Stories of tragedy or hope: comparing traditional addictions coverage with solutions reporting

On Dec. 22, 2016, philly.com published a story headlined Main Line woman, 62, heroin addict, and not unique. It told the story of Lynne C. Twaddle, who developed an addiction to OxyContin after she had surgery on both her hips last year. When she was prescribed OxyContin for her pain, she was already a recovering alcoholic. According to the philly.com story, “And that, her attorney said, was when her history of addiction caught up with her.” Twaddle moved on to using heroin. Recently, she was sentenced to Recovery Court, 90 days in prison and seven years’ probation. The story went on to explain how common this phenomenon is. It highlighted a 23 percent increase in drug overdoses from 2014 to 2015, and especially the growing number of Pennsylvanians from age 55 to 65 who are developing substance use disorder. The entire story explained the depth of the problem, but never once elaborated on the treatment Twaddle was receiving through Recovery Court, nor any other potential solutions she might have found.

A Seattle Times story published on Nov. 30, 2016 contrasted the philly.com piece in very noticeable ways. Headlined As Seattle eyes supervised drug-injection sites, is Vancouver a good model?, this story explains the new development of supervised injection sites in Seattle, which are based off existing sites in Vancouver. Although the story spent some time outlining addiction in King County, that seemed to be mostly for context. The story mostly explaining the success of supervised injection through data. For example, three addicts who would’ve overdosed are revived on site every day, and overdose deaths in Seattle dropped from 156 in 2014 to 132 in 2015. “Statistics show Insite has saved lives, proponents say, reversing nearly 5,000 overdoses since 2003, with no deaths,” the story read. “At the same time, studies show the center has prevented the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, and reduced dangerous litter including needles strewn on local streets.” This story qualifies as successful solutions journalism for a few reasons. It reports on a potential solution to a widespread problem in Seattle, and it uses hard data to contextualize the solution’s success in Vancouver. This differs quite notably from the philly.com story because although it explains a problem, it also offers an idea that seems to be combatting the problem.

About the author

Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a junior journalism major and a history minor at Temple University. She currently works as the Supervising Editor of her college newspaper, The Temple News, a production assistant intern for a Philly startup podcast called Story Shuffle, and a remote correspondent for The Bellingham Herald, a daily newspaper based out of Washington state. Contact Michaela at michaela.winberg@temple.edu.

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