The unnamed writer
This week’s cover story is a horrifying story of drug addiction, beginning with a curious experimentation with an easy-to-get and seemingly harmless form of opium and descending into the abyss of addiction. I’ve chosen to use a pseudonym for the author—an option I can only recall the RN&R choosing for a cover story once before, way back in the mid-’90s when we did a first-person story about gambling addiction.
My choice was based on three factors. It may be edifying to the reader to understand the thought processes behind the decision.
First, there’s a strong possibility that the writer would lose his or her regular job because of the story. When a newspaper allows a source to be unnamed or quoted “not-for-attribution,” livelihood is often a factor. In first-person stories of addiction, it sometimes just boils down to the author’s privacy.
Second, in fact-checking the story, I was stunned by the amounts of money and product being passed through the U.S. mail. This story— perhaps by putting some unsavory profiteers out of business—may have put our writer in some danger.
There are literally thousands of transactions listed on eBay—ranging in price from about $20 to about $200—possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in total. Some transactions, particularly the ones where the stems are included, appear to be completely aboveboard. But, the ones that are sold without stems (seems like most dried floral arrangements use stems) and the ones that are described as, “[t]hey have seeds and are not sprayed or treated with any chemicals,” well, it seems they are subject to closer scrutiny.
Finally, I was just a bit concerned that some over-zealous news consumer might want to play a little game of “blame the messenger” and attack the writer for cutting off their source.
At any rate, I hope you read and think about the story. Drop me a line if you have comments.