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SPJ Awards Cronkite School Heroin Documentary Prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award

April 22, 2016

An Arizona State University student-produced documentary on the scourge of heroin that was broadcasted on 93 radio stations statewide has won a top professional honor from one of the nation’s oldest journalism organizations.

“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” produced by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association, has won the Sigma Delta Chi Award in the radio documentaries category from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Sigma Delta Chi Awards date back to 1932 and recognize the best professional journalism in print, radio, television and online. The award in the radio documentaries category honors the top news team that dramatically shows or analyzes a news event in a single broadcast. Past winners have included NPR, the Center for Public Integrity and Public Radio International.

“Hooked” traced 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. The documentary aired in January 2015 on all 33 Arizona broadcast television and 93 radio stations in both English and Spanish. It made its national broadcast debut on Link TV in February 2016.

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. More than 70 students and eight faculty members worked on the project, traveling across Arizona to shine a light on this growing epidemic. The project was part of Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.

The documentary included an interactive website with more than a dozen in-depth reports and an unprecedented data analysis of more than 10 million Arizona hospital emergency room cases.

“‘Hooked’ demonstrates the Cronkite School’s commitment to excellence and journalism that matters on all media platforms,” said Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who led the project. “We are honored to receive this prestigious award from the SPJ.”

Since airing, the documentary has won numerous awards, including a rare 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. Cronkite students joined journalists from CBS News and ABC News, among others to receive the award in January 2016.

“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 and the President’s Special Award from the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation. Editor & Publisher magazine awarded the documentary with an EPPY Award for Best College/University Investigative or Documentary Feature.

For more than 100 years the Society of Professional Journalists has been dedicated to encouraging a climate in which journalism can be practiced more freely and fully, stimulating high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism and perpetuating a free press.