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The media plays an important role in the public debate regarding Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD). AOD Media Watch is run by a group of researchers and clinicians who work in the field. We aim to improve the reporting of AOD issues through putting the spotlight on stories that contain misinformation, perpetuate unnecessary moral panic and stigma.

At AOD Media Watch, our mission is to improve media reporting on AOD-related issues. We engage with the media by critical analysis of articles published across Australia. We offer feedback to journalists by celebrating great journalism and highlighting poor reporting.

15th June 2020: Quit Meth while you’re ahead? NT News does it again

NT News, renowned for big headlines and little substance, has again not allowed the facts to get in the way of a good story, or in this case, a sensationalist headline.

Taken at first sight, the headline ‘Meth heads flourish in NT’ (NT News June 9th 2020) would suggest that the use of methamphetamine is out of control and widespread in the Northern Territory. Even a more conservative opinion would lead one to think that meth use is steadily climbing if you read the headline and first few paragraphs which assert “Meth use is on the rise… frequency of use has also increased.”

NT News, Tuesday June 9 2020

However, as pointed out conveniently at the end of the article, according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) fewer people in the Northern Territory are now using methamphetamine.  Rates of use amongst the general population have in fact dropped by a third over the period the NDARC survey was taken.  Perhaps a better headline would be to point this fact out?

The journalist however has exploited an anomaly in the data that suggests that those that continue to use meth have increased their use.  This may be true, and is supported by the NDARC research, however it hardly justifies the somewhat misleading headline that the use of meth is flourishing. Not to mention the emotive and stigmatizing language that often frames illicit drug use. Calling people ‘Meth heads’ is much like calling cannabis users ‘pot heads’ or heroin users ‘junkies’, which can lead to a variety of negative consequences.

AOD Media Watch continues to implore media reporting to be factual, consistent, evidence informed and balanced. Please avoid misleading and sensationalist headlines such as the one that appears in this article.

Author:

Greg Denham, Australian Representative for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Reviewers:

Dr Liam Engel, Adjunct Research Fellow at Edith Cowan University

Katie Flynn, Sector Capacity Building at Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT

Disclaimer: The author takes full responsibility for the content of this article.

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Journalists that would like to seek expert commentary on drug issues can contact AOD Media Watch who can provide referrals to a range of experts on the issue being reported. Guidelines for journalists can be accessed from our website and resources for the media are available from Mindframe.