AHCJ mourns investigative reporter Chedekel

Cynthia Craft

About Cynthia Craft

Cynthia Craft (@cynthiahcraft) is the director of engagement for AHCJ, joining the organization after an extensive career in daily journalism, including a decade on the health care beat. Craft most recently worked as a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee, having also worked for the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Times Herald and the California Journal.

Lisa Chedekel

Lisa Chedekel, an active member of AHCJ and an award-winning investigative reporter on health care systems in Connecticut, died of cancer on Jan. 12. She was 57.

In a 2012 member profile, Chedekel told AHCJ member Andy Miller she naturally gravitated toward health as a beat: “For me, in-depth stories about health had a more universal and compelling appeal than other beats I’d covered,” she said. “Stories on health offer both hard data and real people – the two things that, to me, make the best stories.”

Chedekel joined the staff of the Hartford Courant in 1992. Seven years later, she was a member of a team of Courant reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of a deadly shooting rampage at the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

She spent her entire journalism career in Connecticut. In 2010, she co-founded a grant-driven, nonprofit health news website called the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT). She also taught journalism at Northeastern University and worked for 10 years as senior writer/media relations director for the School of Public Health at Boston University.

C-HIT is overseen by a team of veteran Connecticut journalists, including C-HIT editor and co-founder Lynne DeLucia, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former assistant managing editor of the Hartford Courant with more than 35 years’ experience in Connecticut journalism.

Chedekel, who was a senior writer for C-HIT, racked up prestigious journalism prizes over the years. Besides the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, she’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer and winner of a 2006 George Polk Award.

In 2011, she received an honorable mention in AHCJ’s Awards for Excellence in Health Journalism. About that investigative piece, the judges said, “Lisa Chedekel packs a powerful punch in a small space with this story pointing out that John Dempsey Hospital’s used combination CT scans 10 times more than the national average and sent roughly three-quarters of patients for double scans.”

Known for rooting out stories that exposed the failings of health systems, the projects Chedekel targeted included inhumane conditions at nursing homes for seniors, substandard treatment for veterans with PTSD, as well as a program that forced parents to give up custody of their children in order to get them into mental-health treatment programs.

She was an active member of AHCJ, serving on the Right-to-Know and Membership committees, mentoring other journalists, writing tip sheets and “Shared Wisdom” columns. Her three tips to AHCJ journalists seeking answers from the powerful? “You’ve got to schmooze, negotiate and stand your ground” in a dogged quest for information.

Chedekel’s co-founder at C-HIT,  DeLucia, told the Hartford Courant, “She was really an editor’s dream to work with; she came up with so many of her own amazing ideas. She had a knack of getting information out of reluctant sources, of finding the bits and pieces of a story by digging through data and putting it together.”

John Ferraro, an editor who worked with Chedekel, also told the Courant, “Lisa was a fearless reporter and elegant writer. She searched for truth wherever it led. She was an advocate for the powerless and a thorn in the side of the powerful.”

Chedekel lived in Newton, Mass. She leaves two children, Bernard and Evelyn, 18-year-old twins, and her wife, Isabel Morais.

Tax-deductible donations can be made in Chedekel’s memory to a scholarship fund for high school students who attend C-HIT’s weeklong summer reporting boot camps. Checks may be made out to Conn. Health I-Team, Inc., 346 Alden Ave, New Haven, CT 06515.

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