Mining the public’s dread of PCP, the Washington Post drew on the slimmest of pretexts to declare on Page One that PCP was making a “comeback” in the capital, says media critic Jack Shafer of Slate.com. Shafer says the Post uses several cliches of PCP coverage, including accounts of users ripped on the drug stabbing their daughters, shooting their mothers, and driving their cars into pedestrians; police officers and prosecutors alleging the drug’s rebound; and assertions that the drug is producing a crime wave. The Post reported that “10 percent of adult defendants now test positive for the drug, the highest rate in five years,” but Shafer notes that the rates in preceding years were 9 percent, 9 percent, 8 percent, and 6 percent, not much of a PCP resurgence.
Noting that the Post over the years has published supposed values of seized PCP ranging from $391 to $140,000 per ounce, Shafer declares that “law enforcement conjures a drug valuation out of thin air and the press publishes it without question.” “The Slate critic says that the news media give in “to their readers’ worst fears when reporting about drugs, embracing the most sensational or dramatic aspects of the story. And worst of all, the press routinely fails to cross-check information provided by law-enforcement sources.”