The Media Today

The media today: Award-worthy work from The Cincinnati Enquirer

September 12, 2017

Over the course of what it called “an ordinary week in this extraordinary time,” The Cincinnati Enquirer dispatched more than 60 reporters, photographers, and videographers to tell the story of an epidemic that is decimating the region they cover. The result—Seven Days of Heroin—was published as a 20-page special section on Sunday. It deserves all of the attention it has been getting.

Told in spare, chronological snapshots of one week in July, the cumulative effect is an overpowering portrait of a region struggling to confront a crisis. The piece’s subhed reads, “This is what an epidemic looks like,” and that’s what it delivers. Two years ago, the Enquirer assigned journalist Terry DeMio to cover the “heroin beat” full-time. She and reporter Dan Horn took the lead in assembling the piece.

For me, the most devastating moment in a story full of them came halfway through, in a parenthetical update about a mother working to stay sober eight months after giving birth to a child suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. This was just one of dozens of moments strung together through an an unprecedented investment at at time of dwindling resources. “We set out to do this project not to affirm or deny differing views on the cost of battling addiction and its impact,” Peter Bhatia, the paper’s editor wrote. “Rather, we set out to understand how it unfolds day in and day out.”

The Gannett-owned Enquirer reported this story mostly on its own (reporters from the Media Network of Central Ohio—a set of Gannett news sites in Ohio—also contributed), but it created a template that the USA Today network would be wise to utilize in future coverage of the crisis. With Gannett papers dotted across the country, a wide-ranging package similar to the network’s investigation of lead-tainted drinking water could capitalize on the company’s national strategy.

Below, more coverage of the opioid crisis.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.