Thanks to this week’s New Times article, you too can whip up a batch of your very own homemade methamphetamine.
The cover story, titled “Meth Made Easy,” enraged much of San Luis Obispo. Readers discarded as many copies as they could, advertisers pulled their ads and local citizens wondered why a newspaper would publish such a harmful recipe for disaster. The article included a detailed meth recipe, an interview with an anonymous county user and meth “fun facts.”
Journalists have a great responsibility to report news fairly and accurately. As editors, we receive hundreds of press releases, e-mails and notices. Out of these, we decide which issues are newsworthy. While the topic of drug use in San Luis Obispo is certainly relevant, publishing an article on exactly how to make drugs is a different story entirely. The Mustang Daily is a college newspaper and tests the boundaries by nature. As student journalists, we respect and look up to the New Times and the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Although the New Times is an alternative publication and the story was designed to “push the envelope,” the article was not edgy or creative. Just because you can do something does not mean you should.
New Times has maintained that the article was written to alert parents to the growing popularity of homemade meth ” and that it was satirical in its laborious analysis of that very process. How is this a rational defense? Regardless of the story’s tone ” which is completely devoid of humor ” it does not address the problem so much as amplify it. Perhaps parents need to know some ingredients of homemade meth to assure their own children are not combining them ” but printing the entire recipe (off an anonymous Web site, which strips all validity from the reporting) only gives widespread availability to an illegal process. Before the article, if a would-be drug baron wanted to create meth, they had to seek the recipe themselves. Writer Alice Moss and New Times have done no public service by forcing a secret and illegal process to become mainstream. Can the New Times print child pornography or how to build a bomb because it’s on the Internet? Newspapers have editors and ethical codes to uphold; the “information highway” cannot possibly censor all its material.
New Times is available for free on every newsstand in SLO County; its circulation is around 40,000. After they publish the full recipe for meth and state the windfall that can result from one batch, how can they deny that readers will now try to create it? This is the reason why Moss’s article is so reprehensible: It increases the very problem it addresses.
It was the newspaper’s intention to shed a light on an increasing meth problem in San Luis Obispo County and to show the public how easy it is to make. By showing the drug’s accessibility, maybe it would force citizens, organizations and police to further crack down on users and makers.
First, the article is designed like it’s meant to attract a child. Will the coloring book highlights enable a small child to concoct this dangerous drug? No. But a high school kid interested in chemistry just might. The instructions are a yawner – unless you actually want to make the stuff. These chemistry lessons do not appeal to the average New Times reader, but instead to addicts, rebelling teenagers, students or people just wanting a fix.
The package also includes “Meth Fun Facts.” The first “fun fact” is how a “simple meth recipe can turn a $50 investment in cold pills and chemicals into an $8,000-to-$10,000 profit.”
As student journalists, we’ve been taught never to promote illegal activity. You’ll never see a Mustang Daily article promoting drinking and driving. The article tells the amateur to wear protective gloves and a surgical mask. The article is therefore promoting the usage of dangerous chemicals – but how can Moss know exactly how to protect the reader in this circumstance? The article then acknowledges that this is an illegal act and has the audacity to provide ways to get away with breaking the law. “Cover your windows and tightly seal all air vents,” the article states.
The article has not succeeded in alarming parents; it has promoted usage for profit and fun.
If they wished to raise community alert for methamphetamine, they have only raised the flag against their own unprofessional, shameful, alarmist brand of journalism.