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SMELL-ing the Fentanyl NYTimes article

In the process of researching my semester topic of opiate addiction and the opioid epidemic, it is important that I read and interpret news articles with a critical lens. Today, I looked in the New York Times archives for stories regarding a specific area of the opioid crisis: the powerful painkiller Fentanyl and its effects on users. I found this article:

Upon reading the article once, I reread it again using the SMELL test to search for any inconsistencies that may make me question the article’s credibility. Here’s how it went:

The sources used in the article are all very reliable. There are multiple quotes from people in high positions that are knowledgable on the topics, such as Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, and Detective Capt. Robert P. Pistone of a Massachusetts police department. In addition, the article cites official studies and statistics from organizations like the National Drug Intelligence Center and the DEA. Testimonials from actual people struggling in the opioid epidemic also act as sources.

The motivation behind the content is to inform the public that the opiate crisis in the country is beyond simply heroin use, and it is being made worse with the popularization of Fentanyl. There is a great deal of evidence to support the argument being made, and there is transparency throughout the article, as each bit of information is cited or attributed.

All of the evidence in the article is from sources ranking high on the PIE chart, that is, the sources are in close proximity to the writers of the article, the sources are independent, and they have expertise in what they are talking about. Like I said above, much of the evidence provided is from official studies and stats from respected organizations, so the information is verifiable. The rest of the evidence comes from accounts of real people who are a part of the epidemic, such as Heather Sartori, a former nurse who is a recovering heroin addict on methadone, and their experiences add a level of expertise to the argument.

In terms of logic, the evidence supports the conclusions being made in the article. The argument that Fentanyl is a deadlier, more addictive opiate than heroin is supported with the statistics about the increases in overdoses and deaths that have occurred since Fentanyl has become more popular and widespread. The article is internally logical because everything makes sense in terms of what I’ve read within the article. It is also externally logical because the information makes sense in terms of what I know outside of the article. Also, there are no examples of media logic failures that I can detect.

What’s left out of the article? Well, not much. There’s a variety of sources, so the argument is backed by many people and organizations. It could be argued that there isn’t much support for the “other side,” but the argument is virtually indisputable given the amount of credible and verifiable evidence. The one thing I am left wondering more about is how the abundance of Fentanyl has affected different socioeconomic classes. Beyond that, there is not much else left out.

Overall, the article scored very well on the SMELL test! It was very informative and provided trustworthy sourcing throughout, and I feel as though I learned a lot about Fentanyl’s effects on the opioid epidemic.


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