The Las Vegas Review-Journal has won first place for explanatory reporting in the Best of the West contest, recognized as the most prestigious journalism contest spanning the 13 Western states.
Judges recognized the newspaper for performing “a significant public service with its exhaustive probe of a local endoscopy clinic linked to an outbreak of hepatitis C that resulted in the largest patient notification of its kind in history.”
The newspaper produced scores of articles last year about the outbreak linked to unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and a sister clinic on Burnham Avenue. The Southern Nevada Health District sent notifications to more than 50,000 former patients of the clinics that urged them to be tested for hepatitis and HIV. Nine people contracted hepatitis at the clinics, health officials said. More than 100 other cases have been characterized as possibly linked. The ensuing scandal prompted inquiries by local police, the state Medical Board, the FBI and the IRS.
“In the many years I have worked as a journalist in Las Vegas, no story has had such immediate impact on the health of so many Southern Nevadans as the hepatitis outbreak,” said Charles Zobell, managing editor of the Review-Journal. “Our reporters worked aggressively to get answers and provide perspective.”
As its entry in the category, the newspaper submitted 10 articles, including bylined stories by staff writers Paul Harasim, Brian Haynes, John Przybys and Jennifer Robison, and former staff writer Annette Wells.
According to the judges, the Review-Journal “explained with great detail and depth how thousands of patients were put at risk by penny-pinching at the clinic.” The newspaper told the story of a doctor described in his native India as “Dr. Greed” who used political connections to grab the largest share of the endoscopy/colonoscopy business in Las Vegas, the judges wrote. That doctor was Dr. Dipak Desai, who now faces medical malpractice complaints and lawsuits relating to the care he provided.
The Review-Journal “empowered readers with a virtual how-to guide to proper procedures to protect themselves,” the judges wrote.
The Las Vegas Sun earned five awards, including first place in the informational graphic category and second place in growth and development reporting for its coverage of construction deaths on the Strip. The Sun learned Monday that it had won a Pulitzer Prize for public service for its coverage of the deaths.
Other first-place winners included the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Sacramento Bee, the (Mesa, Ariz.) East Valley Tribune, the Rocky Mountain News, the Lodi (Calif.) News-Sentinel, The Oregonian, The (Long Beach, Calif.) Press-Telegram, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Denver Post and the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Best of the West contest, which draws more than 2,000 entries, is intended to reward journalistic excellence and promote freedom of information. It is administered by First Amendment Funding Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation.
Judging was not yet completed in several categories, including environment and natural resources reporting, spot news, project reporting, arts and entertainment writing, and illustration.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or 702-383-0285.