Award Winners

2020

Science Reporting – Large Outlet

Gold

"Hollowed -Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus" July 1, 2020

Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press

Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester of Kaiser Health News teamed up with Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press for an extensive investigation  into decades of public health defunding that has exacerbated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The team uncovered just how ill-equipped state and local health programs had become when the pandemic hit. When a bungled federal response left local health departments to often fend for themselves, the pandemic placed an overwhelming new strain on these underfunded systems. The reporters spoke with “more...Read more

Silver

"The Storm Inside" April 12, 2020

The Washington Post

Sarah Kaplan told the heart-wrenching story of Keith Redding, an early March COVID-19 victim who became an important case study for doctors battling the virus. Redding first checked into the hospital with a suspected pneumonia infection. Early CT scans showed a lung symptom doctors have come to associate with the virus called “ground glass opacity.” Redding later experienced a cytokine storm, another tell-tale effect of the virus that occurs when a patient’s stressed immune system mounts an overaggressive internal attack. “This is the tragedy of the coronavirus,” writes Kaplan. “It hijacks...Read more

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

"Tana River Basin Under Threat" Sept. 17, 2019

Science Africa

In the opening of his piece, freelancer Geoffrey Kamadi described in some detail the flora and fauna of Kenya’s Tana River Basin, a biodiversity hotspot with a dozen protected areas. “But looks might be deceiving,” he noted. “As a matter of fact, all indications suggest that this almost fantastic, even story-book portrayal of nature in its largely intact and unperturbed splendor, belies an ecological tragedy that is gradually unfolding.” Kamadi went on to explain that five dams on the Tana River have reduced the outflow of fresh water to the Indian Ocean, allowing salty sea water to flow...Read more

Silver

"Coastal Erosion: The smallest state and why it's getting smaller" Dec. 22, 2019

The Providence Journal

Coastal storms and rising sea levels are chipping away at the land mass of mainland Rhode Island and nearby Block Island, which is a part of Rhode Island, according to Alex Kuffner’s richly reported look at “the smallest state and why it’s getting smaller.” From his opening description of the perilous state of Block Island’s landfill ― located on a scenic bluff overlooking the sea ― to his catalogue of receding beaches along the coast of mainland Rhode Island, Kuffner explains not only what has been happening but why coastal erosion poses a serious long-term threat. As Kuffner writes, “...Read more

Science Reporting – In-Depth

Gold

"How the Pandemic Will End" March 25, 2020

The Atlantic

"Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing" April 29, 2020

The Atlantic

"America's Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further" May 20, 2020

The Atlantic

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...Read more

Silver

2°C: Beyond the Limit (series)

The Washington Post

"Extreme climate change has arrived in America" Aug. 13, 2019

"Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world" Sept. 11, 2019

"The climate chainn reaction that threatens the heart of the Pacific" Nov. 19, 2019

In three stories from their "2°C: Beyond the Limit” series, the Washington Post team reported that climate change is real and already is occurring globally. They noted that a 2-degree Celsius average temperature rise has emerged among scientists and policymakers as a global benchmark for extreme climate change. They took a closer look at some of the major climate change hot spots in the United States and elsewhere. By analyzing more than a century of NOAA temperature data, the team located several U.S. areas that are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius...Read more

Magazine

Gold

"Behind the front lines of the Ebola wars" Sept. 11, 2019

Nature

In a gripping look at a public health crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amy Maxmen told how responders from the World Health Organization battled not only the deadly Ebola virus in a time of violent political unrest, but also deep-seated suspicion of outsiders by local residents who had suffered from more than a century of conflict, exploitation and neglect from their government and the world at large. Despite efforts of about 700 WHO staff ― almost all of them African ― in cities and towns where Ebola was spreading, Maxmen wrote that the death rate was soaring at 67% because the...Read more

Silver

“The only catfish native to the Western U.S. is running out of water” July 1, 2020

High Country News

Maya L. Kapoor told the complex story of the threatened Yaqui catfish, the only catfish native to the Western United States. A history of colonization and anthropogenic climate change have destroyed the animal’s natural desert habitat, putting it under threat of extinction. “The current extinction crisis speaks to an uncomfortable truth,” writes Kapoor. “In a land of finite resources, every choice, big or small,” she says, “means choosing what kinds of habitat exist, even far away from town. And that means choosing which species survive.” Kapoor’s careful and thorough reporting...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

"A Beautiful New Blue Makes Its Debut" April 28, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s engaging segment told how Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University discovered a new shade of blue. Director Jes Burns recounted the history of YInMn Blue’s discovery and development. The new color was first created when a graduate student on Subramanian’s team heated manganese oxide for an unrelated experiment. The surprising result was a vibrant new shade of blue that is extremely stable and uniquely suited for commercial use. “I was blown away by the new blue,” said freelance journalist and author Angela Saini, “Such a clever little segment,...Read more

Silver

“How Covid-19 can be more and less deadly than we knew” June 4, 2020

Vox

Joss Fong, Áron Filkey and Joey Sendaydiego of Vox took a close look at COVID-19 case fatality rates, weaving a narrative that included emotional human stories and underlying pandemic statistics. The video used white- and blue-colored lights as a visual representation of fatality statistics, digging into how excess deaths are calculated, and distinguishing the important difference between the case fatality rate and the fatality rate for all who may be infected, whether diagnosed or not. Larry Engel, associate professor at American University’s School of Communication, said that the video “...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

"Jim Allison: Breakthrough" April 27, 2020

Uncommon Productions for PBS Independent Lens

Bill Haney, writer, producer and director of “Jim Allison: Breakthrough,” tells the story of an unconventional scientist and his path to a Nobel Prize. Shattered as a youth by the loss of his mother to cancer, Allison became a headstrong, long-haired, music-loving student fascinated with the immune system and its potential for combatting cancer. He eventually led a research team exploring the mechanisms of T-cells, the immune system’s hunter-killer cells. In the 1990s, his team and another group showed there was a molecule on T-cells that acts like an off switch or a brake pedal when T-...Read more

Silver

"The Blob: A Genius Without a Brain" March 21, 2020

Hauteville Productions for ARTE (France)

The Blob, a creature out of a science fiction horror film, has given its name to a baffling single-celled organism that has puzzled scientists around the world. Neither plant, animal nor mushroom, the organism ― called a slime mold ― has no eyes, mouth, stomach, or legs. But the researchers interviewed by the French team say it can, in effect, see, smell, digest and move around purposefully. It has neither a nervous system nor a brain, but it can solve problems and devise strategies as it moves. The Blob, whose scientific name is Physarum polycephalum, is being studied by biologists,...Read more

Audio

Gold

"Coronavirus: Will Chloroquine Save Us?" March 26, 2020

Science Vs (from Gimlet Media)

"Coronavirus: Was It Made In a Lab?" April 24, 2020

"Coronavirus: How Many Silent Spreaders Are There?" May 1, 2020

In three episodes of Gimlet Media’s “Science Vs” podcast, Australian podcaster and host Wendy Zukerman and the "Science Vs" team dug into the science behind three coronavirus controversies. The first investigated the legitimacy of chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. Zukerman expertly explained the mechanisms that made this medication a consideration for coronavirus treatment and takes a deeper look at some of the studies that prompted the initial chloroquine hype. BBC science correspondent Victoria Gill said the podcast’s ability to “get to grips so quickly with such a fast-...Read more

Silver

"Victoria Gray's Journey" Dec. 25, 2019

NPR

"Doctors Use CRISPR To Treat Patient With Genetic Disorder" July 29, 2019

"A Year In, 1st Patient To Get Gene Editing For Sickle Cell Disease Is Thriving" June 23, 2020

In three stories from NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Rob Stein and his colleagues Joe Neel and Jane Greenhalgh told the story of Victoria Gray, a patient with sickle cell disease who received the first use of a groundbreaking new CRISPR treatment for her genetic disorder. Stein followed the emotional narrative with grace and care, exploring both the science and the impact that science has on human lives. The third piece of the series followed up with Gray a year later, during a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. Rich Monastersky, chief features editor for Nature in Washington, D...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

"Sniffing for Scat"

Cricket Magazine April 2020

Tracy Vonder Brink introduced her young readers to Eba, the conservation canine, who helps scientists find floating scat from orcas, also called killer whales. By studying the scat, the researchers can learn a lot about the health and diet of the animals ― and the pregnancy status of the females ― without disturbing them. “All kids are fascinated with poop, but that's not what makes this story so fantastic,” said judge Christine Dell’Amore, senior editor on the animals desk at National Geographic. “The approach of using Eba as a ‘spokesdog’ for orca conservation is an ingenious way to...Read more

Silver

“Virion: A Tale of Coronavirus for Old School Comic Fans” May 5, 2020

Kompas.com

“Virion: A Tale of Coronavirus for Old School Comic Fans – Part 2” June 15, 2020

“Virion: An Interactive Quest to Find Covid-19 Vaccine” July 9, 2020

A team of Indonesian journalists and graphic artists for Kompas.com used a comic book format to explore the biology of the novel coronavirus that triggered a global pandemic. In a three-part series with 11- to 14-year-olds in mind, the team did not shy away from complexity and encouraged young readers to go on a journey of discovery. The series tells how coronaviruses were first identified, the changing understanding of their modes of action and impact on humans, and how science itself has been changing during the COVID-19 pandemic as researchers rely on new ways to get the latest...Read more