By Bill Slane
PHOENIX – Early ratings numbers show that a Cronkite News documentary on heroin addiction simulcast January 13 by all Arizona TV stations was viewed by 380,000 households.
To Thalia Williams, a program director with DrugFreeAZKids.org, the benefit from “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” happened in living rooms across the state.
“What the impact will be is that parents will have some conversations with their kids, which is exactly what we want them to do,” she said. “It provided a great opportunity.”
With prevention key to breaking heroin’s hold, Williams said she hopes the documentary helps prevent kids from slipping into opioid addiction, or any other addiction. She said she was also glad the Arizona Broadcasters Association arranged for a call center to connect viewers with more information and help.
“It was really great that there was a resource available and that people could have someone to talk to,” she said.
Dozens of students at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication spent months producing the documentary. The Arizona Broadcasters Association arranged for every TV station and many radio stations to air it at 6:30 p.m.
Nielsen ratings available Wednesday suggested that 57,000 of the households viewing the program were in Tucson.
Nancy Southgate, associate general manager of content at KAET Television in Phoenix, said airing the 30-minute program was part of the station’s commitment to community service.
“This is something we believe in and want to make sure we get out,” she said. “We like to do stuff like this whenever we can.”
Southgate said KAET received calls from viewers after the broadcast, though she didn’t know the exact number.
“They varied from someone who missed it and wanted to know how to see it to someone who said they had a family member affected by heroin and really appreciated the program,” she said.
Aimee Runyon, CEO of notMYkid, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate families in Arizona about substance abuse, said she was excited to see the show air across the state but had some critiques.
“I didn’t feel like it captured across the demographics that heroin has an impact on across our state,” she said. “I think that it came across more of a low-income drug. I think there were populations that were not represented, that really needed to be.”
Art Brooks, president and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, called the collaboration among so many outlets historic and very difficult to put together, noting that the only other time it happened was for a 2008 documentary on methamphetamine.
As for the impact, Brooks said: “We’ll never really know.”
“I think the impact is larger than life, I think lives will be saved,” he said. “I think the program by itself is not a cure-all, it’s not going to end the addiction. But it is going to open people’s eyes as to the seriousness of the issue in Arizona.”
Williams, with DrugFreeAZKids.org, said having so many outlets airing the documentary commercial-free showed how important the issue is to everybody in Arizona.
“It’s going to send a strong message,” she said. “It’s important enough that people didn’t even worry about paying for commercials. They kind of put that aside and decided they need to focus on this because it’s really hurting our community.”