news bulletins and current affairs programmes.

    But much of the reporting - or, at least, the sensationalist presentation of that reporting - has been hysterical and, too often, laced with inaccuracy. The result has been myth-making on a grand scale.

    One key example of this are the regular "drug scare" stories. In 2006, when I wrote an article for DrugScope's magazine Druglink, about the media's handling of drugs issues, the country's youth were alleged to be suffering from "an epidemic" of "crystal meth." It turned out to be a nonsense.

    Last year, the scare was all about mephedrone (aka "miaow miaow" or, because that clearly didn't fit The Sun's headline space, "meow meow"). There was an outcry about the supposed effects of this legal substance and a media campaign to have it outlawed.

    I'm not doubting that it might have been harmful- as are a huge number of everyday substances if mis-used (ie, sniffed consistently).

    But the major media claims about mephedrone's effects were almost all untrue, as you can read in the media guide (pages 82-84). Three myths exploded follow:

    Mephedrone was responsible for over 20 deaths in the UK. Untrue.

    Teachers were powerless to act because the drug is legal. Untrue. Teachers can confiscate any item if it puts pupils at risk (as they did in the 1980s with typewriter correction fluid).

    The government dragged its feet over banning the drug. Untrue. The government is legally obliged to consult its drug experts. If they decide it should be controlled, then the legislation has to be drafted and put through the parliamentary process. That's democracy at work.

    I advise all journalists to read the full three pages on this example before moving on to the excellent Q&A section that follows.

    It has been clear to me for years that despite the condemnatory tone of almost all reporting on drugs, the media coverage has tended to achieve the opposite of its intention.

    This is especially true of stories about celebrities and drugs. Instead of discouraging young people from taking drugs, such coverage has tended to glamourise the habit and therefore enticed more people to try drugs.

    The drugs guide should be read by every journalist and would-be journalist. Copies should be on the shelves of every newsroom.

    I am very sorry I couldn't be today's launch. It's available HERE . Download it now and get addicted to using it.

    Posted by Roy Greenslade
    December 02, 2010
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/dec/02/drugs-newspapers

Comments

  1. Smeg
    The publication mentioned above may be a very welcome addition to any journalist's knowledge base.
    It is hopefully a long overdue string to the bow of scientific evidence based on rational and balanced reporting.

    Red feels, however, that some publications will still actively avoid any semblance of truthful and authentic journalism regarding drug related issues in favour of sensationalist gossip and moral scaremongering.

    It has long been a tradition in these Islands that the life blood of tabloid newspapers is inflammatory reporting which deliberately avoids "the truth getting in the way of a good story."
  2. S.J.P.
    I just read through the pamphlet... it's got a nice neutral tone and has lots of information.
  3. Smeg
    Red is feeling a little more optimistic today and has decided to forward this guide to the main newspaper publications, starting with the most persistent perpetrators of myth laden drug reporting; The Daily mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Express to name a few.

    He has decided to start with Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail. Red is not expecting a nationwide over night press epiphany, but some good may come of it. He, like many others, is more than perturbed and irritated by some elements of the media being unofficial partners in the law making process especially where drug legislation is concerned.

    "I have despaired over the years about the hysterical and ill informed way in which the media, most especially the largest-selling popular newspapers, report on the subject of drugs. Journalists are too ready to accept myths and, by passing them on, contribute to yet further myth-making by their readers."

    By reacting emotionally rather than rationally to the topic, and by denying reality, newspapers do a disservice to society."

    Red can't put it much plainer than the above quote.


    Red will follow up shite reporting with emails to editors and journalists regarding scientific facts and evidence based mini critiques re misreporting.

    All swimmers please feel free to join in!
  4. Guttz
    I find it funny that journalists actually need a guide like this. What's a journalists job? Just shows how much ignorance actually goes around on this subject. Journalists don't even know what they are talking about when it comes to these issues. Then again, it's also a question about selling papers and making money. These papers have to make a profit and it seems to be hardwired into our society that fearful headlines make the most money. I very rarely see positive headlines or any positive news for that matter. I think the drug war has helped journalism and the government a lot in these areas. If they will try to change that I don't know, but something needs to be done. This guide is a very good start.
  5. phenythylamine
    Its a great concept, but it wont work because money is the driving force behind everything, including the headlines on the paper. I think until the attitudes of the public change, the newspapers wont change.

    basically its supply and demand, as long as people keep buying there scare stories, they will keep pumping them out, and as time has shown, when they keep pumping them out, idiots keep buying them. you see, people are stupid, nothing more than civilized apes.
  6. Smeg
    Red agrees that there is a very substantial demographic who's ignorance is complemented by any potential to learn in the long and short term.

    There are also certain sections of the media who depend on and exploit this trend.

    He accepts this to be truth, but doesn't believe it to be entirely futile for folk to attempt to aspire to some degree of challenging the tyranny of the stupid.

    And if emailing this little book around the place helps even a little bit, then it's worth a go.
  7. phenythylamine
    of course its worth a shot, but I really thinks if they want to get accurate drug information they should just read a few threads here. the problem is that its not up to the reporters, its up to there employers, and if scare tactics sell stories then by god thats what they will do.

    Its not that people cant learn, its that they dont want to.
  8. Phenoxide
    It's a nice idea, but I agree that it is unlikely to be taken at all seriously by the tabloid press. They have their predefined stance on just about every issue, then create the stories to suit. What I'd rather see is a similar book aimed at parents and those that teach drugs education in schools. I think those areas would benefit more from a dose of rationality than the sensationalist wings of the print media.
  9. phenythylamine
    anybody here with some fancy degrees that a scared parent would be likely to listen to. I think we have a new project to work on here, I would do it but who would listen to a young man with absolutely no professional degrees, (even though they have nothing to do with what you actually know, the misconception that degrees matter still exists.)
  10. radiometer
    Oh come on, Roy, please! The media's intended result is to sell newspapers - full stop. The condemnatory tone, and their reporting scary sounding, unsubstantiated or simply false "information" is merely playing to their willfully ignorant target demographic. These newspapers are just like the US nightly news. "If it bleeds, it leads," as the saying goes.

    I sometimes wonder how many of those "OMG legal highs!!!" articles were written by people while under the influence of the stories' subjects. I'll bet it's pretty easy to meet deadline after a good run of desoxypipradol!!

    I've no issue with this guy's intentions, but I find them somewhat quixotic. :) Does he really think that tabloid and TV news workers wake up in the morning wondering how to make the world a better place?
  11. MrG
    Actually, whilst I understand your feelings about what purpose this sort of writing serves, it is this type of article, appearing in the mainstream media itself, which can act as the thin end of the wedge for the establishment of a more rigorous set of standards for journalism in the future.

    Only the other day I read about Wikileaks' Julian Assange's philosophy on the topic:
    I think the importance of what he is suggesting should not be overlooked. Imagine if journalists had to cite valid research and provide evidence to support the 'facts' of their 'my drugs hell' scare stories?

    In fact, imagine a world where the media, irrespective of the subject matter, had to abide by the same standards as the scientific community, it would result in monumental changes in global perceptions and, most likely, cause a significant sea-change in the dysfunctional and reactionary behaviour patterns we currently see from certain sectors of society.
  12. Revolvingdoo
    I would love to be involved in a project like this!
    Have decent credentials that would possibly lend a small amount of credibility to the situation!

    People don't want the truth, they want their own opinions re-iterated to them by somebody in a percieved position of power, at least for the most part!
  13. Lollante
    Some journalists do act reasonably - see, for example, the Guardian's bad science column
  14. phenythylamine
    ^^ this is actually a great Idea, we need to start a thread and have alot of the knowlegeable members on this site start writing this, almost like a dumbed down version of our wiki that the average person can understand.

    we need to target it toward parents who are freaking out because they just caught there kid smoking devil weed in the basement lol.

    I think something like this could do a lot of good.
  15. Smeg
    There may definititely be a latent yearning for candid authenticity.

    Red would love to contribute with the odd fact-driven diatribe/rant.

    Great thread!
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