(PHILADELPHIA) – The winner of the 2008 Wistar Institute Science Journalism Award is Terry McDermott, a Los Angeles Times staff writer. McDermott’s winning entry, a four-part investigative study of research on memory, is titled “Chasing Memory: One Man’s Epic Quest for Understanding.” For his work, he will receive a certificate of award and a cash prize of $5,000.
For the first time, the judges also awarded an honorable mention—to Chip Rowe, senior editor at Playboy magazine, for his articles on male sexuality.
The judges praised winner McDermott’s exhaustive reporting and commended him for bringing to light a scientific problem—how memory is stored—that has defied explanation for decades.
Judges commented that the award-winning entry captured what it is like to work in a research laboratory and “brought the scientific process to life.” They also applauded the Los Angeles Times for devoting significant space to the coverage of basic biomedical research.
McDermott has been a reporter at eight newspapers for 28 years, the last 10 at the Los Angeles Times, where he is a national reporter based in Los Angeles. In his various newspaper jobs, he has covered county zoning boards, state legislatures, and the culture of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has specialized in long-term projects, immersing himself in assignments for months or even years. He has written on a range of subjects, from the 9/11 hijackers to the search for a rare blood molecule.
McDermott is a native of the Midwest. He holds a graduate degree in urban studies and has worked as a carpenter, a political campaign manager, and an interpreter of satellite reconnaissance imagery in the U.S. Air Force. His first book, Perfect Soldiers – The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It, was published in 2005. His second, 101 Theory Drive: A Scientist’s Pursuit of the Memory Machine in the Brain, is due next year.
McDermott’s articles can be viewed on the Los Angeles Times Web site at http://www.latimes.com/memory.
Rowe received the honorable mention for three articles that are part of an ongoing series on male sexuality: “Flight of the Spermatozoon,” “Are We Not Boys",” and “Sex on the Brain.” The judges lauded Rowe’s delightful, yet scientifically grounded, exploration of his topic. They complimented his vivid and lively writing style and the appropriateness of his articles for his audience.
Rowe, 41, a senior editor at Playboy, has been with the magazine since 1994. His chief responsibility is responding to questions asked of the “Playboy Advisor” about sexuality, health, and other topics of interest. Researching responses often requires him to interview a scientist or digest the latest biomedical research. He was inspired to write the series after seeing the tremendous strides that scientists have made in the past decade in the area of human sexuality.
“Flight of the Spermatozoon,” the first article in the series, can be viewed at https://caspar.wistar.upenn.edu/ServerPages/journal/SJAHonorable_Rowe.pdf.
The six members of the 2008 judging committee were: Deborah Blum (co-chair), professor of journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner; Joe Palca (co-chair), senior science correspondent for National Public Radio; Sue Goetinck Ambrose, science writer for The Dallas Morning News and a 2004 winner of the award; Robin Marantz Henig, freelance journalist and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine; Jon Palfreman, independent documentary film producer; and Nancy Shute, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report. Charles Petit, freelance journalist and head tracker, Knight Science Journalism Tracker was a special nominating judge.
The Wistar Institute Science Journalism Award honors annually the most insightful and enterprising reporting on the basic biomedical sciences in print or broadcast journalism. Established in 2004, the prize has established itself as a major award in professional journalism. Submissions for the contest were very competitive this year, as in years past, with strong entries received from top journalists reporting for major print and broadcast outlets across the country.
The award acknowledges biomedical research as a key force for change in the world today, with important economic and social implications for the future. Intelligent, perceptive journalism written in broadly accessible language plays a primary role in communicating progress in biomedicine to the public, which both supports and is the beneficiary of basic biomedical research.
Science journalists working in all media are invited to submit their work for consideration for the 2009 Wistar Institute Science Journalism Award. Up to five stories or broadcast reports from an individual journalist or team of journalists may be submitted as an entry. The work must have been published or broadcast in English between January 1 and December 31, 2008. The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2009.
For more information about the award, visit http://www.wistar.org/news_info/award_Page.html.
The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to transfer its inventions to the commercial sector to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the web at www.wistar.org.
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