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Marine's Death: Questions, Disbelief and Descriptions

May 01, 1988

I just mailed the check for my subscription through May 30, so I have a few more weeks to bump my head against the stone wall of Times drug reporting.

Your lead editorial for April 20 deplores (your) conclusion that there will be no fresh ideas for combatting drugs in the heat of election-year politicking. How did you reach this conclusion? And what is to prevent the Los Angeles Times from taking a fresh approach? For example:

A story that has received considerable coverage recently involves the death of a Marine as a result of a drunken brawl (my "fresh" description of the events--not those of The Times) in Fullerton. The reporting of the event describes all participants as caring, compassionate individuals when sober (emphasis mine). The police are viewed (primarily by the deceased's family) as not pursuing the case vigorously--in effect not seeing that "justice is done."

The whole event is taken as a "fair fight" that, unfortunately, resulted in the death of one of the participants. No mention has been made as to where and how these people came to be so drunk in the first place. The victim is described as having a long history of alcohol abuse but no questions are raised as to why his family, his employer (the U.S. Marine Corps) or the court that tried him for driving under the influence didn't recommend treatment.

Let us suppose that the drug involved was marijuana or cocaine (highly unlikely as neither provoke the belligerent behavior associated with alcohol). For starters, The Times would have headlined a "Drug-Related Death in Fullerton." The "pushers" would have been jailed--if caught. The two athletes would have been suspended from Cal State Fullerton, and the (other) Marine discharged!

I wouldn't expect any member of the mass media, or a California politician, for that matter, to be quite that brutal in comparing alcohol and other drug usage, but you have to admit it is a fresh approach.



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