Methamphetamine: Slingshot Into Destruction
WEIU-TV, Charleston, Illinois broadcasts to America’s rural heartland. When Regional Drug Task Force statistics showed Coles County with the highest rate of methamphetamine use and manufacturing in the state, WEIU and its viewers were astonished and unprepared. “The reaction was, here?” said WEIU TV Grant Manager Ke’an Rogers.“We had to respond.”
WEIU quickly made methamphetamine programming and outreach a priority. Rogers was assigned to represent Public Television on the Coles County Methamphetamine Awareness Coalition. WEIU was awarded an NCO Connector grant to provide collaborative outreach within its communities. WEIU and the Coalition maintained a local focus, using national programs, like Frontline: The Meth Epidemic and Workplace Addiction as springboards. George Hovorka from WEIU also produced two 1-hour broadcasts, Slingshot Into Destruction, Part 1 and Part 2, telling stories of how people in the local community were affected.
“National programs provide important information,” Rogers said. “Local outreach brings it home.” WEIU paired the national programs with live, local call-in shows. Pre-taped vignettes illustrated methamphetamine use and its impact in local communities.
Viewers could—and did—reach out for information and help. WEIU received 12-15 phone calls during every broadcast and provided additional resources. Each televised program was followed by “Issues and Attitudes,” an on-air talk and call-in on WEIU’s partner radio station, HitMix 88.9. This provided another forum for helping people know about community resources.
In addition WEIU brought in Dave Chambers, an expert in substance-abuse education and other Coalition groups to conduct town meetings promoted and advertised by WEIU. Town meetings helped citizens of Charleston become more aware and own the methamphetamine problem as an issue needing attention.
A total of 150 town meetings were sponsored coinciding with a WEIU broadcast. The impact was immediate. “One person would say, ‘Help, my kid’s in trouble,’” Chambers said. “Another person had started using Meth to lose weight. It was out of hand and she needed help”
“Since [WEIU-TV broadcast] those programs,” Chambers said. “attendance at Meth Coalition meetings increased. Over 1,700 people attended town meetings. Often, their first exposure to information was through WEIU.” WEIU educated viewers. Education led to cooperation. Action and impact followed.