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Heroin report by ASU journalism students expected to be ratings boon

Camera operator and subject
January 07, 2015

Next week, every broadcast TV station and most radio outlets in Arizona that are used to competing will unite and simultaneously air a 30-minute, commercial-free documentary produced by Arizona State University journalism students.

“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” an investigative report by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA), focuses on the state’s growing and alarming perils of heroin and opioid use.

The statewide simulcast will air on Jan. 13 on all 33 broadcast TV stations in Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Yuma, and more than 90 radio stations throughout the state. The air time will be 6:30 p.m. on most stations and 5 p.m. on Spanish language stations. The video and a series of multimedia stories will be available the evening of the showing, at

“Hooked” 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.

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School and university vice provost, said “Hooked” is anticipated to be one of Arizona’s most watched shows this year, based on a similar project championed by the ABA in 2008.

Art Brooks, president and CEO of the ABA, developed the idea after learning of the seriousness of the issue and organized the backing of the state’s broadcast industry.

“The scourge of heroin and opioid addiction is killing hundreds of Arizonans, and the growing problem is reaching epidemic levels,” Brooks said. “Broadcast stations are fiercely competitive but our industry leaders are bonding together on this public danger in order to save lives.”

During and after the simulcast, the ABA will sponsor a call center for people seeking counseling or more information on heroin and opioid addiction. A 100-phone center with trained counselors will be set up in the studios of Arizona PBS on the sixth floor of the Cronkite building on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The special TV report was a semester-long project led by Jacquee Petchel, a Cronkite professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor. Callahan said the report, spearheaded by a team of 70 students and eight faculty members, shines a light on a critical issue.

“Our students traveled across the state interviewing Arizonans about their experiences with heroin,” Callahan said. “They found that the drug impacts all demographic and socioeconomic groups in Arizona.”

ASU will screen the documentary at various campus locations during the night of the broadcast. The Cronkite School will host a viewing and a panel discussion featuring some of the students who worked on the documentary at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 13, in the First Amendment Forum.