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The Tampa Bay Times Goes on a Kratom Attack

kratom attack

The Tampa Bay Times Goes on a Kratom Attack

Nothing like a kickass kratom attack to make you realize that there are media types who still give a shit about their readers. Hell, they don’t just give a shit, but they’re willing to put up their blood, sweat and treasure to prove it.

We’re talking about the Tampa Bay Times, whose three-part Deadly Dose is the kratom attack we all need right now. It’s also about as fine and as thorough a report we’ve seen on any topic in quite some time.

From Brainstorms to Sources

But the Tampa Bay Times’ kratom attack went above and beyond a mere expose; not only delivering three deep digs into the kratom industry, but a full-on reveal of how the shrewd crew got what they got, from brainstorms to sources. In fact, that piece (“How the Tampa Bay Times investigated the kratom industry”) is as deliciously edifying as the three main squeezes, especially if you’re a nuts and all kinda person.

And boy does the Times provide nuts and all! To begin with, the paper puts the blame on Helen Freund, who apparently couldn’t keep her instincts tied to the Tampa Bay region’s dining and restaurant culture. Seems everywhere Freund turned, kratom was there, most of the times lurking in the corner but there nonetheless. When a death was tied to the so-called harmless herb, Freund pounced.

So, undercover as the food critic, Freund went all in. She interviewed people in the kratom industry and those who use the plant. She quickly found that the substance, often described as being as innocuous as coffee, was far more complex.

Friend also learned that kratom was mostly unregulated, despite concerns about its safety. She also began to explore why people were turning to it. Kratom wasn’t just being used in social settings. People were self-medicating for ailments like chronic pain and opioid addiction.

In other words, there was a rabbit hole of whys and hows and whats that weren’t being investigated. When she began probing reports of overdose deaths, it became clear this was a story the Tampa Bay Times needed to pursue.

The paper’s editors wholeheartedly agreed; assigning health reporter Sam Ogozalek and politics reporter Kirby Wilson, to aid and abet Freund in 2022, and for investigative reporter Hannah Critchfield and data editor Langston Taylor to join forces in 2023.

And they worked – big time

“Reporters filed more than 300 public records requests with police and fire departments, state and federal agencies and medical examiner offices across Florida. They interviewed over 150 scientists, doctors, policy experts, regulators, industry players, consumers and relatives of overdose victims. Freund, Ogozalek, Critchfield and Wilson have worked full-time on kratom stories for six months.”

That’s a lot of legwork. And it didn’t come cheap. Five reporters, four photographers, a video journalist and several editors, designers and engagement producers have worked on this project. The Times estimates it cost the newspaper at least $400,000 — mostly in staff time and salaries. This also includes product testing and travel in Indonesia, Colorado, Oregon and Georgia.

We can’t begin to do justice to the work. You’ve gotta dig in yourself. After you do though, send the Tampa Bay Times a Thank You for watching our backs. You might also send a note to your local rep; get them thinking that people do care about these things. Good people. Solid people. People like the Tampa Bay Times.

If you or a loved one is having substance abuse issues, please get in touch. We’d be happy to help you you out.

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