AAAS Announces 2009 Kavli Science Journalism Awards

Recipients of the 2009 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards were announced this morning.

“A radio broadcast on probability told through a tale about a drifting balloon, a newspaper series on the impact of a devastating genetic disease on a family in rural Montana, and a group of gracefully written stories about genetics and evolution are among the winners,” Earl Lane (a contributor to The Observatory) wrote in a press release. He is referring, respectively, to:

Jad Abumrad, Soren Wheeler, Robert Krulwich of WNYC Radiolab in the Radio category, for their report, “A Very Lucky Wind” (June 15, 2009).

Amie Thompson of Montana’s Great Fall Tribune in the Small Newspaper category, for her series, Lethal Legacy (June 21-23, 2009).

Carl Zimmer of The New York Times in the Large Newspaper category, for his articles, “Now: The Rest of the Genome,” “10 Genes, Furiously Evolving,” “Blink Twice If You Like Me” (November, 11 2008; May 5, 2009; and June 30, 2009).

The other winners are:

Gary Wolf of Wired in the Magazine category for his feature, “Barcode of Life” (October 2008).

Julia Cort of NOVA scienceNOW in the TV Spot News/Feature Reporting category for her report, “Diamond Factory” (June 30, 2009).

Doug Hamilton of WGBH/NOVA in the TV In-Depth Reporting category for his report, “The Last Extinction” (March 31, 2009).

Lisa Friedman of ClimateWire in the Online category for her series, “Bangladesh: Where the Climate Exodus Begins,” comprising the articles, “Facing the specter of the globe’s biggest and harshest mass journeys,” “E+E’s Lisa Friedman explores storm-ravaged Bengali village;” “The road from growing rice to raising shrimp to misery” (March 2009).

Douglas Fox of Science News for Kids in the Children’s Science News category for his report, “Where Rivers Run Uphill” (July 23, 2008).

Readers should check out all of these stories and read the entirety of Lane’s press release about the 2009 awards, which includes backgrounds on all the winners, as well as quotes from them and the judges.

As Carl Zimmer, the recipient of the prize in the Large Newspaper category noted on his blog at Discover, “The whole enterprise of handing out awards for science journalism is fraught with gloomy undertones these days, of course. Last year’s newspaper winners actually lost their jobs by the time the awards were announced. But even as we struggle on, it’s reassuring that there are chances to get some recognition for striving to do our best, to make as much sense of the world as we can manage in plain English.”

It’s also reassuring to know that some of last year’s award winners have moved on to new endeavors. CJR was pleased to announce last month that Terry McDermott, who won 2008 prize in the Large Newspaper category, is now one of four Encore fellows contributing to our magazine and Web site. McDermott won the 2008 award for his four-part series, “Chasing Memory,” (available here, here, here, and here) in the Los Angeles Times; he wrote his first post for The Observatory, “Reservations About Resveratrol,” last week.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and has presented the science journalism awards since 1945. Reflecting some of the challenges within the industry, however, the 2009 prizes are the first to be given under a new endowment by The Kavli Foundation and will now be known as the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards. Based in Oxnard, California, the foundation is “dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.”

“The Kavli Foundation’s decision to endow the awards is particularly important at a time when accurate, insightful writing about science is threatened by rapid changes in the media marketplace,” Cristine Russell, president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and a CJR contributing editor, said in the press release. “The future of this program is now assured as a new generation of journalists tackles important science developments and their impact on society.”

The new endowment also allowed expansion of the television category to include two awards for the first time, one for Spot News/Feature Reporting (twenty minutes or less) and one for In-Depth Reporting (longer than twenty minutes).

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Curtis Brainard writes on science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.