The media gets plenty of stick but honestly, we’ve had pretty good coverage this summer (and lots of it). It’s mostly been reasonable, journalists have been sticking to the facts, and willing to make corrections when errors slip in.
Two areas did stand out where the media (and other public messages) could be better. The first was the coverage around KnowYourStuffNZ’s finding of Fentanyl. Yes, it’s scary stuff and we strongly recommend people do not take it. However, NZ is not in the same situation as the USA, where Fentanyl and other opioids are killing tens of thousands each year. Some of the media stories wanted to push a sensationalist epidemic line. That’s not helpful. What keeps people safe is clear and honest reporting.
The second area was police and district health boards putting out poorly written warnings about dangerous drugs. The initial warnings about n-ethylpentylone in Christchurch contained no useful information. Warnings about dangerous drugs need to cover what the drug is thought to be, how to identify it, what the effects are, and how to stay safe. To be fair, the DHB and police did pick up on some of the language that KnowYourStuff uses and the follow-up messages were much more useful. However, when you’ve got thirteen people in hospital, its pretty important to get your warnings right. We would like to see consistent and accurate messaging, and collaboration between agencies on the content of drug alerts.
Radio NZ, 21 January: Festival tent testing fake highs
Newshub, 2 February: MDMA buyers at festivals getting ‘seedy’, more potent alternative
Radio Live, 4 February: Legalise All Drugs? Ross Bell & Wendy Allison
Newstalk ZB, 27 February: 15-year-old amongst those affected by faulty ecstasy
Vice, 27 February: Possible Bad Batch of NZ Ecstasy Hospitalises Thirteen