Award Winners

2018

Large Newspaper

Gold

"Alive Inside" (series) Dec. 3-6, 2017

The Houston Chronicle

Mike Hixenbaugh spent months with sheriff’s deputy Nick Tuller and his family as they struggled to get him the treatment he needed after being shot three times, including once in the head. In a compelling four-part series, Hixenbaugh described how specialists at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston quickly determined that Tuller wasn't in a coma or a vegetative state, as previously thought, but was drifting in the netherworld between consciousness and brain death. He knew who he was and where he was but could do little to show it. Hixenbaugh reported that thousands of people are...Read more

Silver

“Hamburgs nächste Elbphilharmonie?” Aug. 26, 2017

Hamburger Abendblatt (Hamburg, Germany)

Underground between Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg-Bahrenfeld in Germany, scientists and engineers have built a huge X-ray laser instrument, called European XFEL, that costs twice as much as Hamburg’s new concert hall. Hasse told his readers what the physicists are up to in their backyard and how they try to illuminate the interior of matter and record films of atoms. When atoms come together during chemical processes to form molecules, he writes, the process happens “about a billion times faster than the wing beat of a hummingbird.” With extremely short and intense flashes of light, the...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“The Farthest – Voyager in Space” Aug. 23, 2017

A Crossing the Line and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios Production for PBS

“The Farthest” recounts the remarkable story of NASA’s Voyager mission to the outer planets of our solar system and beyond. After more than 40 years of travels, the Voyager spacecraft are still in contact with Earth and returning data. Launched in 1977, the two Voyagers each with less onboard computing power than a cell phone – used slingshot trajectories to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 left our solar system in 2012 and Voyager 2 is nearing its departure for interstellar space. Each spacecraft carries a golden record with greetings,...Read more

Silver

“Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet” May 21, 2018 (SVT2)

Windfall Films for SVT2 (Sweden), Channel 4 (UK) and PBS

It was an environmental and political success story that resonates in today’s contentious debates over climate change. In the 1980s, the planet was threatened by the growth of a continent-sized hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, a hole that scientists determined was due to the impact of human-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, found in refrigerants and hairsprays. The ozone layer provides vital protection from the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet rays. The alarming erosion of that layer provoked international concern and, eventually, the Montreal Protocol that led...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

“Designer DNA, explained” May 23, 2018

Vox.com for Netflix

As part of a new series by Vox.com for Netflix, Joss Fong and her colleagues explored not only the science but also the ethical implications of the much-discussed CRISPR technique for snipping and editing DNA. Scientists have focused on the potential the tool has for helping to treat or cure human disease. But it also could be used to do germline editing involving sperm, eggs or embryos, allowing changes that would be passed on to future generations. Such changes could ultimately affect human evolution. There also is an important debate on whether DNA editing will go beyond medical therapy...Read more

Silver

“How trees secretly talk to each other” June 28, 2018

BBC World Service

Jennifer Green opened her short, animated video on trees with a simple message: “Trees may look like solitary individuals. But the ground beneath our feet tells a different story. Trees are secretly talking, trading and waging war on one another.” In just under two minutes, Green and animator Jules Bartl described the fungal network through which trees communicate, a system that has been nicknamed the “Wood Wide Web.” If attacked by pests, trees can release chemical signals through their roots that can warn neighboring trees to raise their defenses. The judges praised the visual appeal of...Read more

Small Newspaper

Gold

“The loneliest polar bear” (series) Oct. 16-20, 2017

The Oregonian (Portland)

In his nearly 15,000-word narrative series on Nora the polar bear, Kale Williams described the harsh survival odds the cub faced when it was born in captivity at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (most hand-raised polar bear cubs die within 30 days), the challenges veterinarians and curators faced in keeping her alive, how they treated her metabolic bone disease and how she thrived when transferred to the Oregon Zoo in Portland and, eventually, to Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City where she joined a companion named Hope. But beyond the story of a young, charismatic animal, Williams grappled...Read more

Silver

"Scum" Sept. 17, 2017

The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

Tony Bartelme’s special report on the growing menace of harmful waterborne algae blooms ranged well beyond the local Charleston area. The blooms, which can spawn toxins as deadly as cyanide, have smothered manatees in Florida, wiped out sea otters in California, killed dogs in Minnesota and made water from South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell taste like dirt. At the time of his reporting, he found there already had been more than 460 blooms in 48 states in 2017. The algae-created toxins may do more than poison fish and dogs. Research suggests there may be higher rates of liver disease and cancer...Read more

Magazine

Gold

“What Do We Have to Do to Get the Male Pill?” Aug. 7, 2017

Bloomberg Businessweek

From her opening sentence “The trouble began, as it so often does, with a bottle of Chivas Regal” – Emily Anthes takes her readers on a tour of the long and often frustrating effort to develop a male contraceptive pill. In the 1950s, Sterling Drug synthesized a class of drugs that made male rats temporarily infertile. When tested on inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary, the initial results were startling. Within 12 weeks, sperm counts plummeted. But then one of the test subjects drank some contraband Scotch and became violently...Read more

Silver

“The Exercise Pill” Nov. 6, 2017

The New Yorker

In her exploration of the biology and chemistry of physical exercise, Nicola Twilley introduces the reader to Couch Potato Mouse and Lance Armstrong Mouse. Both had been fed a diet consisting almost entirely of fat and sugar and got little exercise. But while Couch Potato Mouse was lethargic, with rolls of visible fat, Lance Armstrong Mouse was lean, taut and active in its cage. It had been fed a daily dose of GW501516 or “516”, a drug that, as Twilley puts it, “confers beneficial effects of exercise without the need to move a muscle.” Whether such drugs will ever prove beneficial for...Read more

Audio

Gold

“CrowdScience: Is Carbon Dioxide Higher Than Ever?” Oct. 6, 2017

BBC World Service

Each week the BBC’s engaging “CrowdScience” program takes off on an adventure in response to a question from a listener. In their award-winning entry, producer Cathy Edwards and presenter Marnie Chesterton wound back the clock to three million years ago, the last time the atmosphere contained levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide comparable to the levels we are experiencing today due to burning of fossil fuels. They visited a monitoring station on the east coast the United Kingdom to describe how current carbon dioxide levels are measured. They spoke to specialists on ancient CO2 trapped...Read more

Silver

“SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders” (series) Nov. 20, Nov. 24, Dec. 4, Dec.10 and Dec. 18, 2017

Montana Public Radio

Montana was invaded in the summer of 2017 by microscopic aliens floating in the waters of Tiber Reservoir in the north central part of the state near Shelby. The tiny organisms, which emit a glowing X-shape in the light of a microscope, were infant forms of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, species that already had invaded the Great Lakes with devastating impact. The organisms soon were found in the Canyon Ferry reservoir east of Helena and downstream in the Missouri River as well. The finding triggered immediate concern about the future health of Montana’s fisheries and led Nicky Ouellet...Read more

Online

Gold

“The Complicated Legacy of a Panda Who Was Really Good at Sex” Nov. 28, 2017

FiveThirtyEight

The judges praised Maggie Koerth-Baker for an exhaustively reported, elegantly written story about bringing a species back from extinction. It went well beyond the popular image of pandas as cute, iconic creatures who are photogenic representatives of zoo-based conservation efforts. As Koerth-Baker wrote, “Behind the big eyes and rounded frames that signal vulnerability and cuddliness to the human brain, pandas are real, live 200-pound bears. Bears that can shred your flesh. Bears that roll around in the dirt and turn themselves dingy gray. Bears that grow old and frail.” She told the tale...Read more

Silver

“China is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders” June 8, 2018

The Atlantic.com

Sarah Zhang visited a facility in the Guangdong province of China where researchers are tinkering with monkey brains to better understand the most severe forms of autism. It is research that is too expensive, too impractical and perhaps too ethically sensitive to be carried out in the United States. The researchers use CRISPR, a powerful new gene-editing technique, that enables scientists to zero in on and disable specific genes. Zhang recounted the research of Guoping Feng, who holds an endowed chair in neuroscience at MIT, but who now travels to China several times a year to pursue...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

“Fighting to the End” October 2017

Muse magazine

Guinea worm disease, a disabling condition that once afflicted millions of people mostly in rural areas of Africa and Asia, is now close to eradication thanks to aggressive efforts by public health authorities to promote use of clean drinking water. The number of cases has dropped from 3.5 million in 1986 to 25 cases in 2016, and the end is in sight. Jeanne Miller told her young readers about the complex life cycle of the disease, in which tiny fleas containing the guinea worm larvae are ingested through contaminated drinking water. The spaghetti-like worms eventually emerge through the...Read more

Silver

“Why do we have butts?” May 31, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

“Why am I so sweaty?” July 12, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

Anna Rothschild has a knack for telling stories that both entertain and enlighten her young audience. In one of her award-winning segments, Rothschild explained the evolution of the digestive tract and why the human posterior looks like it does. In the second, piece she explored the functions of sweat, from the days when our ancestors were evolving to more efficiently cool their bodies as they became more active in chasing prey (and avoiding predators). And as Rothschild points out, “Getting a super-efficient way to dump excess heat may have been part of what allowed our brains to get...Read more