Reuters, Milwaukee J-S win ’10 Barlett & Steele Awards

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PHOENIX, Oct. 4, 2010 — Reuters received the gold award and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the silver award in the fourth annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism announced.

GOLD AWARD: “Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Dropped by Insurer” by Murray Waas of Reuters received the top gold award of $5,000. A four-month investigation revealed that a giant health insurer had targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer for aggressive investigations with the intent to cancel their policies. An exhaustive study of records, hearings and federal data, as well as dozens of interviews with experts, officials and patients led to the story.

“Reuters contrasted the upfront public stance of a health care company and its CEO to the reality behind the scenes, revealing the insidiousness of gate keeping by software,” said the judges.  “This investigation led to government pressure and an industry-wide change in the practice of dropping health care coverage for patients after they became sick.”

Reuters’ investigation led to government pressure and industry-wide changes in health-care practices.

SILVER AWARD: “Side Effects: Money, Medicine and Patients” by John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel received the silver award of $2,000.

The stories uncovered conflicts of interest that can compromise a doctor’s judgment. An example was a surgeon receiving millions of dollars in royalties annually from a medical device company while serving as editor of a medical journal that published favorable research on the company’s projects.

Here are links to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories:

  • UW tied to male hormone marketing
  • Journal editor gets royalties as articles favor devices
  • As universities tighten ethics policies, drug firms turn to private physicians to promote products
  • Doctors’ role in drug studies criticized

“The Journal Sentinel by revealing interwoven ties between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry prompted an inquiry by a U.S. Senate committee and led to sweeping changes at a major university school of medicine,” said the judges, noting that the reporter poured over thousands of pages of medical literature, coursework and documents obtained through open records laws.

Honorable mentions in this year’s awards are, in alphabetical order:

McClatchy Newspapers
“Goldman Sachs and the Housing Crash” by Greg Gordon, Kevin Hall and Chris Adams

Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Hounded: Debtors and the New Breed of Collectors” by Chris Serres and Glenn Howatt

Philadelphia Inquirer
“Inside the Health-Care Crucible: Reports from a Hospital in a Time of Upheaval” by Michael Vitez

USA Today
“The Credit Trap” by Kathy Chu

“This was the strongest group of award entries the judges have encountered and clear indication that investigative business journalism is alive and well,” said Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center, which funds the awards. “Even though health care has been the subject of prolonged national debate, our award winners were able to tell us something we didn’t know.”

Barlett & Steele Awards distinguished panel of judges:
Myron Kandel was the founding financial editor of CNN.
Steve Koepp is the former executive editor of Fortune magazine.
Laurie Hays is the executive editor for company news at Bloomberg News.

Named for the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning investigative business journalist team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, these awards, funded by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, celebrate the best in print and online investigative business journalism. The annual awards were first given out in fall 2007, and feature a Gold award of $5,000 and a Silver prize of $2,000.

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