DULUTH, Minn. – A Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune investigative series regarding a former local hospital surgeon who set up practice in Texas after incurring numerous malpractice suits and a medical board disciplinary action has earned several national journalism honors, including two first-place awards.
On Tuesday, “The Case of Dr. Konasiewicz” reported and written by DNT Investigations Editor Brandon Stahl and reporter Mark Stodghill was named the first-place investigative reporting honoree among smaller daily newspapers in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards. Overall, the contest drew more than 1,700 entries nationwide from newspapers, magazines, online news outlets and broadcast stations.
Last week, the Association of Health Care Journalists announced the series was its first-place winner in the investigative category of its national contest.
“Writer Brandon Stahl and the Duluth News Tribune showed exceptional doggedness and courage …,” the AHCJ contest judges wrote. “The News Tribune fought vigorously to have records made public and, although confronted by a libel suit, the newspaper continued its reporting.”
Also last week, Investigative Reporters and Editors announced the series as a finalist in the online and small print media category of its national contest. In March, it was named as a finalist in community journalism in the 2011 Scripps Howard Awards.
In addition to the national honors, in January the series was named the top investigative journalism awardee in the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. In total, the awards probably are the newspaper’s highest journalistic honors in its 140-plus year history.
“I’m very proud of our staff and we’re very honored to receive this national recognition,” said Ken Browall, publisher of the News Tribune. “More important than what it means to us, however, is how it reflects the role that serious journalism plays in our community, in bringing us information that’s relevant and vital to our daily lives.”
The News Tribune series examined how Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz continued practicing at St. Luke’s for years despite malpractice settlements and questions about his skills that eventually led the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice to discipline him. He then moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where other patients claimed he harmed them before he left the practice.
St. Luke’s and its CEO, John Strange, have sued the News Tribune, saying one of the stories in the series was false and defamatory. The News Tribune has denied those claims. The lawsuit is still pending.
Reporter Stodghill has worked at the News Tribune since 1978, covering courts and crime for the past 20 years. He previously was a sports reporter, columnist and city editor. Stahl started at the paper six years ago as a health reporter. He later covered Duluth city government and was named investigations editor in June 2010.