NASW Science-in-Society Award winners

December 03, 2003

HEDGESVILLE, WV - Illuminating reports about cloning, stem cells and other biomedical topics are among the winning entries in the 2003 Science-in-Society Awards of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).

NASW holds the annual competition to honor outstanding investigative and interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact on society. The 68-year-old organization gives awards in six categories - magazine, newspaper, television, radio, Web, and book - without subsidy from any commercial or professional interest.

Each winner receives $1,000 and a certificate, which will be awarded in February at the 2004 annual meeting of NASW in Seattle.

In the newspaper category, Dan Fagin of Newsday took top honors with his three-part series, "Tattered Hopes." The series took a critical look at how political pressures, activists and scientists undermined the $30-million Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project. Judges said the entry was a "thoughtful, well-written and even-handed look at a highly politicized investigation" and showed "what happens when the world of epidemiology collides with public misconceptions and hopes as well as political pressure."

Kyla Dunn of The Atlantic Monthly won in the magazine category for "Cloning Trevor," an article about highly experimental work on the cells of a boy with a life-threatening genetic disorder. She gained access to the labs of Advanced Cell Technology, which is conducting human cloning research for medical purposes. The judges said her "accounting of the company's scientific work was thorough and detailed - a real tour de force of explanatory journalism."

In the radio category, the judges awarded Joe Palca of NPR the top prize for his three-part series, "Stem Cells." Palca contrasted the U.S. climate for this type of biomedical research with what is happening in Britain. The judges said that by visiting labs on both sides of the Atlantic, "Palca helped put the current debate over a ban on stem-cell research into a larger context."

In the television category, John Rubin of CNBC-National Geographic Explorer won for "Clone." His in-depth look at the issue of cloning discussed how we might one day resurrect extinct species, grow replacement organs and possibly make duplicates of ourselves. Judges found the reporting "encapsulated the many complex issues in a comprehensive, imaginative way" and "picked stories of real people who would be affected by cloning."

Margaret A. Woodbury of Salon.com won in the online category for "A Doctor's Right to Choose," which examined the procedure known as "intact dilation and extraction" to most physicians and "partial birth abortion" to its opponents. The judges said Woodbury "provides multiple perspectives of the ethics and the science, but she does not shrink from taking a point of view."

Steve Olson won the book category for "Mapping Human History," which explores the topic of racial identity. The judges said Olson shows that "even the physical traits we normally point to as the basis of race, or ethnic differences, are barely noticeable within a genetic context. .¤.¤. 'Mapping Human History' is a big think book that could help an ever more globalized world grapple with its diversity in a sustainable way."

The 2003 awards committee was co-chaired by Carol Ezzell of Scientific American and Richard L. Hill of The Oregonian in Portland. The final judging committee consisted of Ezzell, Rick Weiss of The Washington Post, Dawn Stover of Popular Science and Alan Boyle of MSNBC.com. Weiss recused himself from judging the television category and Stover recused herself from judging the magazine category because of possible conflicts of interest.

Finalists were selected by committees representing each category. Newspaper: Hill (chair); A.J. Hostetler, Richmond Times-Dispatch; and Alexandra Witze, The Dallas Morning News. Magazine: Charles Petit, US News & World Report (chair); Kathryn Brown, Science and freelance; and Corey Powell, Discover. Web: Kate Wong (chair), Scientific American; Erik Stokstaad, ScienceNow; and Karen Watson, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Broadcast: Tom Watkins (chair), CNN; John Hammarley, KDFW in Dallas, and Dan Keller, Keller Broadcasting. Book: Jonathan Weiner, freelance (chair); Ivan Amato, freelance; and James Shreeve, freelance.
-end-
The awards are administered by Diane McGurgan, executive director of NASW. See www.nasw.org for more information.

NASW

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