• July 29, 2005 | 8:01 p.m. ET

Meeting the Forbes (Soraya Gage, Dateline producer)

It was the summer of 2003 when I was assigned a story about under-age drinking. I was really having trouble coming up with a unique approach to the story, when Jennifer Sherwood, a booking producer on "Dateline," proposed meeting with a woman who had recently written an article about under-age drinking in Westchester.

Jennifer and I went up to Hastings-on-Hudson one summer afternoon and met with Thom and Deirdre Forbes.

I found them very engaging. They later told me they were in their 50s but at the time, they seemed younger to me. Our discussion swept over various aspects of the drinking issue. They told me they were trying to keep their teenage son away from drugs and alcohol, that they were both recovering alcoholics. They had both worked at the Daily News, he as a writer and she as a photographer. In the course of the conversation they mentioned that their 19-year-old daughter was a heroin addict who lived downtown in New York. I was very intrigued by the ironies in their lives and how many people would be able to connect with them. 

After leaving them that day, I thought that they would be a great family to profile about addiction in America. Their own personal struggles with addiction combined with their efforts to keep their son away from under-age drinking and drug use was a good story. The added element of trying to save their daughter from a heroin addiction would be a very powerful story.

But how to convince them to cooperate?

It was surprisingly easy because we decided that they would document their own story with a small camera that we provided them. That way we wouldn’t be intruding on their very personal struggle. They were remarkably good at shooting and recorded themselves quite often, including meetings with Carrick, their daughter. 

I asked them if I could meet with Carrick and set up a lunch downtown. She was nervous at the lunch, but she is obviously a very intelligent young woman.

I asked her if she would allow us to spend a day video-taping her every day life. She agreed and we set up a day about a week later. That day, she and her boyfriend were very open to allowing the field producer see them shooting up heroin. It was entirely spontaneous and obviously something they had to do several times a day because they were both addicts. They were surprisingly open about talking about their addiction as well.

When the field producer brought the video back to the office and we looked at it, we had concerns that it might seem voyeuristic so we decided not to shoot that again if it happened. But we felt it was important for people watching this documentary to see the realities of addicted life.

As the year progressed, we didn’t know what direction the story would take. There were so many ups and downs for the family as they tried so hard to help Carrick recover. Time and time again, they were let down. But amazingly, they never stopped loving her or believing she would recover one day.

And because she was finally willing to save herself, she did recover.

E-mail Dateline@MSNBC.com with your thoughts.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments