Grantee Amy Maxmen was awarded the 2021 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting alongside Helen Branswell, a former grantee.
Both were recognized as “senior journalists whose parallel and complementary reporting has helped the public weather a dangerous and fast-moving pandemic,” according to the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW), which awards the prize annually. This is the third time in the award’s history where judges decided to split the prize, the group says on its website.
A judge wrote that Maxmen's reporting has held “a massive mirror up to our society as a whole.” She was praised for her reporting in two Nature pieces: “Inequality’s Deadly Toll” and “Coronapod: The Inequality at the Heart of the Pandemic.”
The judges recognized Branswell for an extraordinary breadth of knowledge on infectious diseases and her "prescient" and constant reporting on COVID-19 for STAT, with at least 161 articles in 2020, STAT Managing Editor Gideon Gil told CASW.
Maxmen’s reporting on the inequality of the pandemic was part of a larger Pulitzer Center-supported project COVID-19, Farmworkers and the Erosion of Public Health. Over the course of eight months, Maxmen documented the low wages, the lack of labor protections, and the rampant housing segregation facing agriculture workers in San Joaquin Valley, California. Her reporting also examined the work of grassroots organizations trying to mitigate these inequities through testing and contact tracing in the region.
The Victor Cohn Prize has been around since 2000 and includes a cash prize and recognition at an award ceremony. The team of judges brings together science journalists from around the country from an array of publications.
Cohn was a reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune, and then a science writer and editor at The Washington Post. He’s notable for the clarity he brought to complex reporting and for his constant presence over the last five decades during prominent medical advancements. He co-founded CASW in 1959.
Meanwhile, writer and radio producer Daniel Alarcón, a former Pulitzer Center grantee, was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Genius Grant as a part of the incoming MacArthur Fellows cohort. He will be "chronicling the social and cultural ties that connect Spanish-speaking communities across the Americas," according to the MacArthur Foundation website.
Each of the 25 MacArthur fellows receives a $625,000 stipend, paid in quarterly installments over five years.
According to the website, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world."
See the full list of grant recipients here.