WXYZ.com, the website of an ABC affiliate in Detroit, has a piece on salvia divinorum today that richly deserves a Crappy Hackington Award.
Why? Because it hits all the important bases for bad journalism on this issue, and also throws in a few grace notes that I had never even considered.
First, of course, the headline: “The Dangers of Salvia.” No bias there! No attempt to inflame the public!
Next, the piece describes investigators “going undercover” and using a “hidden camera” to buy a drug that they admit is completely legal in Michigan. Why “go undercover”? Uh, well, just to make it seem scary, I guess.
Then, of course, the quote from law enforcement. Like almost every law enforcement official quoted everywhere in the nation, the one quoted in this story can only admit that “his deputies don’t see salvia on the street that much.” (Maybe that’s because it’s a legal drug?) Nevertheless, he tells us that it “can lead to trouble.”
Needless to say, every salvia piece needs to have a reference to the suicide of Brett Chidester. Well, we’ve got that.
Best of all, though, is reporter Heather Catallo’s legal analysis: “The DEA can’t regulate salvia because in most states, it’s not illegal to use it. But earlier this year, they did issue this alert about the drug.”
Hmm, last I checked the DEA can do whatever it wants, even if the states disagree. I believe it has something to do with the difference between state and federal government.