New York Times Letter To the Editor


On Feb. 25, 2017, The New York Times published an innacurate editor's note about my work. I've twice submitted a letter to the editor (printed below), and contacted the newspaper's public editor, Liz Spayd, in an attempt to have this brief response published in The Times' print or online editions. So far, The Times has not responded to my letter. This, at a time when the paper is publicly boasting of their commitment to free speech and objectivity.  

I'm posting the still unpublished letter here to demonstrate a simple fact: The Times does not get to decide who has a voice in our society, and who doesn't.

"I was disturbed by the misleading editor's note The Times published on Feb. 25, 2017 about my Dec. 29 article, "Fentanyl Outpaces Heroin as the Deadliest Drug on Long Island." The note stated that "the main facts and thrust of the article, including the official data and quotes from the authorities, were confirmed. However, after extensive reporting efforts, The Times also has been unable to locate or confirm the existence of two people who were named and quoted." The note also claimed that I had "not been able to put The Times in contact with either source, or to provide any further material to corroborate the account." I share The Times' commitment to accuracy, but the above statements are untrue. I offered to provide Times editor William Ferguson, who'd been tasked with investigating my work, with the notebooks I'd used during the relevant interviews. He never responded to my offer. 

I also provided details about how and where these interviews were conducted. Both occurred following 12-step recovery meetings attended by the interviewees. It now seems clear each interviewee gave me a name other than their legal name, but I had no reason to believe that at the time. Instead of taking into account the very real stigmas surrounding heroin addiction and overdose, The Times chose to ignore this context . People in general are hesitant to give their real names to reporters; after walking out of 12-step meetings, even more so. Covering addiction and rehabilitation is a difficult task, and for doing my job, The Times has attempted to tarnish my reputation. There's not a shred of evidence to suggest I made up sources in my journalism or books, including "Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire," which has come under fire from competing reporters in Baltimore who remain angry they missed this explosive story. That hardly seemed to matter to Times editors, whose rushed probe into my work--and convenient exclusion of exculpatory evidence--ensured their own reputations remained intact."