About AHCJ: General News

2009 winners named in health journalism awards Date: 03/21/10

Logo: Awards for Excellence in Health Care JournalismCOLUMBIA, Mo. - Investigations into questionable autism treatments, the safety of generic drugs, claims denials by disability insurers and the global trade in smuggled cigarettes were among the top winners in this year's Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

First-place awards also went to an examination of how commercial interests attempted to distort the science around BPA, a look at hospital-supported programs to reduce violence, a compelling story about end-of-life care and a series that examined all aspects of Alzheimer's disease, from the research questions to the toll it takes on patients and their loved ones.

The 2009 awards, announced today by the Association of Health Care Journalists, recognize the best health reporting in nine categories, covering print, broadcast and online media. The contest, in its sixth year, received more than 250 entries.

"The quality of these entries - particularly the number of strong investigative pieces - show that even in an era of diminished resources, health care journalists are continuing their vital watchdog role," said Julie Appleby, contest chair and a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News.

The Chicago Tribune picked up two awards, one for a series investigating doctors who tout autism treatments and the other for stories exposing abuses in Illinois nursing homes. Judges said the autism series documents "a horrifying brand of bad science perpetrated ... on desperate families" while the nursing home investigation found cases where violent residents "assaulted, raped and even murdered their elderly and disabled housemates." 

Marshall Allen of the Las Vegas Sun was named top winner in the health care beat reporting category for stories that included uncovering a privacy breach at a local hospital and a Medicare billing scam.

The Awards for Excellence was created because the journalism association was and is concerned that special-interest groups may seek to sway media coverage by awarding large prizes for coverage of specific medical and health issues. No health care companies or agencies fund AHCJ's awards program.

Contest entries were screened and judged by 36 working journalists or journalism professors. To maintain the integrity of the awards, AHCJ board members and contest committee members were not eligible to enter the contest. In addition to Appleby, the contest committee includes AHCJ member volunteers Victoria Colliver, Naseem Sowti-Miller and Cate Vojdik.

The awards will be presented during a luncheon April 24 at Health Journalism 2010, the association's annual conference, in Chicago.

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/HJ10.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,000 members across the United States and around the globe, 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 provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Links to the winning entries are available on the AHCJ Web site at http://healthjournalism.org/awards-winners.php?Year=2009. AHCJ members also can read questionnaires about how the winning entries were reported and written.

This year's winners are:

Metro papers/national wire and Web sites

First: Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan, Chicago Tribune, "Dubious Medicine"

Second: Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times, "Jani's at the Mercy of Her Mind"

Third: Chicago Tribune staff/ProPublica, "Compromised Care"

Honorable mention: Josephine Marcotty, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Kidney Failure"

Community papers/regional wire and Web sites

First: Evan George, Los Angeles Daily Journal, "Disabled and Denied"

Second:  Michael LaForgia, The Palm Beach Post, "Painkiller Clinics Use Legal Loopholes"

Third: Heidi Hall, The Tennessean, "Needless Deaths

Large Magazine

First: Katherine Eban, Self, "Bad Bargain"

Second: Sheri Fink, ProPublica/The New York Times Magazine, "The Deadly Choices at Memorial"

Third: Shannon Brownlee, Reader's Digest, "What's Wrong with Cancer Tests"

Small Magazine

First: David Case, Fast Company, "Warning: This Bottle May Contain Toxic Chemicals. Or Not."

Second: Robert Langreth, Forbes, "Useless Medicine"

Third: David Evans, Bloomberg Markets, "Big Pharma's Crime Spree"


First: Joe Carlson, Modern Healthcare, "The Cost of Murder"

Second: Jan Greene, Trustee Magazine, "How Can Small Hospitals Survive?"

Third: Stephen Ornes, CR Magazine, "What Happens to a Donated Tumor?"

Honorable Mention: Susan Brink, Health Affairs, "The Diabetes Prevention Program: How the Participants Did It"


First: Maria Shriver, Sheila Nevins and John Hoffman, HBO, "The Alzheimer's Project"

Second: Josh Rushing, Jeremy Young , Hanaan Sarhan, Al Jazeera English, "America's Forgotten Patients"

Third: Cynthia Lester, MSNBC, "My Mother's Garden"


First: Rachel Gotbaum, Anna Bensted, George Hicks WBUR, "Quality of Death- End of Life Care: Inside Out"

Second: Gabriel Spitzer, Cate Cahan, Natalie Moore, WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio, "Twice as Deadly: Chicago's Race Gap in Breast Cancer"

Third:  Kelley Weiss, Capital Public Radio, "Senior Insecurity"


First: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Center for Public Integrity, "Tobacco Underground"

Second: Kaiser Health News/National Public Radio, "Are You Covered?"

Third: Bianca Alexander and Michael Alexander, The Soul of Green, "The Color of Health"

Beat Reporting

First:  Marshall Allen, Las Vegas Sun

Second: Jim Landers, The Dallas Morning News

Third: Kelley Weiss, Capital Public Radio