"Portland officials will hold discussions on whether to establish Maine's first safe-injection site for drug users. Councilor Belinda Ray said a council subcommittee will discuss the idea next week...."
I was surprised, because it's not true.
- The topic of comprehensive user engagement sites was brought up at the February 13, 2018 meeting of the Council's Health and Human Services & Public Safety Committee.
- We added it to our draft workplan as a potential item for discussion this year.
- The city manager has asked staff to begin exploring the potential benefits and challenges of such sites.
I also said that while the committee wasn't taking a stance on the issue, we recognize that in the midst of the opioid crisis we need to be ready to look at any and all possible solutions to mitigate the impacts of this epidemic.
The story, originally written by David Harry, was reported correctly in The Forecaster. Unfortunately, when the Portland Press Herald (which is ultimately under the same ownership as The Forecaster) decided to pick the story up and run it, the language was changed, resulting in an article—and headline—that misrepresented the facts. To the PPH's credit, they have adjusted the article online, although the headline and the lede still imply that the discussion is imminent, when in fact it may not occur for several months.
That's why it's important for readers to be wary, or in other words: caveat lector.
I raise this issue here not to condemn newspapers or suggest that reporters shouldn't be trusted. In fact, I want to be very clear that David Harry, the journalist who initially wrote the story, got it right. And I believe it is essential that we continue to have faith in our news outlets.
But in this day and age, when the 24-hour news cycle has forced many journalists to rush to deadline in order to remain competitive with the unedited, unchecked "scoops" and click-bait articles that dominate our news feeds, we all have to work a little harder to get our facts straight.
- We have to read beyond headlines and introductory blurbs, which are often misleading.
- We have to get our news from multiple sources—the same way, incidentally, that we instruct students to get information for research papers.
- We have to check the accuracy and plausibility of statements that are presented to us as fact.
- And above all, we have be critical thinkers who understand that not everything that makes it into print—on on TV or the internet—is true.
As you gather information about what is going on in our community, I hope that you will remember this small instance of inaccurate reporting and let it inspire you to dig deeper into the facts of issues you care about. As Fox Mulder was fond of saying, "The truth is out there." Sometimes we just have to work a little harder to find it.