The heroin crisis is anything but a short subject
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org June 14, 2012 5:28PM
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:07AM
This is your brain on heroin. Any questions?
Yes, here’s one: Can you hear us now?
Some of my extremely talented coworkers covered a unique sort of movie premiere recently. The documentary, titled “Neuqua on Drugs,” spotlights the tormented wake of guilt, remorse and irrevocable sadness trailing the overdose deaths of several students from a single south Naperville high school over the past year. I’ve yet to view the production, which next month will be released on DVD. But descriptions of the film that appeared in these pages make it clear that young filmmakers Kelly McCutcheon and Jack Kapson have gathered images, recollections and been-there observations to craft a stunning eye-opener.
We heard some criticism of our coverage. A reader challenged us to spotlight instead some of the majority of students who excel — the kids who reach deep within themselves to give their utmost, day after day, and place themselves at the top of their class — and where their paths have led them.
If you read us regularly, you know we do that sort of story. We’ll surely keep doing those. So it was probably the reader’s suggestion that we’re ghouling it up over the rash of fatal overdoses that made the feedback feel personal.
“I’m tired of seeing (the local drug problem) highlighted in the paper all the time,” the person wrote in the online comments section. “I guess that’s the thing that sells the rags though, sad. You’d expect more from professional journalists.”
Hoo boy. I just can’t not comment on that. We’re hardly a rag, for one thing. Because you’re reading this, perhaps you concur with that brash claim. But because Naperville is a town unlike any other, you also know we’re not a typical city newspaper, either. “Hard” news doesn’t always predominate on page one, because it doesn’t always happen here — and we’re disinclined to manufacture headlines. Still, there are many stories in this city. Sometimes the grim and the tragic do turn up on our front page.
(Full disclosure time: It’s probably true that I’m a little more sensitive on behalf of my profession than I used to be. The industry has taken a beating over the past couple of years, so we tend to circle the wagons more tightly now. With a newsroom as blessed with talented and dedicated professional journalists as ours, it’s a given.)
I can’t help but wonder how many more kids have to die with heroin surging through their systems before more of us are ready to wake up fully to this crisis. That’s no hyperbole. Most people who know me will tell you that I’m no alarmist, but this situation really does call for alarm. Yes, it’s a crisis.
Are illicit drugs everywhere? Sadly, yes. Has there been an upswing in their concentration in this specific geographic region in the recent past? Yeah. Does the common denominator in many teens’ clear conviction of their own immortality only fan the fire? You bet it does.
We don’t have to tell you what a great town this is, but we do it anyway, and often. Naperville continues to occupy the front row in nearly every class, from quality of life to community amenities to, of course, the caliber of its schools and the kids who graduate from them.
The unfortunate truth is that in my workplace, we all share a sense of urgency over kids dying from a drug they apparently don’t perceive as all that deadly. Sure, the fatalities are relatively few — not even a dozen in the past year, yet. So as professional journalists, are we to pretend it’s not our concern?
You can expect we won’t.