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Martin Shkreli and Coverage of the Daraprim Price Increase

by on October 16, 2015

The New York Times published an article on September 20, 2015 about a drastic price increase in the anti-viral drug called Daraprim, known for its aid in treating and curing patients with HIV. In one night after acquisition of the drug, CEO of startup pharmaceutical company Turing raised the price from $13.50 to $750 a tablet, a 5,000 percent increase, bringing the annual cost of treatment up to hundreds and thousands of dollars for patients.

The founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, has been widely criticized across several media outlets covering this story for the dramatic price increase- raising some questions of ethics for me as a journalism ethics student.

In the New York Times coverage, the tone remains pretty informative and neutral, but as the story spreads across media outlets over time, it seemed that the tone of the story shifted, focusing more on the man behind the drug increase rather than just the price increase in itself.

For example, Newsweek.com covered the story a day later. The leading sentence of the article, “Meet Martin Shkreli.” The article progresses with the main focus being Shkreli and his actions and reactions regarding the price increase. The article includes a video interview as well as Shkreli’s recent Tweets regarding the subject. The story seemed to quickly shift from “dramatic price increase” to “what’s wrong with the guy behind the price increase?”

http://http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/21/biotech-falls-on-clinton-price-gouging-comments.html

The coverage of this story brings me back to our class discussion on “the view from nowhere” and reporting with an opinion backed up by experience. It seems like reporters are pushing back on what seems like the news story and digging a little deeper into what’s behind it. Is it ethical for reporters to do this in this case? Are they attacking Shkreli in a way that’s fair to him? Is the story somewhat glorifying Shkreli by putting his name in the headlines rather than the simplicity of the story in the headlines? This somewhat reminds me of Jay Rosen’s argument that stories should be reported on with some sort of context rather than just taken at face value. Are reporters pushing back on Martin Shkreli an example of the journalism Jay Rosen would like to see?

Furthermore, I always find it interesting to watch an interview where the reporter so clearly disagrees with the interviewee- similarly to the interviews we watched in class between paster Terry Jones and several reporters. Both subjects seem to have a point to prove- but as someone studying journalism I can’t help but find it slightly frustrating to watch debates like this. Anyone have similar thoughts? Opposing?

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