Rebecca Blandon ’12 was among a team of journalists who brought stories of the opioid epidemic to light in Opioids, Inc
, a high-profile documentary produced by FRONTLINE
and the Financial Times,
which premiered on PBS on June 26, 2020.
The documentary, for which Blandon
served as the associate producer, explores the rise and fall of Insys Therapeutics, a prescription opioid manufacturer “whose spectacular success was premised on bribing doctors and committing insurance fraud,” according to the film’s web page.
The film’s description calls the documentary, “an insider’s account of corporate pharma off the rails, and how investors looked the other way.”
According to Blandon, the sensitive nature of the subject matter required her and her team to dig deep into the backstories of the people involved and consult archived material.
“This story was particularly challenging because the CEO of the company we investigated would not speak to the press,” Blandon emphasized. “We had to craft his story through disparate sources.”
Blandon further explained that, “the majority of the people we reached out to were very hesitant to speak up…locating quality archival was also difficult but ultimately rewarding and in some cases, necessary for the film.”
Blandon, who grew up in the Bronx, was a student at Spence from 2003-2012 and went on to study neuroscience at Brown University.
At Spence, “I loved singing and arranging music as a Triple Trio co-head my senior year and I enjoyed playing on the Varsity Volleyball team,” Blandon shared. “When I wasn't doing those activities, I spent my time in the darkroom developing my photos … while experimenting with other methods of visual art in Mr. Dorman's classroom. I also remember devoting my time to SMAC (Spence Multicultural Awareness Coalition), which at the time was in its early stages.”
In her third year at Brown, Blandon developed an interest in journalism after a trip with her international reporting class to Nicaragua, where both of her parents were born. “It felt as though I was given a license to ask anyone any question about their world,” said Blandon.
After graduating in 2016, Blandon pursued a degree at the News & Documentary program at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Blandon has since served as a reporter for numerous shows and documentaries, including Brian Ross Investigates, PBS NewsHour and NYU Short Docs. In 2017, Blandon produced, shot and edited her own 40-minute film, Run The Meter, about the “demise of the NYC taxi industry.”
For Blandon, reporting “is not as much about breaking stories as it is about making the invisible visible.”
“Amid the throes of a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, I hope that more journalists will practice what I call ‘compassionate journalism,’” shared Blandon. “I believe it is essential that journalists seek out unheard voices–particularly those of BIPOC [black, Indigenous and people of color]–in order to listen to them and give them a platform. It is always a privilege to be let into a stranger's life and to listen to his/her/their story.”
Learn more about Rebecca Blandon
Opioids, Inc. can be watched here