Las Vegas Sun

March 2, 2015

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Do No Harm’ series, Sun website earn national distinction

Marshall Allen

Marshall Allen

Alex Richards

Alex Richards

One of the nation’s largest and oldest journalism awards programs has honored the Sun for two accomplishments — citing the series “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas” as the finest example of print journalism in 2010, and crediting for the best example of innovative journalism for its pioneering efforts to elevate the level of online discussion among readers.

In its National Headliners Awards, the Press Club of Atlantic City named “Do No Harm” as “Best of Show” among the entries from newspapers of all circulation sizes and specifically awarded the project first place for investigative journalism. Runners-up in that category went to “The Hidden Life of Guns” by The Washington Post and “Deadly Neglect” by the Chicago Tribune.

In winning the innovation award, the Sun was recognized for successfully tackling a problem that has bedeviled online journalism ever since the door was opened for readers to comment about stories. The practice has frequently devolved into vitriolic exchanges among readers hiding behind anonymous handles.

The Sun instituted a two-tiered reader comment system, allowing those who prove their identity and register on the site to comment on stories. Those comments remain permanently attached to the story after it is archived.

Other comments, by unregistered readers, are attached to the story but can only be viewed by linking to them on a separate page, and are removed after 72 hours.

The series “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas,” which revealed how patients are infected or injured while hospitalized, previously won first-place honors in the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, sponsored by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

“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.

Marshall Allen and Alex 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, has prompted some hospitals to post patient care data that previously were not publicly disclosed, and triggered bills in the Nevada Legislature to force hospitals to be more transparent in the disclosure of data about the quality of patient care.

To put the findings 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.

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.

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  1. Between last year's Pulitzer and this award, the Sun is to be commended as the superior newspaper in Las Vegas. It is always the first section of the bloated Review-Journal (which should be renamed to The AP Newspaper) that I read and is definitely what all Nevadan's should be reading. The Sun's website is without a doubt one of the finest local news sites in the country. Thank you to all of the editors, writers, and staff that provide such a valuable resource to our community.

  2. When a person is a patient in a hospital, they are at the mercy of all the individuals that provide care there. It is an absolute shock to have some of the very finest doctors at these hospitals, yet as a patient at that hospital, receive care that is less than stellar.

    Because you are vulnerable as a patient, you are afraid, intimidated, and cautious about complaining or asking for things that are inconvenient, but, hey, you are in a place where your condition warrants extra care. The Sun's reporters, Marshall Allen and Alex Richards, had to sift the wheat from the chaff in the many cases presented to them here in Las Vegas, and did so in a way that provided a fair and accurate picture of the problem and the changes in direction to provide better and safer patient care.

    So as a reader, a citizen, and a former dissatisfied Las Vegas hospital patient, thank you, congratulations, and please keep up the fabulous journalism that keeps the community connected!

  3. Unfortunately, the primary investigative reporter for this series, Marshall Allen, no longer works for the Sun.

  4. Digger,

    Indeed, Marshall Allen has accepted a great job at ProPublica, a national, nonprofit journalism organization that specializes in investigative projects. It's a great match. Marshall will continue to cover health care issues -- including ones involving Las Vegas -- so you will still see his name in the Sun when we partner on projects together.

  5. Congratulations to the Sun for their achievement and recent award. I am proud to be a trusted public commenter and would like to continue as such. I find the stories to be relevant, thought provoking and filled with the most accurate information I am able to find among all the news agencies. I am especially interested in Jon Ralstons blog and show Face to Face. All of his stories have an element of depth not found in most other local and many national news programs. I applaud Jon, the producers of his show and everyone who makes the news just that much more informative and understandable to the average reader and viewer. You guys really do your homework. Gary S

  6. Chunky says:

    Congratulations again to the Sun's management for their leadership and to all the staff for their excellent work!

    That's what Chunky thinks!