Randy Wyrick may feel entitled to call himself a journalist, but his lack of empathy for what he is researching and for those he is reporting demonstrates Wyrick’s underdeveloped skills as a writer.
“Heroin in the High Country” may have aroused the perception of a contaminated valley, full of drug lords, drug smuggling and drug addicts. Some may applaud his diligent investigation on heroin’s impact on our community and even Wyrick’s dedication to informing valley residents of the happenings in their backyard. I, however, was unimpressed by his presentation, unmoved by his report, and rather disgusted by his interview with “Rich,” an addict in recovery.
Wyrick’s effort to expose “heroin in the high country” confirmed two things for me: One, the Vail Daily will publish anyone without consideration for quality and, two, there are still people capable of dubbing a human being as a “junkie” and feel justified in doing so. More than once the word “junkie” was used in the second edition of “Heroin in the High Country.” Using this kind of language is wrong in all realms but it is especially atrocious when used in such a way as writer Randy Wyrick did. Junkie and all that it connotes is dehumanizing and degrading.
You may have your opinions, but the fact is addiction, as defined by medical professionals of all degrees, is a chronic disease. Addiction is a chronic disease, no different than heart disease, requiring treatment and lifetime dedication to managing its symptoms and preventing relapse. No decent person would scrutinize another for his or her battle with heart disease, lung cancer or diabetes. Like addiction, the aforementioned diseases can in most cases be linked to poor choices and lack of commitment to health and well being, too. You can reason that if the stigma associated with addiction were passed onto other diseases, seeking help and recovery would be far more challenging and far more unlikely. As a journalist, Randy Wyrick has been charged with a responsibility to educate and investigate, inspire honesty, and to keep integrity intact. If Randy Wyrick cannot rise to the occasion, he may want to consider blogging instead of paper print.
The label “junkie” perpetuates the idea that addiction is a moral and pre-meditated choice, and that junkies are somehow sub-human and thus subject to the criticisms and stone throwing of privileged non-addicts. This mode of thinking is inexcusable and downright cruel, and ought not to be emboldened.
Randy Wyrick produced a crude report altogether, under a catchy headline, and botched his interview with “Rich.” Wyrick exposed the grimiest details of Rich’s life in the throes of active addiction, showcasing only the powerlessness, sickness, humiliation and stupidity. Then going so far as to ring in on Rich’s story by referring to him as a junkie. Perhaps a better approach would have been to share Rich’s experience with motivation that his experience will offer strength and hope to addicts still using and their families. A better approach by Wyrick may have been to aim towards empowering addicts to seek help and to educate readers how to do the same. Especially if heroin is in the high country, as Wyrick claims.