Carl Zimmer won in the large newspaper category for a trio of articles he wrote for The New York Times on aspects of genetics and evolution. “I sometimes feel a little embarrassed that I like to write articles about the kinds of basic questions my kids ask me,” Zimmer said. “For the three stories I submitted, the questions were, ‘What’s a virus?’ ‘What’s a gene?’ and ‘Why do fireflies flash?’ I had a marvelous time talking with scientists about the complex answers to those simple questions, and now, thanks to this award, I don’t have to feel at all embarrassed.”
The judges applauded the graceful style and breadth of Zimmer’s entry. From the biology of fireflies to the evolution of viruses to the secrets of RNA, Zimmer “finds fresh and original ways to introduce readers to complex basic science,” said Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press. “His beautiful writing hooks you to the very end.” Nancy Shute, a freelancer formerly with U.S. News & World Report, said Zimmer “brings surprising insight and perspective to subjects as heavily covered as the swine flu virus.” Lee Hotz, of The Wall Street Journal said Zimmer’s work “demonstrates the continuing strength of print journalism and the commitment of newspapers” to convey compelling research to their readers.