UM Journalism Project Explores Widespread Effects of Meth in Montana

April 11, 2017

MISSOULA – From families struggling with addiction to the overworked child protection services, Montana’s social, judicial and law enforcement systems are stretched thin trying to cope with the influx of cases caused by methamphetamine use in Montana.

A new multimedia reporting effort from the University of Montana School of Journalism aims to tell the wide-ranging story of meth abuse and its effects on society in a major new reporting project launched April 10.

The project, The Meth Effect, will unfold over the coming weeks in a series of new stories and reports on the production and distribution of meth, its impact on families and addicts and its effects on the government. The reports will mix audio reporting with photography, interactive graphics and written stories in a website, http://www.metheffect.com.

The project also will play out across social media, with reporting appearing on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mtmetheffect/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/mtmetheffect) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mtmetheffect/).

The reporting is the result of two advanced classes – one in audio reporting and another in online journalism – taught by Jule Gardner Banville and Lee Banville, two journalism associate professors. Some 20 students are reporting as part of project.

“There has been a lot of reporting on individual crimes or overburdened government agencies, but we wanted to try and capture the full breadth of ways the influx of meth into Montana has affected people and places,” said Lee Banville.

While focusing on the news surrounding meth, the project also serves as an experiment in ways to create more effective social media campaigns and digital presentations of audio stories.

“As popular as podcasts are, digital sharing of audio content is still a major hurdle for producers,” Jule Banville said. “The Meth Effect allows our students to, yes, produce the stories, but to also think smarter and better about their audiences.”

As this project rolls out over the coming weeks, national and regional news organizations may run versions of the stories, offering people throughout the state and around the country a better understanding of the challenges rural states face in dealing with drug addiction.

The Meth Effect is one of several projects coming this spring from the UM School of Journalism. Native News, the special reporting project focused on news from the state’s Native American population, will have a special focus on the Indian Health Service this May and a documentary on prescription drug abuse also is slated to run on MontanaPBS later in the spring.

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Contact: Lee Banville, UM journalism associate professor, 406-243-2577, lee.banville@umontana.edu.