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World Press Freedom Day: Sound Judgment goes behind the scenes of The 13th Step

World Press Freedom Day: Sound Judgment goes behind the scenes of The 13th Step

Press Release ·

May 1 is World Press Freedom day, making early May a fitting time for Sound Judgment to release a two-part episode about an investigation into sexual misconduct in the addiction treatment industry (May 1 and May 8). “How to find the truth: Behind the blockbuster investigative series The 13th Step” examines how New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Lauren Chooljian and story editor Alison MacAdam shaped three years of material into a limited series that won multiple awards, including the duPont-Columbia award, widely considered the Pulitzer of broadcasting.

Chooljian dug into allegations of sexual misconduct against Eric Spofford, then the powerful owner of New Hampshire’s largest addiction treatment network. She dealt with wary sources, mountains of documents, contradictory evidence, and frightening attempts to suppress her reporting. Chooljian and NHPR were sued in court. The homes of Chooljian, her parents, and her news director were vandalized, spurring investigations by local law enforcement and the FBI. The 13th Step team uncovered a shocking, widespread lack of oversight and regulation in the vast addiction treatment industry, putting people struggling with substance use disorder at risk of further harm.

The series — and Sound Judgment’s behind-the-scenes dissection of it — serves as an inspiration to journalists everywhere to stand fast against threats of retaliation. “This reporting is so essential for so many reasons,” Chooljian says. “I don’t want other newsrooms to feel like they can’t pull this off when it feels like the going is getting too tough, because somehow we were able to pull it off ourselves.”

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Unlike virtually every other show about podcasting, Sound Judgment explores the audio storytelling craft, not the business of podcasting. “Simply a gem of a podcast,” writes one reviewer. “A great wealth of insight into one of the best mediums out there.”


Sound Judgment
Elaine Appleton Grant
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