Nov. 15 workshop in Ashland will help rural journalists cover the difficult topic of substance abuse and recovery; space is limited

The epidemic of opioid use and other substance abuse has hit many rural communities hard, but rural news media have a hard time covering this difficult subject, for various reasons. On Nov. 15 in Ashland, a workshop for journalists will try to change that.

Beth Macy, award-winning author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, recently released in paperback. She will appear via Skype.The workshop is designed to help rural journalists cover a subject that needs covering, in order to help their communities deal not only with substance abuse, but to know how recovery is possible.Covering Substance Abuse and Recovery: A Workshop for Journalists will be held at the Marriott Delta Downtown by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and Oak Ridge Associated UniversitiesRegistration is now open; space is limited, and the earlybird registration rate of $50 is good until Nov. 1. Registration will close Nov. 8.

The agenda is packed with a variety of experts in the field including award-winning journalists, authors, researchers, officials, and people in recovery. Several award-winning journalists who have been leaders in covering these topics in Appalachia and adjoining areas are among the speakers:

  • Terry DeMio and Cara Owsley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists from the Cincinnati Enquirer; DeMio has been the newspaper’s opioid beat reporter for five years, and Owsley is photography director; they worked on the Pulitzer-winning series, “Seven Days of Heroin.”
  • Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who won a Pulitzer in 2017 for revealing county-by-county patterns of opioid distribution in West Virginia.
  • Sharon Burton, editor and publisher of the Adair County Community Voice in Columbia, Ky., a national leader in substance-abuse coverage by small newspapers and winner of the 2016 Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian.
  • Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley, who is a former legislator, attorney and television journalist.

Attendees will learn about the issues from a variety of experts in the field including award-winning journalists, authors, researchers, officials and people in recovery. The goals are to help journalists:

  • Understand the depth and breadth of the problem and how it affects local communities
  • Know how to get reliable data and other local information for reporting
  • Develop local, state, regional and national sources for stories and story ideas
  • Hear reporters explain how they cover the problem and the people affected by it
  • Appreciate the role of local news media in reducing the stigma that inhibit local action

Research by Oak Ridge Associated Universities has shown that the stigma attached to drug use and addiction are major obstacles to news coverage of the problem, which makes it harder for communities to find solutions.

The workshop will begin with an informal gathering at the Delta hotel on Thursday evening, Nov. 14, and run from 8:30 a,m. to 5:15 p.m. Nov. 15. Online registration is required, and a room block with a favorable rate of $109 a night is available at the Delta. The registration site has a link to the hotel reservation site. Please contact Institute Director Al Cross with any questions: al.cross@uky.edu.