I was disappointed to read Frank Thompson’s response to my recent op-ed, “Eil’s Column An Affront to Scioto County.” I have spoken with Frank numerous times during visits to Portsmouth. I like him. I respect him. And if he had ever mentioned suspicions about my motives during our conversations, I would have gladly addressed them. Here, I only have room to address his two most glaring accusations. You can read my full response in the comments of his “All Things Wildly Considered” blog.
“I am beginning to understand your motive for curiosity,” Frank wrote in his piece. “With profit and family ties in the balance, can you objectively judge what has happened to Dr. Paul Volkman?”
Let me explain my “family ties” to Paul Volkman. As I mentioned in my op-ed, Volkman went both college and medical school with my father. But by the time he was indicted in 2007, they hadn’t spoken in over a decade. In fact, when my father mentioned his indictment to me in the spring of 2009, it was the first time I had ever heard Volkman’s name. A few months later, I wrote him a letter expressing my interest in his case and we eventually met in Chicago in December. Since that time, if I have struggled to remain objective during my research, it is not because of loyalty to this man, but because of my distaste for him. I challenge Frank to find evidence of a time when I have taken a “stance in defense of a family friend and a guilty man.”
Then there is the issue of being, as Frank says, “bent on making money.” To this, I plead guilty. Yes, I am conducting my research with the hope of eventually completing a book that will eventually be published and eventually bring in money that might eventually recoup the thousands of dollars I have spent on gas, motels, Subway sandwiches, legal fees, and other expenses. Three years into the project, however, I have yet to earn a single cent from it.
As a former English teacher, Frank is surely familiar with the concept of a professional writer: men and women who, among their myriad other motives for writing, have to also consider whether they will be paid for their work. And if he is going to accuse me of being greedy by reporting on Portsmouth, I hope he is willing to extend that accusation to the reporters who came before me: representatives from A&E’s “Addiction,” Men’s Health magazine, the Associated Press, Dr. OZ, Dr. Drew, the CBS Sunday Morning Show, the Columbus Dispatch, WSAZ, and others. Track down any of these stories about prescription drugs and Portsmouth and you will find them interrupted by commercial breaks or printed (on paper or online) alongside advertisements. Were all of these reporters “bent on making money,” too? Or were they just doing their jobs?