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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Public Service in Online Journalism: Independent


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Tuesday, July 3, 2007
SDX Awards: Public Service in Online Journalism: Independent

Winner: Staff, Consumer Reports

by Jim Poyser

For the past three decades, nursing homes have been subjected to much regulatory and governmental attention as policymakers have tried to clean up the industry and promote better care and less abuse for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. But serious problems still exist.

Consumer Reports began a longitudinal project on nursing home quality in 2000 to see whether the public scrutiny through the media and the glare of bad publicity could clean up the poorest-performing homes in each state.

In addition to the Watch List for nursing homes judged to provide question care, Consumer Reports produced an in-depth investigative piece showing that even after two decades after landmark legislation, care is still poor in too many homes.

Twelve particular problematic nursing homes were identified, and CR conducted two studies of penalties assessed against those homes. They discovered, for example, that one such home received a penalty of only $350.

The reports also examined the increasing difficulty in suing nursing homes, along with deficiencies in the federal government’s Web site.

Ultimately, the series of reports told families the steps they must take to find a good nursing home.

The primary Consumer Reports staff members for the project included investigator and writer Trudy Lieberman, supervisor Charles Bell and researcher Sambhavi Cheemalapati.

Lieberman said the project “was difficult, from devising solid methodology, to getting the cooperation of the states.”

She noted the story “was picked up by national and local media outlets — broadcast, print and online. Other media organizations did their own stories using ours as a model. They examined their local nursing homes, sometimes using state data sources. They looked for the posting of the state survey report, which is required by federal law. This is what we hoped would happen.”

The full package of reports can be found at

www.consumerreports.org/nursinghomes.

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