Kevin Deutsch

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Author and Crime Journalist Kevin Deutsch discusses "Pill City."

Kevin Deutsch is an American criminal justice journalist, author of two books, and host of the crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.[1] He is currently a staff writer for the criminal justice nonprofit Bronx Justice News.[2] The sourcing and veracity of some of his news articles and his book Pill City became the subject of a high-profile dispute in 2017 involving allegations made by members of the media that Deutsch fabricated sources.[3][4][5] Deutsch denied all of the claims and defended his work as accurate, as did his publisher, St. Martins Press.[6] Deutsch was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources.[3]Pill City is an account of how two teens used opioids looted during the 2015 Baltimore riots to sell drugs using an Uber-like app and founded a nationwide criminal syndicate.[3][7]


Deutsch's first book, The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York's Bloods and Crips,[8] is an account of the year the author spent covering a Bloods-Crips gang war on Long Island.[9][10][11][12][13][14] It received positive reviews from critics, including a starred review from Publisher's Weekly magazine. His second book, Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire,[15] chronicles the story of how opiates stolen during the Baltimore riots sparked a wave of inner-city addiction and violence.[16] It received a starred review from Booklist magazine.[17] Deutsch, born Kevin Shulman, writes under his father’s name. He received a Sunshine State Award for travel writing for a story he wrote about his deceased father, attorney Howard Shulman.[18]

Deutsch has worked on staff at Newsday,[19] The New York Daily News,[20][21] The Miami Herald,[22] The Palm Beach Post,[23] and The Riverdale Press.[24] His work as a freelancer has also appeared in The New York Times,[25] Newsweek,[26] The Village Voice,[27] The Forward,[28] Columbia Journalism Review,[29] and The New York Post.[30] Deutsch has been interviewed about American street gangs and drug trafficking,[31][32][33][34][35] and has received prizes for his writing about crime and national news events, including an Associated Press award for justice beat reporting.[36]

Questions about sources[edit]

Deutsch "was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources," but some journalists made allegations of fabrication following the release of Deutsch's second book, Pill City. Shortly after the book's release, reporters from The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper, challenged the veracity of the book's narrative.[5] On February 10, 2017, The Baltimore Sun published an article quoting government officials that cast doubt on the book, and Deutsch's practice of changing the names of individuals and places he documented.[37] Core elements of the book could not be substantiated, including "the dates, circumstances and victims involved in homicides Deutsch describes in detail."[38] The City Paper was not able to confirm the existence of almost any person described in the book, including incidental characters not involved in crime who would have no reason to fear exposure.[5] Despite a detailed explanation of events in the Shock Trauma department at the University of Maryland Medical Center, no record exists of Deutsch visiting it.[5] Of the murders described in the book, several did not appear to match any of Baltimore area's recorded murders during the year-long time period.[5] The City Paper, despite inquiring with both the police and other experts on the Baltimore underworld, was unable to verify the existence of characters who might possibly have been analogues for "old-school drug kingpin Jimmy Masters" nor a "nationally famous" Reverend Grier, despite a detailed description of a high-profile and well-attended funeral for Grier in the book.[5]

The Baltimore Sun article also included an extended video interview with Deutsch, in which he defended his work and his use of anonymous sourcing, which he said was needed to protect the safety of interviewees.[39] The "Author's Note" in Deutsch's book includes a section detailing his methodology. It states that "In order to disguise the identities of interviewees, most of their names have been changed. For that same reason, certain locations, physical descriptions, and other identifying details have been altered or obscured." [40][41]

Within a week of the Baltimore Sun story, both Newsday and The New York Times announced separate internal reviews of Deutsch's past writing.[42][43][44] Baltimore TV writer/producer David Simon said "After reading, I think this book is, by and large, a wholesale fabrication."[38][45]

On February 24, 2017, The New York Times published an editors' note on the sole article Deutsch wrote for the paper, detailing its investigation and conclusion:

An article on Dec. 29, 2016, described the rise of deadly fentanyl overdoses on Long Island, based largely on official data and interviews with law-enforcement officials. It was written by a freelance writer, Kevin Deutsch, an author and former staff reporter for The Daily News and Newsday.

Several weeks earlier, The Baltimore Sun had published a report that raised questions about claims in a new book by the reporter about the drug trade in Baltimore. The Sun reporters had informed The Times that, in the course of researching the claims in Mr. Deutsch’s book, they had reviewed the Times article and had been unable to locate two sources quoted by name in that article. The main facts of the article were upheld, and the story was not retracted.

In response, editors and reporters at The Times conducted a detailed review of the fentanyl article. The main facts and thrust of the article, including the official data and quotes from the authorities, were confirmed. However, after extensive reporting efforts, The Times also has been unable to locate or confirm the existence of two people who were named and quoted: Jeffrey Sheridan, described as a resident of Oyster Bay, N.Y., who works as an addiction counselor and whose 34-year-old nephew died from a fentanyl overdose on Staten Island in 2015; and Andrew Giordano, described as a 26-year-old resident of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, who overdosed on a fentanyl-heroin mixture.

Mr. Deutsch maintains that the interviews and the descriptions are accurate. But he has not been able to put The Times in contact with either source, or to provide any further material to corroborate the account. At this point, editors have concluded that The Times cannot vouch for the accuracy of those sources, and that material has been removed from the online version of the article.[46]

Following these findings, on March 2, 2017, the media watchdog group iMediaEthics confirmed that the New York Daily News was conducting an internal review, examining all 572 stories from Deutsch's career with the company.[4][47] The group later shared a statement from Newsweek, confirming that it would review the three stories Deutsch had written there as well.[48] The New York Daily News review was less extensive than the Newsday review and noted the impossibility of verifying five-to-seven year old stories that were often written under multiple bylines after staff turnover, but did not find any obvious "red flags" in its review.[49][38] Deutsch has stood by all of his reporting, stating that he used the exact names given to him by his interviewees.[48]

On July 12, 2017, Newsday, where Deutsch was on staff for more than four years, released the conclusions of its review of Deutsch's writing there. Newsday said that review was prompted by the Baltimore article questioning Deutsch's second book. Newsday found that in 77 or more than 600 articles written by Deutsch, 109 individuals he quoted could not have their existence confirmed. The editors said the main points of the articles were confirmed and cited many reasons that people might not give a real name to a police reporter. No corrections were issued, but Newsday appended individual editor's notes to each of the 77 articles online, detailing which sources it could not locate after approximately four months of effort.[50][51][52]

In response, Deutsch issued a statement on his website stating: "For me, journalistic ethics are sacrosanct. They've remained so throughout my fifteen-year criminal justice journalism career—a career I'm extremely proud of. I stand behind every word I've published. 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."[53] Deutsch has also suggested that his competitors are simply jealous of his work.[38]

The Washington Post and Rolling Stone both published articles which noted that Deutsch had worked for news organizations for years before Deutsch's alleged sourcing problems were brought to light.[3] They both hypothesized that Deutsch's coverage of marginalized communities meant he faced less accountability.[38] Such sources are more difficult to track down, and readers are happy to accept information that fits their expectations. David Simon was more blunt; he wrote "Nobody is going to fact check poor black people. That's the bottom line... you can say anything you want about the black underclass."[3]

Rolling Stone updated its story about Deutsch with a clarification in August 2018, stating that "This story has been changed to clarify that Deutsch was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources. It was also updated to include a comment from Deutsch." That comment read: “Despite the false and baseless accusations made by a handful of competing journalists who targeted some of my work, including the author of this very piece, none of the more than 1,500 news articles, briefs, features, or books I’ve published in my 16-year crime reporting career has ever been retracted, nor a single factual correction or clarification issued, as a result of these attacks.”[3]


  1. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (August 16, 2018). "Journalist Kevin Deutsch on How Miami's Cocaine Cowboys -and Batman- Turned Him Into a Crime Author". Medium. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  2. ^ "Kevin Deutsch – Bronx Justice News". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Rich, Jim (April 11, 2017). "The Fake News Story No One's Talking About: Reporter Kevin Deutsch has been accused of fabricating sources in stories for major publications – so where's the outrage?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Exclusive: 572 Stories by Fmr NY Daily News Crime Reporter Under Review After NYT Admits Source Fail - iMediaEthics". iMediaEthics. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Jr., Edward Ericson. "Anonymous Sources, Pharmacy Pills, and Gang Wars: Inconsistencies raise questions about "Pill City," a Baltimore tale of drugs and murder". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  6. ^ "Kevin Deutsch: The Truth Is on My Side". 6 March 2017.
  7. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (7 January 2007). "An accidental tourist finds nothing' s left to chance" (PDF). The Miami Herald.
  8. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (2014). The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York's Bloods and Crips. Globe Pequot Press / Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-4930-0760-8.
  9. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York's Bloods and Crips by Kevin Deutsch".
  10. ^ Miller, Laura. ""We're Baghdad-ready": Inside the street gangs of Long Island".
  11. ^ "Reporter from LIC writes book on inside look at New York's ongoing gang war -".
  12. ^ "Kevin Deutsch - Ensuing Chapters".
  13. ^ "The Columbus Dispatch calls 'The Triangle' "Gripping" -".
  14. ^ Efraim, David Ben (1 March 2015). "Quick Book Reviews: "The Triangle" by Kevin Deutsch – War of the Invisible Men".
  15. ^ "Pill City - Kevin Deutsch - Macmillan".
  16. ^ "PILL CITY by Kevin Deutsch - Kirkus Reviews".
  17. ^ "Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire". Barnes & Noble.
  18. ^ "2007 Sunshine State Award Winners List". The Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. 19 May 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Hempstead's gang wars focus of new book".
  20. ^ "Kevin Deutsch - Writers - NY Daily News".
  21. ^ "'News' successfully quashes subpoena for a reporter in 'hero cop' Peter Figoski murder case".
  22. ^ "Orlando massacre roused the whole spectrum of American grievances".
  23. ^ Norman, Bob (27 April 2006). "Killer Lightning Strikes".
  24. ^ "Ex-'Press' reporter tackles gang violence in new book".
  25. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (28 December 2016). "Fentanyl Outpaces Heroin as the Deadliest Drug on Long Island". The New York Times.
  26. ^ "Kevin Deutsch".
  27. ^ "Kevin Deutsch - New York News, Food, Culture and Events - Village Voice".
  28. ^ "Kevin Deutsch".
  29. ^ "Q&A: Ted Conover on mastering the art of immersion journalism".
  30. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (23 November 2014). "How the love of a high school girl sparked a gang war".
  31. ^ "Kevin Deutsch".
  32. ^ ""A Year On The Ground With New York's Bloods and Crips"".
  33. ^ "How New York Gang Culture Is Changing - VICE - United States". 18 August 2015.
  34. ^ PM, Kevin Deutsch On 8/20/14 at 12:28 (20 August 2014). "For St. Louis Gangs, Ferguson Has Become a Recruiting Tool".
  35. ^ AM, Kevin Deutsch On 10/8/14 at 6:58 (8 October 2014). "'You Ready to Step Up?'".
  36. ^ "Winners of New York State Associated Press Association writing and photography contest for 2013".
  37. ^ Fenton, Justin. "Baltimore officials question claims in new book about 2015 pharmacy thefts". Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  38. ^ a b c d e A journalist on the crime beat becomes the subject of some skeptical journalism. The Washington Post
  39. ^ Sun, Baltimore. "Interview with 'Pill City' author Kevin Deutsch". Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  40. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (31 January 2017). "Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire". St. Martin's Press – via Google Books.
  41. ^ Deutsch, Kevin (15 February 2017). "Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire".
  42. ^ "Note from Newsday's editor". Newsday. Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  43. ^ Fenton, Justin. "Newsday, New York Times reviewing work of 'Pill City' author". Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  44. ^ Weigel, Brandon. "Questions mount over "Pill City" author's previous reporting". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  45. ^ "Fake Pill City - The Millions". The Millions. 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  46. ^ "Editors' Note: February 25, 2017". The New York Times. 2017-02-24. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  47. ^ "NY Daily News, Newsday, and NYT Investigating Past Work by Writer Whose Sourcing Is Now Being Questioned". Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  48. ^ a b "Exclusive: Now 8 missing sources in crime reporter Kevin Deutsch's coverage, quits teaching job last minute, Newsweek stories also under review - iMediaEthics". iMediaEthics. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  49. ^ New York Daily News review of Kevin Deutsch: ‘No red flags,’ but with caveats. iMediaEthics.
  50. ^ "Editor's note to our readers". Newsday. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  51. ^ "Newsday releases review of Kevin Deutsch's reporting". Poynter. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  52. ^ "Newsday: 109 Sources Can't be Found in Kevin Deutsch Crime Reporting - iMediaEthics". iMediaEthics. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  53. ^