By Denise Tessier
After praising the Weekly Alibi for its bold cover and editorial coverage of the “Megadrought” in New Mexico, it’s only fair to congratulate the Albuquerque Journal for putting bold and dramatic emphasis on the state’s drug problems with its “Deadly Addiction” series by Mike Gallagher, groups of stories that ran on multiple pages over four separate days this past week.
Its launch on Sunday morning, Aug. 12, even bumped down to below the front-page fold news that presidential candidate Mitt Romney had selected a running mate.
Dominating the page was a tombstone-like layout – with the story printed white-on-black, the headline “Deadly Addiction” in all caps shaded as if chiseled into a monument – with a subhead superimposed over a photo of an actual tombstone, informing readers that:
More than twice as many New Mexicans die of drug overdoses as the national average (per capita).
The layout and sheer volume of copy over four days reflected the weightiness of the subject itself.
And over each of the four days – not just on the first day – the front page carried a first-person letter from the author, addressed “Dear Readers,” pulling readers in to the stories, into the problem. It was a nice touch, and probably quite effective, bringing home as it did not just the severity of the problem but the urgency and need for community response. In each letter, Gallagher reflected on the state’s history of drug use, trafficking and addiction as he has personally witnessed it as a New Mexico resident of the last 40 years.
The series is outstanding for the information it conveys and for its graphics and charts – of drug use by county, by Albuquerque high school and by state – showing how New Mexico tops the nation in overdose deaths – and focusing not just on heroin, but the emerging use of prescription opioid painkillers as a other huge challenge for law enforcement and for New Mexico’s residents – both young and older.
The entire series is worth reading, and considering the leeway the Journal gave Gallagher in terms of both time for research and generous space in the paper, it likely will reprint the series as a booklet, as it has in the past with other weighty series. It would be a public service if it did.
For those with online access, the entire series may be seen here. Below are links to the four main stories: