ASU's 'Hooked' documentary to receive prestigious Governors' Award

August 18, 2015

An Arizona State University documentary about heroin will receive the highest honor given by the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). It is the first time a journalism school will receive the award.

The NATAS Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter will honor ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Arizona Broadcasters Association with the Governors’ Award in October for the documentary “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” which aired on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio stations in Arizona in January and reached more than 1 million Arizonans. Hooked Documentary ASU student Erin Patrick O'Connor conducts an interview for the documentary "Hooked: Tracking Heroin's Hold on Arizona." The documentary, which reached more than 1 million Arizonans, will receive the prestigious Governors' Award in October. Download Full Image

“The ‘Hooked’ campaign by the Arizona Broadcasters Association and Cronkite School addresses an issue that plagues so many members of our community,” said Theresa Maher, president of the NATAS Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter. “We hope that their raw look into the world of heroin use will change the course of many lives for the better.”

The 30-minute documentary, produced by the Cronkite School in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association, traces the rise of heroin use and its impact on Arizonans through the stories of addicts struggling with sobriety, families grappling for solace and law enforcement officials battling on the frontlines. More than 70 students and eight faculty members at the Cronkite School worked on the project under the direction of Cronkite professor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist.

“The award represents a significant contribution to public service,” Petchel said, “and it says a lot about our students and how the Cronkite School prepares them to produce compelling journalism.”

During and after the simulcast, 100 recovery counselors answered hundreds of calls at an Arizona Broadcasters Association-sponsored call center at Arizona PBS for assistance on heroin and opioid addiction.

“The Governors’ Award greatly acknowledges what was not only historic with the airing of the ‘Hooked’ project, but honors the students, professors, leadership at Cronkite as well as the character of every local TV station and 93 radio stations in the state that provided the valuable airtime and the professionals at the front line in taking the calls that flooded the call center that evening,” said Arizona Broadcasters Association President and CEO Art Brooks. “I have no doubt lives were changed and saved that night and since Jan. 13.”

The Governors’ Award is the second professional honor Cronkite students have won for “Hooked.” In May, students took first place in video storytelling at the Arizona Press Club Awards, marking the first time in the history of the contest that students of any university beat professional journalists.

The Governors’ Award recognizes individuals and organizations for going above and beyond in telecommunications profession. “Hooked” shares this year’s award with KSL in Salt Lake City.

“This award demonstrates the extraordinary power and impact that outstanding ASU students working with inspiring faculty members can produce for our community,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “We are extremely honored to receive this award, unprecedented for a university.”

This year’s Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards ceremony will take place on Oct. 17 at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

NATAS is a professional service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. The Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter, formed in 1959, represents Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and El Centro, California.

Founded in 1952, the Arizona Broadcasters Association functions as a 501(c)6 nonprofit corporation, and is the official trade association serving all free, over-the-air radio and television stations in Arizona. The ABA’s mission is to serve, educate and advocate for its members as well as the general public.

Sports star aims for new heights as ROTC student at ASU

August 18, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

Savannah Cunningham reaches into her bag and pulls out her smartphone. Unlike many young women her age, 18, its case doesn’t feature an ornate, flowery pattern or shimmery rhinestones. It is emblazoned with the official logo of the United States Marine Corps. Savannah Cunningham at ASU fitness center Savannah Cunningham — who has long had a passion for sports — will soon be known as Midshipman Cunningham when she begins her freshman year in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps this fall at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

“I was always the competitive kid that would run around, play football with the guys. I was never one to sit with all the chicks and gossip. That wasn’t me,” says the native of the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix.

But, she contends, “I do have a girly side to me too, though. I’m not just like this macho female.”

She laughs then, something she does often, and tucks a strand of long, blond hair behind her ear.

Cunningham will soon be known as Midshipman Cunningham when she begins her freshman year in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) this fall at Arizona State University.

Though she always received good grades at Horizon Honors High School, Cunningham’s heart was in athletics. She was the captain of her soccer and volleyball teams – the latter of which won state one year – and also ran track and field, where she placed at state. In her free time, she gave private swimming lessons.

Despite her passion for sports, Cunningham was unsure what her next step would be after high school.

“To be honest, for the longest time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” she admits.

Then, the day she went to take her driver’s license test she noticed a service member in front of her in line.

“For some reason, that just sparked an interest, and I started researching, looking at different branches [of the U.S. Armed Forces], and the Marine Corps really stood out to me,” Cunningham recalls.

Perhaps surprisingly, she doesn’t have any immediate relatives in the Armed Forces. However, her grandfather was in the Air Force, and she says her great-great-great-grandfather is General John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces to victory over Germany in World War I.

“So I kind of have that background, but not directly,” she says. “So I’m the first Marine in the family. And female!”

Now with a plan for her future in place, the next step was convincing her parents, both former Sun Devils, that it was a good idea. Being awarded an NROTC scholarship to attend ASU helped.

After receiving high marks on her ASMAT (Armed Services Military Accession Test) — “It’s basically like the entrance test into the military,” she says — Cunningham was encouraged to apply for the scholarship. The application process was “intense” and required her to craft a professional resume, write two personal essays and participate in three officer interviews — beginning with a lieutenant, then progressing to a colonel and finally a general.

“If you didn’t pass the lieutenant, you didn’t get the scholarship. So it was a big deal,” she says.

But her perseverance paid off, and not only did Cunningham make it all the way to the interview with the general, but she was awarded a full ride to ASU.

“I cried when I found out because I don’t have to pay for college; I don’t have to worry about student-loan debt. It’s a good feeling,” she says.

At ASU, Cunningham will major in geography with a concentration in meteorology-climatology and hopes to one day use that knowledge as a helicopter pilot or intelligence personnel. She cites a scene from 2007’s “Transformers” in which Pentagon officials provide remote tactical aid to U.S. troops battling rogue machines as a fantasy version of her “dream” job.

Cunningham also plans to carve out time between her studies and NROTC obligations to play intramural sports at ASU.

“I want to play volleyball, soccer and I really want to play dodgeball,” she gushes.

At the moment, though, she’s most looking forward to relinquishing her responsibilities as the eldest of four siblings and enjoying some time to herself as just another college kid in her dorm room at Manzanita Hall.

“I’m just excited to have my own independence. And I’m so pumped to move in!”

Emma Greguska

Editor, ASU News

(480) 965-9657