14th annual ethics conference to address opioid crisis

Jake Majka

As the opioid crisis in the United States heightens, media professionals contemplate the proper ethics and understanding of the crisis. This year’s Poynter KSU Media Ethics Conference will focus on the issue and the surrounding coverage of it.

The conference’s keynote speakers are three Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Dan Horn, Liz Difour and Terry DeMio — a 1986 alumna of Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication — received the award for their project “Seven Days of Heroin” and will hold a panel discussing their work on the project, followed by a question and answer session.

“I think that this year will be one of the most useful conferences for students,” said Jan Leach, the director of the Media Law Center for Ethics and Access.

The event is designed to better prepare students and other media professionals to cover stories on topics such as opioid addiction, abuse, treatment, and even death.

Each day in the U.S., more than 115 people die from overdosing on opioids. In Ohio, there were 5,232 reported overdose deaths in a 12-month period that ended on June 31, 2018, according to the workshop’s website.

“Students may be unprepared for these types of stories,” Leach said. “If you are working for a small paper and get sent to an opioid death, you don’t really know what to cover.”

 Emelia Sherin, a junior public relations major and co-creator of the play (In)Dependent, which focuses on the opioid crisis, said she hopes everyone who attends the conference will “walk away more educated” and be “willing to spread awareness and take action.”

“I want students to understand the different perspectives of addiction and how hard this epidemic truly affects everyone, directly and indirectly,” Sherin said.

The conference will also feature a best practices session, the first of its kind for the event, according to the website. The session will address how the media professionals should handle opioid-related stories and how to determine what is and isn’t newsworthy.

“Students will get some practical information about ethics issues involved in covering the opioid situation here,” Leach said.

Last year’s conference covered fake news in the media and featured discussions on the 2016 presidential election, identifying fake news and how public relations professionals should approach the issue.

This year’s conference is on Sept. 20, 2018, and it is free for Kent State students, $25 for professionals and $20 for educators. The event will take place in Room 340 in Franklin Hall.

For more information or to register for the event, visit the website.

Jake Majka is the College of Communications and Information reporter. Contact him at [email protected]