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.
- Waiting on the White House: In August, President Trump promised to declare a national emergency in response to the opioid crisis. A month later, USA Today’s Deirdre Shesgreen reports that Democratic senators are pushing the president to act.
- A costly crisis: In this week’s New Yorker, Sheelah Kolhatkar writes that the opioid epidemic is “inflicting harm on the American economy…on a scale not seen in any previous drug crisis.”
- Staggering statistics: The New York Times’s Josh Katz presents a set of graphs depicting the rise in deaths related to opioids. According to the most recently released data, drug overdoses continue to be the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
- A softer lens when the addicts are white: This summer for CJR, Michael Shaw looked at the softer approach the media takes in depicting the heroin epidemic as compared with past drug coverage. As Shaw writes in his lead, “The racial bias is inescapable.”
Other notable stories
- Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham is getting an anchor chair at Fox News. CNN’s Brian Stelter and Hadas Gold have the details of the network’s primetime shakeup.
- In an industry plagued by job cuts and shrinking revenue, the San Francisco Chronicle has found a path to financial success. For CJR, Tony Biasotti looks at the Chronicle’s amazing turnaround.
- Yahoo News’s Hunter Walker and Michael Isikoff report that the FBI recently questioned former Sputnik White House reporter Andrew Feinberg as part of an investigation into whether the Russian-government-funded news agency is acting as an undeclared propaganda outlet.
- A new study from Yale University finds that tagging posts as fake news on Facebook doesn’t work. Politico’s Jason Schwartz has the details.
- Continuing their excellent work debunking fake news spread in the midst of disaster coverage, BuzzFeed reporters gathered examples of misinformation about Hurricane Irma.
- The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reports on a staff meeting at Politico during which editors said they discard “dozens” of job applications over inappropriate or partisan tweets. When staffers asked whether it was acceptable to voice condemnation of topics such as attacks on journalists or white supremacy, “The editors’ message was very hesitant.”