WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong says MyrtleBeachSC.com article, not heroin epidemic is the controversy.
“[Myrtle Beach area] We were seeing, through the coroner’s office, not quite two overdoses a week,” Richardson said.
“If [Myrtle Beach area] were not [a distribution center], we would not see such pure heroin.” Solicitor Jimmy Richardson Horry County
Last night WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong reported a follow up to our recent heroin story. Their coverage continued WBTW’s obsession with all things MyrtleBeachSC.com. In what has become a common practice, WBTW regularly rebuts MyrtleBeachSC.com featured articles on behalf of the city of Myrtle Beach. WBTW consistently turns the narrative of the story away from the issues at large, focusing rather to the news site reporting the issues. This week’s attack concerned our recent story on the current Myrtle Beach heroin epidemic. This epidemic has become more and more evident to the public, but is by no means new.
In the 90s and early 2000s drug problems in Horry or Georgetown County centered around crack or cocaine. Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that the heroin problem has become a major issue. Richardson said, “In the year 2016, there’s very little crack and cocaine.It’s all heroin.” And it’s at a serious dosage. After the recent more than 20 Myrtle Beach heroin user arrests Richardson said, “This area [Myrtle Beach area] is a hub,” He added. “You are seeing the purity of heroin at about somewhere between 80 and 90 percent, which means it’s about as pure as it can be… If we were not [a distribution center], we would not see such pure heroin.”
Public dialogue began earlier this month when over 400 people attended a public meeting with the Myrtle Beach Police department and city leaders to address the heroin “epidemic”. MyrtleBeachSC.com who has been following this situation over the last year attended that meeting and began a deeper conversation with local merchants and residents. Locals continually pointed out 5th Avenue North downtown as a key area in the supply line of this epidemic. Local resident, Karon Mitchell, who has lived in the area for over 40 years, said, “We know the problem areas. The areas we know the drugs are coming out of , and over the years, the Blossom Inn has been named over and over.“
Last night WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong wrote a redirect taking the focus off the heroin epidemic on 5th. The report was actually an attempt to discredit our news site once again with Taylor Herlong beginning her article: “A local blogger is stirring up some controversy after last week’s meeting with Myrtle Beach Police on the city’s heroin epidemic.“
Local merchants that include Shai David, Karon Mitchell, and Wendy Jones believe WBTW “rushed to publish”. The station never included their input on the story, nor took the time to fact check our quotes in our own report.
These merchants felt their statements were key in reporting a balanced story. They were ignored in order to produce a narrative Ms. Herlong and her station wanted produced.
We highlight the following under reporting and misrepresentation from the WBTW news report:
WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong took the angle that “merchants”, sources could not be confirmed.
She failed to mention that two local merchants from that area offered to go on camera and confirm our statements. One of those two merchants, in fact, confirmed our story to WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong by phone. Karon Michell informed us she personally reached out to Taylor. Wendy Jones also agreed to speak with Ms. Herlong on camera as well. These two local merchants reached out to WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong before her 6 p.m. article aired. For reasons known only to Ms. Herlong and WBTW, the station chose to allow the story to air without vital input she received from Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Bellamy.
Shai David, the one merchant who was named and quoted in MyrtleBeachSC.com’s article was never contacted to confirm his quote in our article. Ms. Herlong never reached out to him as a follow up in any regard. Instead, WBTW took the opportunity to mention a 2015 arrest in what was an outright public shaming. This approach seemed nothing short of intentional. Ms Herlong also failed to mention that after an initial arrest, reports show that Mr. David was attacked while wearing a body camera on his own property. Ms. Herlong also neglected to mention the man who attacked Mr. David was also arrested. Including those facts would have given Mr. David credibility. Such credibility did not seem to serve Ms. Herlong’s nor WBTW’s angle. It is this sort of irresponsible and careless journalism that Ms. Herlong, herself, made the topic of her own news story.
MyrtleBeachSC.com asked Ms. Herlong why she “rushed to publish” without these two key merchant statements. She did not reply.
WBTW highlighted their story by defending the owner of the Blossom Inn. While the owner of the Blossom Inn claimed the issues centered around what she called a “Yellow House”, Ms. Herlong chose to leave that news out of her reporting as well. The Yellow House[next door], pointed out to us by tenants as a major heroin supplier, was not once mentioned in Ms. Herlong’s story. We then went back to our original sources, some of whom have worked in that area for decades, asking them for a response. They stated that the “yellow house” was key in the heroin issue, but that the Blossom Inn was as well.
As for Elena Lautman, the owner of the Blossom Inn, WBTW did note that we reached out to Elena Lautman. What Ms. Herlong failed to mention is that we were in ongoing phone dialogues, texts, and emails with Ms. Lautman. She said the area on 5th North was a “war zone”, reminding our team of statements made by Shai David. She also highlighted the house next door, which she also called the “yellow house.” We scheduled two appointments to get Ms. Lautman and all tenants on camera to speak to our readers. Ms. Lautman cancelled both appointments last minute. Blossom Inn tenants and other locals left comments on our original article that both defended and incriminated the property. Those were left up for the reader to see. Ms Lautman had an appointment with MyrtleBeachSC.com to film an on camera response Friday, August 19th at 5 p.m. Ms. Lautman cancelled that appointment last minute. She said it was due to a coming rainstorm. I told her we could cover the story inside. She declined, but rescheduled for Monday. Early Monday morning, Ms. Lautman cancelled again. We made every avenue possible for Ms. Lautman to tell her side of this story to our readers.
LOCAL MERCHANT STATEMENTS
Karen Mitchell was told by WBTW that they would love to have her on camera. Ms. Herlong said she would even call her back. Ms. Herlong never has as of this article.
Mrs. Mitchell reported on camera with us today, that in fact, the Blossom Inn was a problem property as it relates to Heroin. Ms. Mitchell had made those same statements to us before our article aired. We chose not to publish her name originally. Our reasons were spelled out in an email sent out by another business owner, Shai David. Businesses in the downtown area are reluctant to speak on any issues that the city deems not good for tourism. Small merchants fear retaliation from an assortment of groups including the DRC, city construction services, the fire chief, or police harassment when they speak out publicly.
POLICE REPORT RECORDS: Ms. Herlong made much about arrest records and drug busts at the Blossom Inn. As Mrs. Mitchell points out in the above video, Myrtle Beach does not have a full time city drug unit. Ms. Mitchell also points out that transactions do not occur inside the Blossom Inn directly.
When I spoke with WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong , before her story aired, I reminded her that Media General, her parent company, receives millions from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce every year. These funds are provided through a 1% local option tax that the city then turns over to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber.
We reached out to WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong to respond to the items merchants brought to our attention after her story aired. She declined to take our calls. Her phone simply went to voicemail. We then texted her an opportunity to come on air with us to discuss this story. Taylor Herlong never responded to our request.
As for Myrtle Beach’s heroin epidemic:
After MyrtleBeachSC.com’s article went up, here are some of the remarks in an email we received from Myrtle Beach police chief Warren Gall:
“We have been very responsive to the situation on 5th Ave N. We’re in this for the long haul. “
It was clear to our team from comments in the above email, that the Myrtle Beach police department was aware of issues on 5th Avenue North. The Blossom Inn is located on 5th Avenue North as well as the neighboring structure locals call the “Yellow House”.
As to City Manager John Pedersen’s email, as can be seen below, comments were written that also supported our claim. Pedersen selected comments that best fit his narrative as well. Today, we received a copy of a reply email sent to Mr. Pedersen. That email spells out the city manager’s ongoing actions.
Residents of the Blossom Inn posted comments like these before Ms. Herlong’s article aired: (Based on these very comments on our website, why did WBTW make no mention of the “Yellow House”?)
Local residents also posted comments like these:
WBTW CBS Taylor Herlong says our article is the controversy. Issues, that are clear and present, get lost when the focus is misplaced. MyrtleBeachSC.com will continue to report on the issues and regret that this time we were forced to make a news story the story. Now let’s move on…..
Born in 1961, David is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area.
David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com