Newcastle paper's drugs campaign sparks TV documentaries

A series of special television news documentaries have been sparked by an evening newspaper's "War on drugs" campaign.

ITV news programme North East Tonight will show five-minute features about the area's drug problem from next Monday. Thursday's edition is about Evening Chronicle, Newcastle, reporter Adam Jupp and the series of investigations he has carried out during the campaign.

North East Tonight reporter Kenny Toal, who worked on the documentaries, said: "The idea for the specials was primarily because of the work the Chronicle had been doing."

The Evening Chronicle's campaign began in April 2005 after the paper splashed with a picture of former Newcastle United FC trainee John Courtney, who died after overdosing on heroin.

Toal said: "I contacted Adam, thinking I must just involve him in a small part and it's turned out it's a collaboration between the Chronicle and Tyne Tees."

Toal said that Courtney's mother had never done any television interviews prior to Jupp's involvement.

He said: "The only way I could get to her was through Adam. The interview was probably one of the most powerful television interviews I've ever done and I've been in TV for almost 10 years and been a journalist for 15. I think when people watch it, it'll be shocking."

He added: "The interview was the big peg to hang the whole series of features on. That'll kick off the week and get people's attention. Hopefully it'll raise awareness."

The War on drugs coverage has included a poster campaign for children, with the winning poster put up on sites around Newcastle's Metro underground system, and an educational DVD.

Chronicle editor Paul Robertson said that the newspaper had been told by drug action teams that there were at least 20 people who've turned to rehabilitation following stories in the paper.

He said: "It's fair to say the drug action teams were a little bit suspicious of us, thinking that all we were doing it for was for a quick headline. But they've seen we're pretty serious about seeing this through.

"We're battling to raise awareness, improve access to services and shop the dealers. We're also looking at producing a booklet for every schoolkid in the Northeast, if we can get the funding."

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