tv Journalists on Covering Opioid Addiction Abuse CSPAN October 19, 2017 1:03pm-1:32pm EDT
makes a tremendous point. thank the first responders who are dealing and responding to people in crisis. we will move on to the next portion of the program. if you bear with us for just a moment. thanks again. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> so great to see you all here. i am from the washington post. i am libby casey. it is great to here from you in
person. lenny bernstein at "the rosen,ton post," and ira from "60 minutes." we will talk about a few things. where we go from here, but also how this collaboration came to and "60se "the post" minutes" have not worked on this for nearly a decade. we see the end result 18 months later. where did this piece result? in the beginning of 2016 we had a project launched on the national desk at "the post," and the idea was to explain why so many people were dying of opiate overdoses, particularly in middle america, middle class, whites. and i had an editor who said i want you to explain how all
these hundreds of millions of opioid pills get on the street. it does not make sense to me why we cannot keep them in the supply chain. i started reading up on it and started calling around. indeed, there have been coverage of the manufacturers and adopters and the for messieurs -- pharmacies, nothing on the distributors do realize there was an opportunity to write about their role. someone said you have to call -- this is something he has been doing for the past decade, and he had just been recently forced out of his job, was very upset about what was going on. i could not get him off the phone. us casey: you can tweet #postlive. these are companies i have never heard of before. give us a sense of the scope of this. >> the destructors are among the
top -- distributors are among the top 25 -- in america. nobody has ever heard of them. we had not heard of them. they take drugs from the manufacturer and bring them to the pharmacies where we buy them. that makes them the most important point in the supply chain if you want to choke off the pills that are getting out onto the street and being used. ms. casey: did you know that story at the time? might have some here. how does this collaboration begin? mr. bernstein: i was clueless until this was explained to me. the other guy on the other and of the phone says everybody is cropped except me, and you check it out, and everything joe said checked out. i took it is or is i could, but very smart editors realized it
needed an investigative reporter, so they connected with scott. ms. casey: and where did it go from there, scott? a lot of cases were being made out in the field against these companies were going nowhere and were hitting a brick wall in d.c. we started putting together a list of people who were working in the field who either were current dea investigators or who have retired recently. them,t began cold calling at home, cell phones, emails, calling people across the country, and we soon began to connect with people who were very upset that -- these people work for something called a division of the version to troll at the dea, which is something we had never heard of before. i have been reporter for almost 30 years and never knew this division had existed, and it is a dedicated group of people who
do nothing but regulate the industry and make sure that pharmaceuticals do not spell onto the streets. these men and women were frustrated because they were making cases against these companies to try to stop the flow of drugs, and the cases were getting stalled. and cannot understand why, people in these communities were dying left and right, and they were on the front lines. mom's and dad and grandparents and brothers and sisters were coming to them saying, what are you doing to stop this epidemic? they said, we are doing the best we can. that was the first thing we did, we documented the slowdown of in the face the dea of intense pressure from capitol hill and from the pharmaceutical industry. "60 minutes"w did get involved? >> all of this begins with the fact that people have to trust
each other. i have had a relationship with jeff, a fantastic editor. we did a story with john solomon technologylet-led that resulted in a number of people getting freed from jail, the lab changing their analysis of things. we had a great experience to build on. jeff and i had stayed in touch over the years, and we talked about what could we do, what would be the right story to do. then it ultimately ended up with marty and jeff, the executive producer at "60 minutes" having one phone call. this was the first story marty or jeff had brought up. that is what we got to do. let's hear what else they got. this is what we got to do. ms. casey: how did he know? when you have 200,000 people
dying in the united states and people are still unaware of of the scope of this. that is a big story. and as i joked with my friends here, you do not have 200,000 people dying without leaving a paper trail. that is the way i kind of approached its. what was so wonderful about this collaboration is each one of us brought a different talent. it was like bringing three chefs into a restaurant we each had different skill sets. sources,ble to share editorial purges. we stole lines from each other'ss stories. we trusted each other. they look at our copy. we looked at their copy. provided suggestions both ways. these guys had done a fantastic story in 2016.
it dropped a couple weeks before the election. nobody noticed it. the new approach to bill, it gave it a new impetus to take a second look at the story. ms. casey: it is so different getting some of the to talk to a reporter and to a reporter talk to a camera. ,ow did you talk with sources especially like joe who stands out in the story? cbs called him the biggest whistleblower in 50 years. mr. rosen: we sat around for a couple hours and we chatted, and it is the same with any relationship. a certain level of trust develops. bill whitaker is a guy who is a total gentleman, a total honest guy. he has been in the business forever. he did the interview -- he is the correspondent on broadcast.
great chemistry between bill and joe, almost instantaneously. we all were in the room and we watched it happen. the way it unfolded is the interview is going on, and scott and lenny are writing down suggested questions. that is what i mean by a troop collaboration. wey became coproducers while were doing that interview any other interviews. ms. casey: i asked lenny if you ,"er worked with "60 minutes and he looked at me and asked me if i were the king of england. >> i am a health reporter. i do not get an opportunity to work with "60 minutes." i did not get an opportunity to work with scott until this happened. it was a dream come true for me. i've want to say that there is something magical about when you sit a guy down in front of those
"60 minutes" cameras with bill whitaker 33 the way. we had talked to joe many times and have gotten great information from him. then you read what comes out of his mouth when he is talking to "60 minutes," and there's something about it that just gets something -- somebody to talk. >> there's something about bill whitaker's style. to see him in action. he basically sat down and ira helped him behind the scenes, sat joe down, and bill is sitting directly across from him, and their knees are practically touching, and they did not let him get up for almost four hours. break, but bathroom they did not feed him. they gave him a little bit of water. it was like he was at the bagram air force base, being interrogated by the cia.
-- are being intergroup interviewed by a guy who is such a gentleman and puts you at ease. i learned so much watching bill interview him because he took him from the very beginning of his career at the dea and walked him through this entire episode of him being the insider of the 21st century. it was a remarkable thing to say. andas the narrative arc, bill walked him through his own life. mr. rosen: the key to the interview is you have to have a conversation with summary. like we are having a conversation here. you have to listen to the person's answer. and by doing that, it gets him to go to the next level, and it gets it deeper. likeny ways it is sort of what television brings to an interview, not saying newspapers do not, but sometimes newspapers get the quote and thank you very
much, we will see you later. the television interview gets to the deeper aspects of things. it brings it out. when you have something like they were talking about drug billrs in lab coats, immediately reacted. you know what a horrible thing that is? he said, i know it, because i was there and i arrested those guys. there was a sequence that develop from that that you get on tv. ms. casey: you can join the conversation by using the #postlive. martino.to mr. you got thrown out of his office. >> i do not know how many you
saw on the broadcast. i am sure a lot of you did, because it was one of the most-viewed broadcasts in recent history. when we walked in and bill turned to the poor guy sitting behind a desk and said, we're with "60 minutes," the guy looked like he was going to faint. i have been covering washington for 17 years, and i have interviewed lots of members of congress and lots of people. a lot of people will hang up on you or slamming door. i have never had the police called on me. ms. casey: does that happen to you all the time? >> only in new york. it never happened before in washington. we have done a number of these situational walk-ins. frankly, most of the time the congressman comes out and tries to make the best of it. this was really extraordinary in terms of the reaction.
mr. higham: to be clear we made numerous attempts to set up an interview with content -- thompson. we sent over emails. this was our last-ditch thing. we really felt like he owed an explanation to the public why he introduced this legislation, and we felt as a public official that he should be held accountable for this legislation , and he refused to talk about it. so we went to pay him a visit. ms. casey: let's talk about what happened since the broadcast, and the "washington post" piece aired sunday. the job here is not to decide what changes are effective. you talked about the story and the public decide where to go, but we saw the president addressed this in a press conference as well as on a radio show. he talked about tom marino, and the president said tom marino
said if there is a perception of a conflict of interest, if there is a perception, he does not want have to have anything to do with it. this was not about insurance companies. neither has the white house responded or are they savvy to what this story broke and what the future of this wise. >> do i think the white house was? the white house definitely was. they knew this story was in the works as well. they did not know how the impact would be. one of the things about a collaboration is it causes all social platforms -- you are covering news, tv, all the various things -- and we also share an audience. we have a different audience, "the washington post" and cbs. they are being introduced to each other, and it brings up everything. know, trump "60
minutes -- president trump is a regular watcher of "60 minutes." >> not a regular reader of "the washington post." [laughter] mr. rosen: that night he was tuned in. >> one of the things you have not seen is the hundreds, maybe the thousands of emails that we andgetting from people, they basically are two things, at least the ones that i am getting. time when theat a press is under so much pressure and under attack from the highest levels of our government, thanks for doing this. the other one is i know someone who died of an opioid overdose, and if i had to break it down categories, that is what i'm hearing and reading. i think those two things, combined with other elements of the story, are what is presumed he -- is producing the sense of outrage. ms. casey: a comment from you,
lenny. a mother said, it just does not happen to us. we are not the family who would have someone die from this epidemic. we did not expect it to touch us. are you hearing from people who thisthat same sense of continuing to get worse and continuing to affect people on a very personal level? mr. bernstein: at this point, it does happen to people like these. segregated --re segregating populations with the opioid epidemic. ethnicity,party, it's crosses where you live, it crosses all those lines. they are gone now. in 2016 will be about 62,000 people who have died of drug overdoses when the final numbers are in, and more than half of those will be opioid overdoses.
while they were shot because they were such a normal, average, working, middle-class family, did not happen to them, it does. it happens to everyone from the wealthiest folks on down. ms. casey: it will get worse before it gets better? mr. bernstein: i suspect it is. i hope not. curve has notthat been bent yet. i fear what is going on right now, and there is an ignition -- -- education one glimmer is doctors have started to reduce the number of prescriptions for these things that they write, so future substance abusers, keep the number of abusers down somewhat, but i fear we are going to see larger numbers before we start to see smaller ones. ms. casey: what do you think has
happened in last couple days now that the story has broken? mr. higham: now there is a mad dash to get a new drug czar. now there is pressure on this legislation that mr. marino introduced. the dea chief judge has written a legal analysis of this bill in which he says this of ben's 40 40 years of law and makes it difficult for the dea to do its job. jeff sessions yesterday, along with the attorney general, said they are looking at this very seriously. there is a lot of people at justice, perhaps at the white house, legal counsel, taking a look at the law and what it says. if you and i were to read this law, it is a lot of gobbledygook, but if you are drug lawyer or somebody in that
world, you know exactly what those words mean and exactly what those words will do. it is one of the reasons why it slipped through congress because a lot of people said it is the druging patient access and enforcement act. why would you be opposed? it does nothing to ensure patient access, does nothing to enforce the nation's drug laws. it does the opposite. that is probably the next debt as to what happens to that law. there have been calls to repeal it. mr. rosen: we heard an agreement from the senators that the committee will be holding a hearing soon on the bill. and i would not be surprised if joe -- is their first witness. ms. casey: i heard from scott as well, your gotten so many emails , and a lot of personal accounts this has happened to my family. this story gets to the fundamentals of government.
it does not hit my schoolhouse rock memory like how a bill becomes a law, where everybody was the -- read it, discusses it, and then votes on it. are you getting feedback from people who are glad that you're -- from our eyes about how legislation happens in washington? mr. rosen: a lot of readers are calling it saying, thank you very much. you are holding people accountable. this is exactly what people are specific. i got people's notes, thank you very much. it has been a humbling experience. and i think what we were able to do is hold the curtain back on how washington really works. it is not very pretty. lobbyists do write legislation. members of congress do not pay attention to that legislation. a lot of them take money from special interests without understanding what is behind that money or just turning a
blind eye to what these corporations really want. these companies do not give money to members of congress for nothing. he usually want something for return. and areshington post" our commitment need to what is going on. mr. rosen: normally after a story is done, it is usually 50/50. this is the first time i have actually in reading the comments, it is almost universal, good for you, guys, congratulations, do more of it. i have never had a story in the years i have been there that have been so positive in the comment section. as you know, the united states is divided. these comments are not divided. mr. higham: that goes back to .hat libby and lenny or saying
this knows no bounds, this epidemic. everybody knows somebody who has been affected. everybody knows somebody who has died or they know somebody who knows of you who has died. and these are republicans, these are democrats, these are families that have no political bent whatsoever. this is not a political issue, and that is why it has been such an outpouring of appreciation from all kinds of people because this has nothing to do with politics. people on twitter are wondering, are enough people covering the epidemic, or are enough organizations covering the epidemic from an investigative lens? they are asking, where else can this report ago? we do not expect you guys to diebold exactly what you are working on. what inside can give us best site -- whate insight can you give us?
mr. bernstein: regional newspapers have been struggling the last 10 years. they do not have the luxury to spend six months on an investigative piece like that. we are grateful for that opportunity. are doing a of them good job reflecting what is going on in their community and making the people could change things aware of what is going on. that" --m: "because gazette" that -- "the in west virginia is doing a great job. they have lost some much advertising over the last decade, putting resources into this story is really important. we cheer all those people on. ms. casey: where does this go from here? mr. rosen: i think the story we did will get local television
let's cover to say it in our area in a bigger way. let's not just cover the car crash or the local three-alarm fire. let's devote resources to this. and when that happens, here is how it works in washington. so those stories happened, people get outraged, they call their senators and congressmen, the senator and congressman looks at the mail and the incoming phone list, and says, i better do something about it. proposed,tion is then a.b., to remedy it. law enforcement may be devote more resources in a proper way. ultimately it goes to the executive branch that says this is going to be a big voting issue in 2020. so then it happens. in many ways it begins the media coverage. and it is being recognized now in the local of all, which is the most important level in the media at the moment. when that happens, it finds its way to washington. ms. casey: should we watch out
for more collaborations? mr. rosen: yes. >> yes. [applause] ms. casey: anything else you want to say about that? mr. rosen: we will not be doing the chicago cubs. thank you so much for sharing your insights. we have been talking with ira rosen, responsible for the "60 minutes" story. am and lennyigh bernstein. you can follow all our events at tonpostlive.com.
thanks, guys. >> it look now at the u.s. senate floor. -- murkowskicaskey talking about the budget proposal, talking about an amendment dealing with the drilling in the alaskan national wildlife refuge. the senate today debating that resolution. that is a measure that would set the stage for the senate to pass legislation that would rewrite the tax code with only a majority vote, not the typical 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the senate. we expect a long day in the senate, and a final passage vote late tonight. final coverage of that debate on c-span2. at the white house, sarah sanders will brief white house reporters at three clock p.m. eastern. barack obama on the campaign trail today, campaigning today for ralph northam. that life for you
at 7 p.m. eastern on c-span. you can see it on www.c-span.org . and then to new york, paul ryan al smithnual else -- dinner there. we are expecting his comments at about 8:40 eastern. we will have that live for you as well. in, i wasfirst went barely able to get back to the service. then a bunch of them jumped in and there's a picture of them pulling me out of the lake. you can see my arm is broken. and then of course once they pulled me out, a were not happy to see me. >> why not? i hadr mccain: because just finished bombing the place. it got pretty rough. broke my shoulan