Reporters from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel To Receive American Society for Microbiology Public Communications Award

Contact: Barbara Hyde

Reporters from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel To Receive American Society for Microbiology Public Communications Award

WASHINGTON, DC—April 25, 2003—Two journalists from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have been named the recipients of the American Society for Microbiology 2003 Public Communication Award. The winning entry, written by John Fauber and Mark Johnson, was a two-part series on the arrival of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin that also explored the complex science of the abnormal proteins called prions and the diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, they are believed to cause.

The Award, given annually since 1996 to recognize outstanding achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of microbiology, consists of a $2500 honorarium and plaque. It will be presented at a special media reception May 18, 2003, prior to the opening session of the 103rd General Meeting of the ASM in Washington, DC.

Judges commented that the authors, in delving deeply into the science and history of prion diseases, “explain what they’ve found in clear and understandable terms, with plenty of anecdotes and human interest.” One remarked that the series effectively combines human interest and research elements in a compelling story for lay readers They noted although the series has a keen focus on developments and people from the newspaper’s region, it is balanced very well with a national and even global perspective.

In the series “Deadly Game: Chronic Wasting Disease,” “A New Kind of Killer” (Oct. 27, 2002, p. 1) explains what prions are and how they are thought to affect brain cells in humans and animals. The reporters tell the story of a woman dying of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, an illness similar to “mad cow disease” and perhaps caused by prions.

Published on Nov. 3 (p. 1), “The Hand of Man” explains how the brain diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, thought to be caused by prions and once found only in sheep, are now being seen in mink, cows, and deer. The reporters explore whether humans may have unwittingly created the conditions for these diseases to jump the species barrier

Fauber has been a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 1978 and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Johnson has worked for the Journal Sentinel since 2000 and is a graduate of the University of Toronto. He has also worked as a reporter at the Providence (R.I.) Journal, the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, and the Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette. Both have received numerous state and national journalism awards, and their series on chronic wasting disease was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism.

Judges for the contest were Tim Beardsley, D.Phil, Editor-in-Chief, Bioscience; Martin Enserink, reporter, Science; and Craig Hicks, Managing Editor, Office of News and Public Information, National Academy of Sciences.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and research training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policy makers, and the public to improve health, the environment, and economic well-being.