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“Seven Days of Heroin” Reporters Talk about Series and Aftermath

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A group of reporters at The Cincinnati Enquirer worked together to create a multimedia series that would tell the real story of one week of the heroin epidemic in the Cincinnati metropolitan area from many different aspects.
To tackle this voluminous task, it would take the commitment of the whole newsroom, says Dan Horn the leader of this reporting and photographic entourage. Once the group got approval from editors for this project, they launched into a massive effort to look at the heroin epidemic from many different angels.
They used data as well as personal stories of addiction, overdose, rehabilitation and death. They also examined the impacts of the newborns and babies of addicts, according to Anne Saker, who covers the science of health and the business of medicine for the Enquirer.
The result was that this series won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting.
Horn says they were not looking for an award while assembling the story. Instead, they were seeking ways of bringing the scourge of the heroin epidemic into the minds and hearts of readers and viewers. They wanted to put faces on the statistics and show the problem of addiction at multiple levels.
For example, Saker followed one young mother who had an 8 month old child. The young woman was working her way through a rehab program and was about to emerge back into society. Saker then learned that after 10 days, the mother died from an overdose and the baby is now with relatives.
Horn and Saker say this type of story is not atypical. Yet, sometimes rehab does work and recovering addicts go on to lead productive and drug-free lives.
Horn and Saker also talked with the Spectrum Podcast about the emotional attachment they felt as reporters to the series and how many of the people in the newsroom felt real pain and anguish after the story had been published.
Horn and Saker were part of the Pulitzer Prize winning team that talked with students at Ohio University as part of the Schuneman Symposium on New Media and Photojournalism at the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism and the Scripps College of Communication.