March 15, 2017

The publisher of “Pill City” told Poynter on Wednesday it stands by the book, a Baltimore true-crime story whose bona fides have been questioned by the Baltimore Police Department and other agencies.

“St. Martin’s Press supports Kevin Deutsch and his book,” Rebecca Lang, publicity manager for St. Martin’s Press, told Poynter in a statement.

The backing from St. Martin’s Press comes in the wake of an investigation into “Pill City” author Kevin Deutsch from journalism watchdog iMediaEthics. The investigation, published Monday, identified several sources from Deutsch’s stories for Newsday and The New York Daily News whose identities could not be verified with additional reporting.

Deutsch maintains that his work is accurate and says critics are scrutinizing his journalism because he had the audacity to question the official narrative put forth by the police and the media.

“When a department with such a well-documented history of withholding information and lying to the public attacks my work, I consider it a badge of honor,” Deutsch wrote in a defense published by The New York Observer.

“Pill City,” which was released earlier this year by St. Martin’s Press, tells the story of two teenagers, “Brick” and “Wax,” whom Deutsch reports looted pharmacies amid the Freddie Gray riots of 2015 and used a high-tech delivery service to sell their contraband.

In exchanges with The Baltimore Sun, officials from multiple agencies — The Baltimore Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and “authorities in three cities that the book says investigated the drug operation” — said they have no evidence to corroborate Deutsch’s reporting.

Writing on Medium, The Hill’s Will Sommer also called into question “Pill City’s” veracity, flagging several colorful passages he says are “particularly hard-to-believe.”

“At best, Pill City comes off like a rejected spec script for ‘The Wire,’ at worst like a hastily produced straight-to-DVD movie.”

Newsday, The New York Daily News and Newsweek are all reviewing Deutsch’s work; The New York Times recently removed two sources from a Dec. 28 story by Deutsch about fentanyl overdoses after their identities could not be confirmed.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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