Washington, DC – March 19, 2009 – The 2009 American Society for Microbiology Public Communication Award has been awarded to Seattle Times reporters Michael Berens and Ken Armstrong for their three-part investigation into methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Washington State hospitals. The series, entitled “Culture of Resistance,” highlights microbiology’s role in containing the spread of epidemics such as MRSA infection in hospitals.
The award recognizes outstanding journalistic achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of microbiology. The Public Communications Award, which includes a $2500 honorarium, will be presented during a ceremony at the ASM General Meeting, May 17 - 21 in Philadelphia.
The series explored the increase of MRSA in Washington State hospitals as well as official reluctance to meet the problem head-on. Combining statistical analysis, use of sources, and classic investigative reporting, “Culture of Resistance” effected real change in the state’s handling of MRSA cases. By day three of the series, Washington State announced that it would require hospitals to report all cases linked with MRSA. The series also sparked legislative proposals for stricter screening and reporting as well as more stringent health inspections in hospitals. Our judges called the series “an excellent, readable examination of a critically important public health problem.”
Michael Berens has been an investigative reporter for over 20 years, garnering two Pulitzer nominations and winning dozens of journalism awards. He has served as an adjunct professor of journalism at Northwestern University and remains an active lecturer.
Ken Armstrong also has an accomplished background in investigative reporting. He has been a four-time finalist for both the Harvard University Goldsmith prize and the Pulitzer in the categories of public service, investigative, national and explanatory reporting.
Judges for the award were Rick Borchelt, Director of Communications for the Genetics & Public Policy Center; Peggy Girshman, Managing Editor, Multimedia of Kaiser Health News; and Steve Sternberg, who covers medicine and health for USA Today
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 43,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM’s mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.