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Here's why we're doing a story that explains a new drug

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published August 3, 2008

There's an interesting story on today's A1 about Salvia Divinorum, an herb -- Mexican sage to be exact -- that causes an effect on the body that can be likened to various illegal drugs.

But salvia is not an illegal plant. In fact, you can buy it in Boardman today if you wanted to.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s not the safest thing,” said Tony Marino, owner of A.R.M. Cigar Co., a Boardman store that carries the herb.

Two questions likely come to a reader's mind about this story:

1) What the heck is salvia divinorum? We asked the same question in the newsroom. Mind you, we in the newsroom wouldn't be accused of being the hippest people on the planet. But we're also not closeted introverts unaware of society's change. Most of us were saying "salvia div ... what?"

2) Why the heck would The Vindy do a story that is basically an invite for people, especially kids, to go use this? I'm guessing we'll take several phone calls Sunday and Monday, and get a few emails or posted comments.

It's fair to say that we've given folks an invite to something they possibly did not know about -- something that people charged with protecting us would rather people not know about. But you could argue we do that in many of our stories. Example: When the two idiots rammed their car into a KFC manager's car in order to rob him, I'm sure there were a handful of thugs who read that and thought "Now that's an idea I could try."

But the other reality of reporting certain stories and details is the desire to make the community more aware of the dangers that exist in our society.

We spent some time discussing the impact of this salvia story, and how to play it in our paper. There was talk of playing it down a bit, but that evoked debate of are we doing our job to bring appropriate prominence to things that can affect your life?

Our newspaper friends in Canton did a salvia story recently, and they had a similar concern about how to play it. They felt it was important to bring bigger awareness to the issue, and they played it on A1 about the same as we have it today. They took three reader complaint calls.

We have a great story today by Ashley Luthern, and I think Valley readers have a chance to become more informed about a danger to their children and grandchildren.

Let me know what you think.

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