SMPA students contribute to Washington Post story

November 19, 2019

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Four GW students contributed to a Washington Post story, published on the newspaper’s front page on Monday, about the children left behind by the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

Students Kelly Hooper, Shayna Greene, Halle Kendall and former student Arianna Dunham worked with former SMPA professor Debbie Cenziper to report on the crisis, which has displaced thousands of West Virginia children whose parents are struggling with addiction. Cenziper is a contributing reporter at The Washington Post.

The students also collaborated with journalism students and faculty at West Virginia University through an ongoing reporting partnership between the two schools.

"It was great to work with other amazing student journalist at WVU and we all got to collaborate and learn from each other. Obviously we go to two really different schools but we all have a lot of the same interests so it was cool to work together." 

Kelly Hopper

Class of 2020
Major: Journalism 


The team combed through court documents that provided details about funding brought in by the state through settlements with major opioid manufacturers and distributers. Students also interviewed doctors, nurses, caseworkers, grandparents and foster parents about the impact of widespread addiction on children, including babies born dependent on opioids. Students spent time in recovery houses, hospitals and centers for newborns across West Virginia.

After months of research and field reporting, the students created multimedia stories and launched a website to showcase their work. 


"During the semester, every assignment has a short deadline, so it is hard to comprehend how much time investigative stories can take to complete. This project opened my eyes to the long process of vetting sources and compiling evidence. I appreciate investigative reporters like Professor Cenziper so much more for the tedious work they do like digging through hundreds of pages of court transcripts."

Halle Kendall

Class of 2020
Major: Sociology 
Minor: JMC

In addition to educating students about investigative reporting best practices and multimedia storytelling methods, the project provided experiential learning for students from two geographically and culturally diverse universities. WVU and GW students spent time together in Washington, D.C., and in southern West Virginia to report their stories. The West Virginia team was led by Associate Professor Emily Corio.