2015 Online - Silver


A New York Times team described how, for a fleeting moment in the spring of 2014, the Ebola epidemic that subsequently swept through West Africa might have been stopped. The winners included reporters Sheri Fink, Kevin Sack, Adam Nossiter and Pam Belluck; freelance photographer Daniel Berehulak; independent video producer Dan Edge (for Frontline); and the New York Times graphics team. The Times reporters discovered that World Health Organization and Guinean health authorities had documented that a handful of people in Sierra Leone had recently been sick or died with Ebola-like symptoms. But information about two of the infections never reached a team investigating suspected cases in Sierra Leone. That country's first confirmed Ebola cases were later linked to those two cases, which also were linked to a vast second-wave outbreak of the disease in Liberia. The Times team reviewed internal documents and talked to a wide range of health officials and infectious disease experts who admitted they had made misjudgments and had been over-confident. Health workers pulled out of Liberia and scaled back too soon in Guinea, didn't keep good track of people crisscrossing borders, and dealt ineffectively with cultural beliefs and suspicions of Western aid workers. The Times team "made the most of on-the-scene reporting during the epidemic, explaining how it spread and how a too-little-too-late response from world health leaders led to needless suffering and death," said judge Nancy Shute, a health reporter for NPR. Celia Dugger, science editor of the Times said: "Ebola was a monumental epidemiological, medical, and sociological challenge for the world, so it's a particular thrill to be honored for the excellence of our science journalism."