About AHCJ: General News

2008 winners named in health journalism awards Date: 03/26/09

March 26, 2009

Charles Ornstein, contest committee co-chair, 917-512-0222
Julie Appleby, contest committee co-chair, 202 654-1343
Len Bruzzese , AHCJ executive director, 573-884-5606

See a list of the winners.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A reporter's revelation of astonishing conflicts of interest by scientists advocating for early detection of lung cancer led to one of this year's Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. The awards also spotlighted such work as the exploration of a hidden world of illegal prescription drugs sold at swap meets, a narrative on a mechanic seeking to rebuild his life after an accident severed his arms, and a trip into the nightmarish world of a boy struggling with mental illness.

The 2008 awards, announced today by Association of Health Care Journalists, recognize the best health reporting in 11 categories covering print, broadcast and online media. In its fifth year, the contest received nearly 300 entries.

"It seems that every day, journalists and the public are inundated with stories about the death of our profession," said Charles Ornstein, contest co-chair and a senior reporter at ProPublica. "Yet these award winners offer clear evidence that good health care journalism continues. Not only that, they show in a compelling way why health care must remain an integral beat in newsrooms across the country."

Two of this year's award recipients – Marshall Allen of the Las Vegas Sun and Carol Smith of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer –  not only were returning winners, they each won two awards in this year's competition.

Clark Kauffman of The Des Moines Register was recognized as beat reporter of the year for his stories uncovering abuses in nursing home finances, exposing unlicensed providers at a state-run home for the mentally disabled, detailing lax enforcement of patient privacy laws, and reporting on the disturbing death of a patient in a nursing home whose owner was lobbying for lighter regulation. Judges said Kauffman's work "exemplifies tough, aggressive beat reporting at the local level."

The awards program was established in 2004 to bring attention to top health care coverage. The association was and continues to be concerned that special-interest groups may seek to sway media coverage by awarding large prizes for coverage of specific medical and health issues. The Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism were created by journalists for journalists. No health care companies or agencies fund the association's awards.

Contest entries were screened and judged by 45 fellow journalists. To maintain the integrity of the awards, board members and contest committee members were not eligible to enter the contest.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon April 18 at Health Journalism 2009 in Seattle. Princeton University health policy expert Uwe Reinhardt will be the keynote speaker.

First-place winners will receive $500 plus registration and hotel accommodations at the conference. Winners also will speak on conference panels about their work. Those interested in attending can get further information at healthjournalism.org/hj09.

AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With more than 1,100 members, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The 2008 winners are:

Beat Reporting
FIRST: Clark Kauffman, The Des Moines Register
SECOND: Carol Smith, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
THIRD: Angie C. Marek, SmartMoney magazine

Large Newspapers
FIRST: Diane Suchetka, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, "Fixing Mr. Fix-It"
SECOND (tie): James Drew and Fred Schulte, The (Baltimore) Sun, "In Their Debt"
SECOND (tie): The New York Times, "The Evidence Gap"
THIRD (tie): Lee Hancock and Sonya N. Hebert, The Dallas Morning News, "At the Edge of Life"
THIRD (tie): Spotlight Team, The Boston Globe, "The Partners Effect" 

Medium Newspapers
FIRST: Luis Fabregas and Andrew Conte, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Transplanting Too Soon"
SECOND: Carol Smith, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Dangerous and Mentally Ill"
THIRD: Marshall Allen and Alex Richards, Las Vegas Sun, "The New Addiction"

Small Newspapers
FIRST: Greg Barnes, John Ramsey and John Fuquay, The (N.C.) Fayetteville Observer, "What Lies Beneath"
SECOND: Evan George, Los Angeles Daily Journal, "Systemwide Flaws Plagued Heparin Recall"
THIRD: Sharon Salyer and Alejandro Dominguez, The (Everett, Wash.) Herald, "Alone Among Us"

FIRST: M.B. Pell, Jim Morris and Jillian Olsen, Center for Public Integrity, "Perils of the New Pesticides"
SECOND (tie): Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, The "Well" blog
SECOND (tie): Scott Hensley, Jacob Goldstein and Sarah Rubenstein, The Wall Street Journal Online, The Wall Street Journal Health Blog
THIRD: Randy Dotinga, Voice of San Diego, "Suicide Magnet"

Large Magazines
FIRST: Mary Carmichael, Newsweek, "Growing Up Bipolar"
SECOND: Frank Owen, Playboy, "The Medical Marijuana Murder"
THIRD (tie): Annemarie Conte, Jessica Branch and Jennifer L. Cook, Good Housekeeping, "Rx for Disaster"
THIRD (tie): Emily Chau, Leslie Laurence and Julia Kagan, Ladies' Home Journal, "Women's ‘Silent' Cancers / Harmful Hysterectomies"
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Cohn, Self magazine, "Insurance Denied"

Small magazines
FIRST: John Carey, BusinessWeek, "Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?"
SECOND: Katherine Eban and Jacob Lewis (editor), Conde Nast Portfolio, "Your Hospital's Deadly Secret"
THIRD: David Wolman, Wired, "The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know"

FIRST: Kelley Weiss, Joe Barr and Paul Conley, Capital Public Radio, "Prescription Drugs at the Swap Meet"
SECOND: Sarah Varney, KQED, "Chemicals at Home:  Searching for Safe Alternatives"
THIRD: David Baron, WGBH/PRI's The World, "Delivering AIDS Drugs - The Long Journey"
Honorable Mention: Patricia Nazario and Cheryl Devall, KPCC/Southern California Public Radio, "Her Three Sons"

FIRST: David Wasser, Alissa Collins Latenser and Don Kaiser, Retirement Living TV, "Healthline Presents:  Polio Revisited"
SECOND: Hanaan Sarhan, Mat Skene and Avi Lewis, Al Jazeera English Television, "Healthcare USA"
THIRD: Betty Ann Bowser, Bridget Desimone and Jenny Marder, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, "Talking About the End"

FIRST: Paul Goldberg, The Cancer Letter, "Conflicts of Interest in Lung Cancer Study"
SECOND: Mark Taylor, Hospitals & Health Networks, "The Billion Dollar U-Turn"
THIRD: Howard Larkin: Hospitals & Health Networks, "Your Future Chief of Staff?"

Limited Report
FIRST: Jordan Rau, Los Angeles Times, "Hospital Mistakes Go Public"
SECOND: Marshall Allen, Las Vegas Sun, "Providers Close Doors to Poor"
THIRD: Justin Blum, Bloomberg News, "Tainted Imports Set Off Warnings, Not FDA Action"

Winning stories are available online and AHCJ members can view questionnaires filled out by the winners.

AHCJ appreciates the significant contributions of its contest committee members: Charles Ornstein and Julie Appleby (co-chairs), Phil Galewitz, Naseem Sowti Miller and Victoria Colliver.