UM Student Project on Meth Use in Montana Wins National Award

September 12, 2018

MISSOULA – The Society for Professional Journalists named Metheffect.com, a University of Montana School of Journalism project, a national winner in its Mark of Excellence Awards. The award for Online In-Depth Reporting will be recognized at the annual SPJ convention in Baltimore Sept. 27-29.

When the semesterlong reporting project published in May of 2017, its impact was felt throughout the state. It ran as an hourlong radio documentary on Montana Public Radio. Newspapers – including the state’s second largest, the Missoulian – ran a multipart series featuring the articles, and the attorney general’s office asked for the full reporting to help guide its policy on drug addiction. The coverage marked the first time any news organization had sought to comprehensively document the impact meth use is having on families, social services and the judicial system in our state.

The School of Journalism created the project by combining existing classes – one in advanced audio reporting and the other in digital news – to develop a multimedia website to serve as a hub for stories distributed through traditional Montana media. It also trained students to use social media and shareable audio to reach audiences online.

The project teamed up classes taught by Lee Banville (digital news) and Jule Banville (advanced audio).

“We really wanted to tell the story of how this drug and addiction is affecting so many segments of life in Montana,” Lee Banville said, “and what emerged was a series of stories and interactive features that, for the first time, tried to tell the whole story of meth in Montana. It is gratifying to see a national news organization like the Society of Professional Journalists recognize the Meth Effect as a real accomplishment in telling a complex story in an in-depth way.”

“It’s a big deal, and I’m really honored the work we did is getting some national recognition,” Jule Banville said. “But I have to say, I’m even more impressed with the stories and the solid journalism our students accomplished. It’s had a real impact, and I think that’s the take-home for us.”

For more information about the project, visit http://www.metheffect.com.

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Contact: Jule Banville, professor, UM School of Journalism, 406-243-2237, jule.banville@umontana.edu.