TN reporter wins 2016 Public Notice Journalism Prize

Feb 25, 2016

WASHINGTON—Kenneth Little, staff writer for the Greeneville (TN) Sun, has won the 2016 Public Notice Journalism Prize for coverage of a nursing home in Limestone, TN, whose Medicare/Medicaid coverage was revoked by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The story followed publication of an official newspaper notice by HHS in the Sun noting “deficiencies” by the nursing home.

The award will be presented March 17 by the Public Notice Resource Center at the National Press Club in Washington in conjunction with the National Newspaper Association’s Community Newspaper Leadership Summit.

Little’s story was submitted by the Tennessee Press Association, which also recognized the coverage in its annual newspaper contest.

Bradley L. Thompson II, president of the Public Notice Resource Center, said judges found Little’s coverage compelling and important to readers. The story noted shortcomings of the John M. Reed Health and Rehabilitation Nursing Home cited by HHS. Among them were a report from a housekeeper who said she had checked a patient’s vital signs one night because of a shortage of nursing staff, a failure to maintain antibiotics ordered by physicians, and failure to prevent pressure sores. The public notice advised readers that Medicare/Medicaid coverage would cease as of Nov. 28, 2015.

Thompson said he was particularly pleased that the Sun picked up the story because HHS had proposed at one time eliminating the newspaper notices, an action PNRC had criticized as harmful to the public’s awareness of the agency’s activities.

“Reporters hold a compelling trust to help readers find and understand these important public notices,” Thompson said. “The wording of a notice is usually prescribed by regulation to convey precise information. But to put the information in context, the journalist has to develop the background and guide readers to appreciate the meaning of the notice. Little did exactly what newsrooms across America are doing, and must increasingly do, every day.”

Greg Sherrill, executive director of Tennessee Press Association, echoed Thompson’s praise of the work.

“We were thrilled to learn that the public notice story by Ken Little has been chosen as the national winner for the PNRC Public Notice Contest. Little’s use of a public notice as a genesis for his story and the excellent coverage that has followed led us to choose it as the Tennessee Public Notice Contest winner this winter. As this was the first year Tennessee has sponsored such a contest, we were excited to learn that Little’s work has now been recognized in the national contest. We congratulate Little and The Greeneville Sun for outstanding public service work, which highlights the importance of public notices in the community,” he said.

Little is a native of Western New York and received a communications degree from Buffalo State College. He served as editor of a weekly newspaper in the Buffalo area and has also worked as a staff writer at daily newspapers in Oswego, NY, Niagara Falls, NY, Lansdale, PA, Utica, NY, and Wilmington, NC. Ken has served as a staff writer at the Greeneville Sun since 2011. He also has experience as a TV news producer at the CBS affiliate in Buffalo and provided on-air reports for the National Public Radio affiliate in Wilmington, NC.