Derek Gentile: Coverage of heroin arrests not source of harm


PITTSFIELD >> A while back, I received an email from an parent upset about a story I wrote about her child, who had been convicted for possession of heroin, as well as distribution and several other charges.

The mom acknowledged that her child had done all the things in the story. But the added publicity was "ruining" the family. Couldn't I have cut the kid a break? It's hard enough, she said.

Yes, it is hard. In fact, it's terrible, hideous, disheartening, sad.

But if I wanted to be honest, getting one's name in the paper for heroin use and sales is, by far, the easiest part of the next few years for a family.

Please understand. I'm not scolding parents or wives or husbands or siblings for writing to me and telling me I'm a bad guy. Or writing to my colleagues for similar reasons. That's part of the deal with reporters.

I certainly welcome people with questions or comments. It's how I figure out how I do my job. Send comments to my email address.

I understand that it's hard to tell, or explain, to family and especially friends about your kid's problem. I'm here to say, if your friends are going to be that judgmental, are they really your friends?

Heroin and other opioid addiction isn't a moral failure, or a lapse in judgement. It's a chemical imbalance in someone's brain. It tends toward use and reuse. And the slope is terribly slippery.

This chemical imbalance has been in our head since we came out of the cave. Thirty, 40, 50 , 100 years ago, people who struggled with it self-medicated with alcohol.

Since that was a legal drug, we all shrugged and approved the whole thing. Or at least our disapproval was tempered by the knowledge that he or she wasn't breaking the law.

This is harsh, and I only say it to those who persist in telling me I'm "harming" the community by publishing a drug-users' name.

But the fact is, when one starts down that road, there are only two potential endings: treatment or death. The Eagle doesn't list the names of people in treatment.

We do list funeral notices.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions