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Cronkite Heroin Documentary Wins NABEF President’s Special Award

April 11, 2016

“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” a statewide TV special produced by Arizona State University students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association, will receive a top honor from the nation’s leading broadcaster organization.

The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation is awarding the President’s Special Award to the ABA as part of the Celebration of Service to America Awards. The win marks the first time that a student-produced project has won this professional honor.

Since its inception in 2008, the NABEF has given the President’s Special Award six times. The ABA, which co-produced “Hooked,” will receive the honor at the Celebration of Service to America dinner June 21 in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1952, the ABA is the official trade association serving all free-over-the-air radio and television stations in Arizona.

The 30-minute “Hooked” documentary, the culmination of work by more than 70 student journalists, aired on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio stations in Arizona in January 2015, reaching more than 1 million viewers. It examines the rise of heroin use and its impact on the state. The documentary made its national television debut in February 2016 on the independent national satellite network Link TV.

“With ‘Hooked,’ we opened a door to a reality many are all too familiar with and others are still learning about,” said ABA President and CEO Art Brooks. “Over the past year since the broadcast, there have been countless stories proclaiming heroin as a national crisis even by the President in his State of the Union address. The road from opiate prescription drugs to heroin use is a tragic story, and this project exposed it to our state, region and nation.”

Since airing, the documentary has received numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, which marked the first time a student project has won the award and just the third time in the 74-year history of the contest that a Phoenix-based news operation has received the honor.

“Hooked” also has received two of the region’s top professional honors at the Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards: an Emmy in the category of “Societal Concerns – Program/Special” and the Governors’ Award. It also took first place in video storytelling at the Arizona Press Club Awards.

“The most rewarding part of an honor like this is that it demonstrates Arizona State University's commitment to our community,” said Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who led the project. “But even more important, the project was produced by student journalists who understood the importance of public service and through their work have been set on a path to carry that responsibility forward.”

Since the documentary’s airing, Cronkite students have continued to produce broadcast and digital reports on the heroin epidemic through Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.

The Celebration of Service to America Awards are sponsored and produced by NABEF with major support from the National Association of Broadcasters, the nation’s leading trade association for radio and television broadcasters.

The NABEF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reinforcing the future of broadcasting through a commitment to education and to advancing excellence in the diversity and community service efforts of the broadcasting industry.