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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017

Large Newspaper

Gold

"The Uncounted"

Reuters

Fifteen years after the U.S. government declared antibiotic-resistant infections to be a grave threat to public health, a Reuters investigation, “The Uncounted,” found that infection-related deaths are going uncounted because federal and state agencies are doing a poor job of tracking them. They lack the political, legal and financial power to impose rigorous surveillance, including mandating that specific drug-resistant infections be routinely recorded on death certificates. The number of deaths from such infections, regularly cited in news reports and scholarly papers, are mostly...Read more

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Long quest to understand these bodies without identities”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

“Bone specialists try to prise secrets from veld bodies”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

“Unnamed, unclaimed -- while families wait for their return”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

In a moving series on forensic science and the quest to identify hundreds of unidentified dead who pass each year through the mortuaries of a single province in South Africa, Sarah Wild told the stories of both the professionals trying to improve the identification process and the families seeking to know what happened to their loved ones. Each year, between 1,300 and 1,600 people in Gauteng province are added to South Africa’s already long list of unidentified dead. Forensic anthropologist Ericka L’Abbe of the University of Pretoria, holding the skull of one person who died from blows to...Read more

Magazine

Gold

“Firestorm”

High Country News

Douglas Fox took readers inside the dangerous and unpredictable behavior of wildfires, describing the audacious steps one team of researchers took to better understand the anatomy of a monster fire burning in southern Idaho in August 2016. An instrument-laden light aircraft penetrated the towering smoke plume of the fire, registering an 80 mile per hour updraft of hot, buoyant air, followed by a turbulent downdraft. Only aloft, some scientists say, can researchers start to really understand how a wildfire “breathes” and moves across the landscape. That may open new avenues for monitoring...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

“Why there could be many identical copies of you”

BBC Earth

Reporter Melissa Hogenboom and video producer Pierangelo Pirak entered the world of quantum weirdness, grappling in a visually engaging fashion with the theory that there may be multiple universes beyond our own. Equally intriguing ─ and unsettling ─ is the possibility that we may have cosmic twins very much like ourselves living in alternate universes. The ideas, usually confined to discussions among physicists and cosmologists, are driven by the mathematics of inflation theory and quantum mechanics. Hogenboom and Pirak explore the implications with several of the world’s leading...Read more

Television: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“My Love Affair with the Brain”

Luna Productions for PBS

Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg described the career and impact of Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist whose pathbreaking studies with rats in the 1960s transformed the previous understanding of the brain as an immutable, fixed structure. She found anatomical changes in the rat brains that were due to environmental factors, opening the door to an understanding of the brain’s plasticity. Her results were resisted initially, with one male scientist loudly telling her after a talk: “Young lady, that brain cannot change.” Diamond persisted, following her curiosity where it led. She did the...Read more

Audio

Gold

“The Whale Menopause”

BBC Radio 4

“Granny,” the oldest known killer whale, was estimated to be over 100 years old when she died. She was featured in the documentary by reporter Victoria Gill and producer Andrew Luck-Baker on menopause among female killer whales, who stop having babies in their 30s or 40s. Researchers want to know why the whales have such long post-reproductive lifespans and what their experiences may mean for short-finned pilot whales and humans – the only other mammalian species known to undergo menopause. The matriarchs among the killer whales lead from the front, helping their pod mates, including the...Read more

Online

Gold

“Boomtown, Flood Town”

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune

In a comprehensive, richly interactive story, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune reported that more frequent and fiercer rainstorms are likely in cities like Houston due to climate change, even as unmanaged growth and lack of zoning have made the city more vulnerable to risk of flooding. In a story that presaged the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston area, the reporters took a closer look at two previous storms ─ the Memorial Day Flood of 2015 and the Tax Day Flood of 2016 ─ and described how the loss of undeveloped prairie and wetlands has made areas more prone...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

“A New Way to See”

Ask Magazine

Elizabeth Preston wrote about a blind 13-year-old boy who has learned to use echolocation, a way of seeing with sound, more commonly associated with animals such as bats and dolphins. Humoody Smith, who was born in Iraq and lost his sight at the age of two, clicks his tongue as he walks through his neighborhood, sensing objects by listening for echoes. Preston describes ways in which her young readers can themselves experiment with echolocation. She also talked to a scientist who has used brain scans to determine that echolocators use areas of the brain normally associated with seeing when...Read more