Springfield New-Sun reporter Michael Cooper has been named as a finalist for the 2017 Urban Health Journalism Prize by the New York Academy of Medicine for the Healthy Springfield series.

Reporter, Healthy Springfield series finalist for big national award

The New York Academy of Medicine has named Springfield News-Sun reporter Michael Cooper as a finalist for the 2017 Urban Health Journalism Prize.

The prize was created in 2015 to “recognize and encourage the growing field of journalism that plays a critical role in bringing needed local, national and even international focus to the issues of the broad determinants of health.”

Cooper won for his yearlong series, “Healthy Springfield.” It grew out of a story Cooper wrote in late 2015 about a national financial website ranking Springfield as the least healthy city in Ohio.

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That story struck a nerve with readers and community leaders, News-Sun Editor Samantha Sommer said.

“That inspired us to spend 2016 digging into the causes behind that ranking to find out what was really going on and how to get healthier,” she said. “While the ranking wasn’t a title anyone wanted, I believe shining a light on a problem is the only way to fix it. And that’s exactly what Michael Cooper did.”

This lead Cooper and Sommer to highlight Springfield’s health disparities in order to make a positive difference in the city. Topics for the year-long series included obesity, premature death, smoking and public health funding.

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The series also included columns and videos from health leaders and local residents about how to get healthier.

“It’s an honor to have been selected as a finalist for this award among some of the best journalists and news organizations in the entire country,” Cooper said. “The goal for the series was to educate the community. If we helped just one person make a lifestyle change, we’ve done our job. I believe we did that and more.”

This national award is a huge honor, Sommer said.

“The other winners in recent years have been major national publications and broadcasters,” she said.

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Cooper began his career as a sports writer with the News-Sun in 2005 and has served as city reporter since 2012. He lives in Springfield Twp. with his wife, Carey, and their three children – Christian, Harper and Benjamin.

The Health Springfield series also won first place for best public service in its division at the Associated Press Media Editors awards and the Ohio Pharmacists Association 2017 Print Media Award.

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