John Fauber, an investigative reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today will share the 2013 Victor Cohn prize for medical reporting with Joanne Silberner, a former NPR correspondent, now freelancing. The prize is administered by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.
Fauber, whose stories have frequently drawn praise on the Tracker, was recognized for an investigative series entitled Side Effects, on financial conflicts of interest among doctors and medical researchers. Fauber has been doing this for years, in a joint arrangement with the newspaper and MedPage Today, an online news site aimed primarily at doctors. Fauber's stories are always carefully told, thoroughly reported, and despite their controlled language, they are likely to leave you fighting mad.
In one story, for example, he dug through university disclosures and medical journal articles to come up with this: "At least nine UW physicians whose conflicts listed on financial disclosures to the university did not match what was revealed to the medical world in their published articles." We should be glad Fauber was there to call them on this.
Fauber cranks out stories as good as that one every couple of months or so. I don't know how he does it, except that maybe people in Wisconsin have to write fast to stay warm.
Silberner has a long track record as a medical reporter with a rare ability to turn health-policy legalese into stories that extract what's important and convey it in bright, conversational language that the rest of us can understand. One of her recent projects, also praised on the Tracker, was an eye-opening five-part series for Public Radio International's The World on cancer in developing countries. Here is part of what I said about it at the time:
We're accustomed to hearing about the drastic limitations within which health workers must operate in developing countries, but even so, some of the revelations in this series are stunning. Silberner interviews an oncologist in Uganda who, not long ago, was the only oncologist in that country of more than 30 million people. Twenty-two thousand people get cancer in Uganda each year, she reports; and 20,000 die–a staggering death rate that includes cancers that would be curable if patients sought help and doctors could provide it.
Congratulations to Fauber and Silberner for reminding us what old-fashioned investigative journalism can do.