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A Night to Celebrate Great Business (and Healthcare) Journalism

Jun 28, 2017

The 60th Annual Gerald Loeb Awards were held last night in lower Manhattan. The awards, which honor the best business and financial journalism of the previous year, are the biz media’s version of the Oscars…with the exception of the swag bag. (This year, ours contained only books.)

The FORTUNE team was there to celebrate two of our own: Erika Fry and Nick Varchaver. Erika was a finalist for her sprawling tale of Nestle’s calamitous response to a food-safety crisis with its monumentally popular instant-noodle packages in India. If the story, aptly titled “Hot Mess,” sounds crazy, it is—which makes it a very fun read. And Nick received the prestigious Lawrence Minard Editor award, which honors not just one story, but rather a career’s worth of exceptional (and, too often, unsung) work. There is simply no one better on Earth at crafting a long-form magazine piece than Nick, and it was great fun to see him fêted.

But I bring up the Loebs not just to celebrate my two praise-worthy colleagues, but also to point out that no less than seven of the Loeb finalists this year were for stories about health. This is a clear departure from previous years', when only a smattering were.

A team at Bloomberg News won the Loeb award in explanatory journalism for their series on “Superbug Spreaders,” which traced how antibiotic-laden livestock are fueling a plague of drug-resistant microbes through the global food chain. In the Investigative category, the Chicago Tribune won for its series, “Dangerous Doses,” which demonstrated how often pharmacists dispense potentially deadly combinations of medicines without warning. (Earlier this year, I wrote a post about some overlooked factors that contribute to this problem.) The Los Angeles Times also got a nod for its reporting on the painkiller OxyContin, and how it became so widely abused. The epidemic spread of painkillers, in this case in the state of West Virginia, was also the subject of a Loeb-nominated series by Eric Eyre, of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who won the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year. A team of reporters at the Detroit News got a nod for their exposé of dirty medical instruments being used at the Detroit Medical Center. CBS News’ “60 Minutes” was recognized for their reporting on failures in the protective gowns and gear worn by health personnel fighting on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak.

And lastly, two colleagues at MONEY magazine—Taylor Tepper and Elizabeth O’Brien—took home the Loeb prize for their powerful and important series on “The High Cost of Coping.” These truly outstanding reporters dove into the often-overwhelming financial burden that can fall to those trying to treat a mental illness, where patients and their families bear a staggering 16% of the total cost of treatment on average.

Last night’s Loeb Awards were one more reminder of the centrality of health in our lives, in business, and in the economy at large. And one reminder as well that it takes a league of dedicated reporters to reveal the sometimes-ugly truth about our healthcare system—a truth that many would rather hide.

This essay appears in today's edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.

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