News Track: Vice News reporting on drugs

Story: Back from the Brink: Heroin’s Antidote

Source: Vice News

Vice has a history with drug coverage. The 2012 Vice Youtube video, “World’s Scariest Drug,” has 9.6 million views, and was one of its first viral videos. Drug coverage made sense for the Vice market: Young adult men who were interested in alternative news and interesting stories.

Since then, Vice has grown up. The news organization has bureaus around the world, covering the Islamic State, Ukraine and Ebola. More and more frequently, Vice is earning the respect of major news, even earning mild praise from New York Times columnist David Carr.

The Vice News portrait of a community with Narcan is mature coverage of drugs from the perspective of a former addict: Vice is no longer experimenting with drugs; it’s now facing the consequences.

“Back from the Brink” opens on a man shooting up in an alley. It’s uncomfortably close, an image of unadulterated drug use foreign to the average news consumer. Producers Nilo Tabrizy and Claire Ward continue to reveal intimate moments in a drug addict’s life in full technicolor: homeless addicts discussing drug use, volunteers picking up used needles off sidewalks, parents of addicts picking up Narcan from shelters.

Naloxone, more commonly known as its brand name Narcan, is a drug that reverses the effects of heroin overdose. It is widely available in fifteen states, including Massachusetts. Tabrizy and Ward toured the troubled communities in Massachusetts, spoke to addicts, health care providers and a former OD-reversing vigilante about how Narcan has saved lives – or perhaps enabled young addicts.

The portraits are haunting: a recovering addict who has OD’ed 14 times now 11 months sober, worried parents watching their child slip back into addiction and volunteers who have seen more than a handful of life-risking overdoses. They all shared the same sentiment: Narcan might keep addicts addicts, but at least those addicts are alive.

Vice holds on to its “just a guy” reporting gimmick, with several shots of Tabrizy driving through Massachusetts and nodding sympathetically during interviews. B-roll is always setting: The inside of a car, the streets of Quincy, the dog sitting on Tabrizy’s lap. The video includes a map of states with and without Narcan programs, and the story is thirsty for more graphics. Numbers factor in here, significantly: In Massachusetts, the number of fatal overdoses has dropped by 60 percent since the Narcan program was introduced. Instead of focusing on a furry face, Tabrizy and Sard should focus on making those numbers tangible.



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