An analytical newspaper reader can sometimes pick up things in an article that the reporter and editor may not have noticed, and that reader may even believe that the article in question communicates the opposite of what it seemed to.
In a story last week about the town of Kermit suing drug companies for damages resulting from a local epidemic of pain pill abuse, the Charleston Gazette-Mail quoted Mayor Charles Sparks's remarks about those companies.
“They had no regard for what was going on here,” Sparks said. “They didn’t care how many lives they were ruining and what they were doing. They were making money on the backs of all of us, and they didn’t care.”
Should large drug companies miles and miles away be expected to keep tabs on what certain individuals are doing with their highly addictive drugs in a tiny town in southern West Virginia is one question that needs to be answered.
Another is, how could flagrant drug abuse go unnoticed in a town with fewer than 400 people? It didn't, as the article makes clear, if perhaps unintentionally.
“'The entire town was constantly clogged with traffic,' said Tommy Preece, a council member who also serves as fire chief. 'You couldn’t find a place to park at the post office. It wasn’t a safe place to be.'
“'They’d come by the vanload,' Sparks added. 'They’d park a van and eight people would get out.'
“'I was afraid to get out of my automobile,' said Anna Mae Wellman, a council member.
“The town had to hire an extra police officer to handle a spike in crime and extra crews to clean up the mess the pharmacy’s clientele left behind — food wrappers, cigarette boxes, beer cans, condoms and needles. 'We had to buy extra dumpsters,' said Peggy Moore, a council member.”
There's another angle in the story. Not just heartless drug companies. How about the unmoved townsfolk, who knew what was going on and now want to cash in on it.