"We are having growing numbers of requests from the media to interview people who are in long-term recovery from addiction," notes Patricia Taylor, executive director of Washington, DC-based organization Faces & Voices of Recovery. "It's still primarily a health section story, but we're trying to leverage interest in TV shows, like Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH1."
What's heartening for many recovery professionals is that the media now seems willing to move beyond the problem of addiction and devote more coverage to the latest medical solutions to treat the problem.
"Reporters are starting to learn more as we learn more about the science behind addiction," says Lauren Duran, director of communications for the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University. "When we put out a report, we do get coverage on CNN and CBS News because our research tends to have a national slant."
Though small, there is also some dedicated media for and about people in recovery. The Recovery Talk Network can be heard both on the audio channels of 225 Cable TV systems in 30 states as well as on AM stations in Boston and the Chicago area.
Recovery Talk Network founder Larry W., who adheres to the anonymity found in 12-step programs, says the network combines interviews with people in recovery along with segments on the science on both the reasons for addiction and new treatments.
The objective, he says, is to educate and remove some of the shame that often surrounds alcohol and substance abuse, something he says the media hasn't addressed well.
"Celebrities tend to make it easier for the media to cover addiction and recovery," he adds. "But the stories tend to be poorly done so it's hard to get the message out that this is not a moral failure and these people are in need of help."
But the key combating lingering stigma is to put a face on recovery, and these are stories reporters will do because they're often dramatic and uplifting pieces.
"Outlets like the Bangor Daily News have regular features on people in recovery as an ongoing community commitment," adds Taylor. "We're seeing a growing interest in people who have recovered and the positive impact getting healthy is having on them and their families."
- Help reporters localize national trends in substance/alcohol abuse and recovery by developing a network of experts who can talk about the problems and solutions in their community
- Getting a real person in recovery to publicly speak about his or her struggles and progress is often far more compelling than the latest statistics on substance abuse
- Whether it's the tabloid tales of Britney or Lindsay, the media interest of stars in trouble will be there, so look to leverage that interest by reaching out with medical/science stories on the latest treatments for addiction recovery