2018 Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting - Gold

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 to allow genetic enhancement of humans, a process that raises the possibility of designer babies with selected features such as hair and eye color. Selection for more complex traits such as intelligence remains the realm of science fiction for now. “It’s great to see the topic being covered so well and so excitingly on this platform,” said judge Victoria Gill, science reporter for BBC News. She called the piece “emotional and personal, as well as informative. Very effective storytelling.” Larry Engel, a filmmaker and faculty member at American University, agreed and said the award for “strong, engaging” work should hearten other science journalists who are producing content for streaming services and social media platforms. Fong said she and executive producer Claire Gordon “decided that it was as important, if not more, for our audience to map the ethical landscape [of human genome editing] as it was to explain the technical one.” The video asks people “to interrogate how their values interact with future applications of the technology,” Fong said, “while providing enough detail to clarify what is and is not actually feasible.”