The Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer of Raleigh have won the Robert F. Kennedy journalism competition’s coveted grand prize for their series about nonprofit hospitals.
“Prognosis: Profits,” a 2012 series jointly produced by the newspapers, explored how the growing market power of hospitals has driven up prices.
The stories examined soaring profits at nonprofit hospitals, huge executive salaries, minimal spending on charity care by many hospitals and efforts by the hospitals to sue uninsured patients delinquent on their bills or turn over the accounts to collection agencies.
Follow-up stories revealed that hospitals were marking up prices on cancer drugs as much as 10 times over cost and showed how hospitals’ acquisitions of doctors’ practices has pushed up the cost of care.
In an awards ceremony in Washington on Thursday night, the series also won the RFK competition’s 2013 “Domestic Print Award.”
The stories have been honored with more than 10 other prizes, including: the Local Accountability Reporting Award from the American Society of News Editors; the Bronze Medal in the Barlett and Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism; the investigative reporting award for large dailies in the Sigma Delta Chi competition; and a Gerald Loeb award for outstanding business reporting.
The series was also named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Charlotte Observer investigative reporter Ames Alexander and medical reporter Karen Garloch reported and wrote the series, which was edited by senior editor Jim Walser. In Raleigh, N&O investigative reporter Joseph Neff and database editor David Raynor reported and wrote the stories, which were edited by senior editor Steve Riley.
The RFK awards, judged by more than 50 journalists each year, are given by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The awards honor reporting on issues that reflect Robert F. Kennedy's concerns, including human rights and social justice.
It’s the fourth RFK award that the Observer has won for its news stories. The first in 1980 was for an investigation into brown lung disease in textile workers; the second in 1984 for an investigation into the S.C. mental health system; and the third was in 2009 for an investigation into the plight of poultry workers.
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