2020 Science Reporting – In-Depth - Gold

Ed Yong of The Atlantic told his readers some hard truths about the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists and public health specialists had long warned that such a global outbreak was inevitable. The United States ― despite its high score on the Global Health Security Index ― failed to measure up when tested by the novel coronavirus, partly because the White House had become what Yong called a “ghost town of scientific expertise.” In March when the pandemic was starting to grab hold in the U.S., Yong wrote: “Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared.” He predicted it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to catch up. In his reporting, Yong explained the basic biology of the virus, the unpredictability of the disease it causes, and reasons why the pandemic continues to be so befuddling. He cautioned that in a pandemic, “the strongest attractor of trust shouldn’t be confidence, but the recognition of one’s limits, the tendency to point at expertise beyond one’s own, and the willingness to work as part of a whole.” Robert Lee Hotz, science writer for The Wall Street Journal, called Yong’s stories “deeply knowledgeable, passionately written, prophetic, despairing and scolding” as well as “hugely influential in the moment they were published.” Ed Yong said: “I'm incredibly honored, especially since science journalism has never been so necessary, urgent, or vibrant. I’m indebted to my colleagues for raising the bar, and to my editors for not only polishing my prose, but also giving me the space, time and mandate to rise to the demands of this year.”