Three current students and a recent graduate worked with former SMPA professor to report on the opioid crisis in West Virginia.
The George Washington University and West Virginia University began a cross-university reporting project in 2018 that brought together journalism students and faculty from two distinctly different places. The first project assessed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s economic and environmental impact in West Virginia and most recently a new study on the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
As part of the ongoing project, four GW students contributed to the recent Washington Post story about children left behind by the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
Students Kelly Hooper, a senior journalism major, Shayna Greene, Halle Kendall, a senior sociology major, and former student Arianna Dunham worked with former SMPA professor Debbie Cenziper to report on the crisis, which has displaced thousands of West Virginia children whose parents are struggling with addiction. Ms. Cenziper is a contributing reporter at The Washington Post.
The students also collaborated with journalism students and faculty at West Virginia University through an ongoing reporting partnership between the two schools.
“It was great to work with other amazing student journalists at WVU and we all got to collaborate and learn from each other,” said Ms. Hooper. “Obviously we go to two really different schools, but we all have a lot of the same interests so it was cool to work together.”
The team combed through court documents that provided details about funding brought in by the state through settlements with major opioid manufacturers and distributers. Students also interviewed doctors, nurses, caseworkers, grandparents and foster parents about the impact of widespread addiction on children, including babies born dependent on opioids. Students spent time in recovery houses, hospitals and centers for newborns across West Virginia.
After months of research and field reporting, the students created multimedia stories and launched a website to showcase their work.
In addition to educating students about investigative reporting best practices and multimedia storytelling methods, the project provided experiential learning for students from two geographically and culturally diverse universities. WVU and GW students spent time together in Washington, D.C., and in southern West Virginia to report their stories. The West Virginia team was led by associate professor Emily Corio.