In November 2006, Writer’s Voice producer and host Francesca Rheannon was one this year’s two winners of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Issues in the broadcast journalism category (the other winner was Frontline’s report, The Meth Epidemic). Rheannon won the award for the five part news series she reported for public radio station 88.5 WFCR, “Voices of HIV.” The series examines the underlying causes, including injection drug use, of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community in Western Massachusetts. (January 9 – 13, 2006). It was produced with the assistance of the WFCR News Department and was part of a larger media project produced by Francesca Rheannon and WFCR host, Luis Melendez. The series is available as a podcast on the WFCR website.
Nancy Dickerson Whitehead was a media star: she was the first female member of the Washington TV press corps and covered many of the most important events of the 1960s. But she also reported on social issues, including drug and alcohol abuse. On the Board of Directors of Drug Strategies, a nonprofit research institute in Washington, D.C., she advocated for programs and policies to reduce substance abuse.
Nancy Dickerson’s son, John Dickerson, has just published a biography of his mother, ON HER TRAIL: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson. Writer’s Voice will interview him on February 2 about the book. Dickerson is chief political correspondent for Slate.com.
The Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award was established to promote reporting on the issues of drug and alcohol abuse.
This year’s awardees were introduced by Elizabeth Vargas and Lynn Scherr (ABC’s 20/20). The novelist and physician Dr. Michael Crichton spoke on the need to shift drug policy away from criminal prosecution to treatment. The event took place at the Council of the Americas on Park Avenue in New York, where you can go to see the wonderful current exhibition of Mayan textile art.