AHCJ webcast to feature authors of award-winning ‘Seven Days of Heroin’ project

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform. He welcomes questions and suggestions and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

In April, the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting for an extraordinary special project, “Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.” As the Pulitzer judges said, the newspaper’s staff won, “For a riveting and insightful narrative and video documenting seven days of greater Cincinnati’s heroin epidemic, revealing how the deadly addiction has ravaged families and communities.” The project’s video element earned an Edward R. Murrow award for excellence in video and a regional Emmy award.

AHCJ will host a webcast at noon EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for members to hear from the Enquirer’s heroin reporter Terry DeMio, special projects reporter Dan Horn and storytelling coach Amy Wilson about how they produced this 20-page special section and online presentation.

In a NeimanStoryboard post, Katia Savchuck called their work, “a riveting portrait of the human face of the opioid epidemic.” On the Pulitzer site, Peter Bhatia, who was Enquirer editor while the project was in production, explained that it took months of planning “to document the heavy burden of heroin here.” (Just before the project’s publication, Bhatia was named editor of the Detroit Free Press.)

Almost 60 reporters and photographers went out across the Cincinnati metropolitan area to document the scourge of heroin over the course of one week in July 2017. Writers and editors from the Media Network of Central Ohio — 10 news sites serving the middle of Ohio — also participated,

DeMio, Horn and other reporters and staff went to courtrooms, jails and treatment facilities. They also did on-the-street interviews with people with addiction and talked to those who lost family members. Each day, a data team of five reporters called 45 agencies to get accurate numbers on how many people were treated, hospitalized or died. From the notes reporters submitted, DeMio and Horn assembled a comprehensive, time-marked narrative. Wilson edited their work. Also contributing were video editor Amanda Rossmann and photo editors Cara Owsley and Liz Dufour. Rebecca Markovitz designed the pages, Bhatia explained.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Cincinnati contributed by underwriting the work, he said.

The Enquirer in 2015 named DeMio its full-time heroin reporter. “Despite her award-winning work, Terry — and her colleagues in the newsroom — knew we needed to do more to truly document the impact of heroin here,” Bhatia wrote.

In addition to Neiman, other organizations that covered how the newsroom produced the project were the Columbia Journalism Review and Poynter. We have covered DeMio’s work in a tip sheet and blog post.

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