Newsday reveals it could not track down 109 sources in "Pill City" author's previous reporting
By BRANDON WEIGEL
Jul 12, 2017 | 3:26 PM
After a months-long investigation, the Long Island newspaper Newsday revealed it could not locate 109 sources from 77 stories written by former reporter Kevin Deutsch, the author of a book about Baltimore's drug trade, "Pill City," whose accuracy was questioned by City Paper, The Sun, and others.
Newsday said it is attaching an editor's note to each of the stories in question.
The paper says it looked into 600 stories by Deutsch, covering a period from April 2012 to September 2016. Staffers searched records, databases, and social media platforms in an attempt to verify the identities of people quoted in the pieces. Deutsch sent along notes that he said were from interviews flagged by the paper.
Over email, he told the paper, "I have no doubt about the veracity of the claims of the sources I quoted."
"It's impossible for any reporter to know whether the name given to him by interviewees on the street — or those reached briefly by phone or email — is that person's full and legal name, rather than an alias or variation of their real name," he also wrote. "But every one of the names on Newsday's list was the name given to me by that interview subject, verbatim."
The paper unsuccessfully tried to meet with Deutsch in person to discuss his reporting.
Here in Baltimore, questions about the veracity of "Pill City," a book that claims to follow the rise of a drug gang started by two teenagers in the aftermath of the uprising, were raised almost as soon as the book started getting press.
Officials could not verify elements of the book, and City Paper found that murders recounted with great detail in Deutsch's prose did not match the record of actual murders in the city, among other discrepancies.
Deutsch offered to show City Paper the records he kept in his apartment to support everything in "Pill City," if CP came up to New York City. City Paper asked for digital copies, which he declined, citing concerns over agreements to anonymity with sources. Those agreements are the same reason, Deutsch said, he had to change dates, names, and locations in the book, even though many of the characters end up dead. City Paper then offered to review redacted documents in order to honor those agreements, which he also declined.
Through it all, Deutsch has continued to stand behind the reporting in "Pill City" and his 15 years of work at Newsday and other publications. On his site, Deutsch posted a long response to the Newsday investigation, saying: "None of my work has been found to be inaccurate, nor any story I've worked on ever retracted. Newsday's review confirmed the accuracy of the more than 630 stories I wrote for the paper--stories Newsday is standing behind."