Friday, March 18, 2011 | 10:41 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
A second national prize for investigative reporting has been awarded to reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards for their series in the Sun that explored how patients are infected or injured while hospitalized.
In the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards, “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas” was selected by judges in the premier category, investigative reporting, “for lifting the veil of secrecy around widespread medical errors and infections contracted at local hospitals.”
The announcement was made today.
Runners-up in the investigative reporting category were Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times for “The Radiation Boom” which examined the harm to thousands of Americans because of overdoses of medical radiation, and Dana Priest and William M. Arkin of The Washington Post for “Top Secret America,” which revealed a large, unwieldy and secretive expansion of government in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Two weeks ago, Allen and Richards received the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, sponsored by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.
In the Scripps Howard competition, Allen and Richards will receive the Ursula And Gilbert Farfel Prize, which comes with $15,000.
Judges said: “In a category rich with examples of journalism’s power to expose and right wrongs, to stand up for the little guy against powerful interests, and to arm the public with information not speculation, the Las Vegas Sun series, ‘Do No Harm,’ stood out.”
The reporters “teased out numbers that told an appalling story of risk for patients. They put a human face to the numbers, telling the story compellingly in print and with multimedia elements online.
“The series had impact almost immediately as hospitals and government regulators committed to systematic reform. Because of the Sun’s work, lives will be saved — not only in Las Vegas but wherever this story inspires similar work.”
“Do No Harm,” which represented more than two years of reporting, identified the preventable infections and injuries — including surgical mishaps — that have occurred in Las Vegas hospitals. The series was based on a review of 2.9 million patient billing records that had been turned over by hospitals to the state for analysis but which had gone unexamined until the Sun obtained them.
Allen and Richards set out to impose a new openness about the quality of hospital care and to hold facilities accountable for patient outcomes. Their findings, presented in a five-part newspaper series and a multimedia presentation at LasVegasSun.com, has prompted some hospitals to post patient care data that previously was not publicly disclosed, and triggered draft bills in the Nevada Legislature to force hospitals to be more transparent in the disclosure of data about the quality of patient care.
Richards, who was the Sun’s computer-assisted reporting specialist, was primarily responsible for examining and analyzing the data. He has since left the Sun for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
To put the findings of the data in human context, Allen interviewed 250 doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and patients who told their stories of harm suffered in Las Vegas hospitals. Allen also examined the fundamental reasons why Las Vegas hospitals are deficient in various areas, and concluded with suggestions of what they can do to improve patient care, based on successful initiatives elsewhere in the country. Allen has since left the Sun to write about national health care issues for ProPublica, a nonprofit, investigative journalism organization.
To complement the reporting of Allen and Richards, the Sun built an elaborate multimedia site that included interactive graphics, video, documents and a forum for readers to share how they have been affected by hospital care in Las Vegas.
Established in 1953, the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards competition is open to U.S. news organization and recognizes outstanding print, broadcast and online journalism in 16 categories, including breaking news, editorial writing, human interest writing and Washington reporting.
“This year’s winners have improved lives, given hope, held officials and institutions accountable and typically informed, entertained or enlightened their audiences with skillfully presented work across multiple platforms,” said Mike Philipps, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation.