Posted in Behind the News

Understanding the ‘Politics of pain’

, by Lauren Easton

During an especially intense news period, marked by a bomb blast in Manhattan and a subsequent manhunt in New Jersey, an investigation into the politics behind America’s opioid epidemic still received the attention it deserved.

“Politics of pain” was a joint investigation by AP and the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington. It examined the political influence of the opioid industry in Washington and all 50 states over the past decade, revealing how drugmakers used a fleet of lobbyists and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to limit or kill legislation designed to crack down on prescription opioids.

The drugs are at the center of a nationwide crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and caused countless others to become addicted.

Jennifer Weiss-Burke, executive director of a youth recovery center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stands by a room at the recovery center named after her son, Cameron Weiss, who died of a heroin overdose, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Mary Hudetz)

The investigation has appeared on roughly 165 front pages across the U.S.

“What a great benefit to members when AP provides such an important enterprise project,” Tim Cotter, editor of The Day in New London, Connecticut, said in an email. “The amount of work was evident in the final product.”

Some AP member newspapers, such as The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia, and the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama, used AP and CPI’s data to zero in on the opioid problem in their states.


Many news outlets have also published editorials, including The Patriot News, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which called for legislative action to combat abuse, and the Albany (New York) Times Union, which cited the investigation in condemning Big Pharma.

“The tremendous and widespread usage of ‘Politics of pain’ by AP’s customers and members, especially on a weekend with so much other news, is proof of what an important topic this is in American communities,” said Brian Carovillano, AP’s vice president for U.S. News. “It’s also because the journalists who did this story worked very hard on the storytelling to make this data-driven project accessible and insightful.”


Carovillano added: “The AP and the Center for Public Integrity are also natural partners, and you can see from this project what powerful journalism can result when we join forces. We hope to work together again in the near future.”

The first part of “Politics of pain” is available here. The second part is available here.

Among the other local editorials spurred by the investigation were these:

The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio: http://apne.ws/2cUl1bR

Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail: http://apne.ws/2cUl47M

CentralMaine.com, Augusta, Maine: http://apne.ws/2ddGEaP

Express-Times, Easton, Pennsylvania: http://apne.ws/2cFKxQY

The Daily News, Longview, Washington: http://apne.ws/2cO7uGU

WBAL-TV, Baltimore: http://apne.ws/2cTOt3t

The Times Tribune, Scranton, Pennsylvania: http://apne.ws/2cr1jqT

Elko Daily Free Press, Elko, Nevada: http://apne.ws/2ddGTD3

Standard Examiner, Ogden, Utah: http://apne.ws/2cO72Z5