Farfel Prize winner talks investigative reporting

Ellen Gabler, an investigative reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was in Athens on Tuesday, November 4. Students in JSchool Director Bob Stewart’s “Future of Media” class, along with others who came to this 12pm impromptu SPJ meeting, had the opportunity to hear from this year’s winner of the Farfel Prize.

Gabler spoke about her experience as a journalist as well as about her story titled “Deadly Delays,” about newborn screening tests. These tests, taken when a baby is born, are supposed to be sent to a lab immediately so that if a major genetic disorder is present, the medical professionals and families can take the appropriate steps to help the newborn child.

What started as a tip to a science reporter about how a local baby’s test was late turned into a much broader story. Through data analysis, computer assisted reporting, and a lot of open records requests, Gabler eventually published a comprehensive report covering and ranking the policies of 35 states when it came to how fast the screenings got to the laboratory. She also blew the whistle on many individual hospitals that would ‘batch’ their tests, or wait until they had enough samples to send out at one time in order to save money.

“One of the things I like about investigative reporting is that you can affect change for the better,” Gabler said during her lecture. She did end up assisting many people—following her report, many states worked to fix the problem that otherwise would have continued onward.

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