Crisis Coverage Awards: COVID-19 Edition

The American Society of Journalists and Authors is proud to recognize the vital work of journalists worldwide as they help audiences understand all aspects of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Introducing the first-of-its-kind COVID-19 Writing Awards. The contest is now closed. Here is the press release announcing the winners.

"Professional journalists are key in helping us all navigate the confusing and conflicting news about a worldwide crisis that is changing our lives," said Janine Latus, chair of the ASJA Crisis Coverage Awards. "ASJA is proud to recognize our colleagues' vital work as they help audiences make sense of all aspects of the coronavirus pandemic."

More than 500 submissions were received for this important writing awards program. Winners were notified and each will receive a cash prize of $350 each. Be sure to check out ASJA’s social media channels to weigh in on the winners.

Winners:

Business & Economy

"Costco is Thriving During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Its Workers Say They've Paid the Price," by Brianna Sacks and Ryan Mac, for Buzzfeed

Costco was one of a select few big corporations to emerge from the early months of the Coronavirus crisis with a good reputation for what it was doing to protect workers and customers alike. Make that, what we all thought Costco was doing. While other excellent entries in this category did bring out overlooked facets of this unusual time period -- it was a tough field -- the deep reporting here overturned what had become conventional wisdom.

Education

Imagine Online School in a Language You Don’t Understand” by Rikha Sharma Rani, for the Fuller Project and The New York Times.

Virtual schooling can be difficult for all children, but those whose first language is not English face unique challenges. This article addresses those obstacles through suburb reporting and excellent storytelling. This well-written article provides meaningful examples of real-life issues.

Healthcare

 “State Policies May Send People with Disabilities to the Back of the Line for Ventilators,” by Liz Essley Whyte, for the Center for Public Integrity

In a fleet of fantastic articles, this early April story stood out as exemplifying public service journalism at its best, shedding much-needed light on the threat to a vulnerable and marginalized population in a time of crisis. Whyte’s piece featured incomparably deep reporting across all 50 states.

Honorable mention

 “Russia’s Healthcare System Faced Cuts for Years. Now Medical Students Are on the Coronavirus Frontlines,” by Evan Gershkovich and Pjotr Sauer, for The Moscow Times.

This compelling and expertly written piece, which ran in April, demonstrated how historical systemic challenges can exacerbate emergencies and provide an essential reminder that COVID-19 is truly a global crisis with wide-ranging healthcare impacts.

Mental Health

 “The Biggest Psychological Experiment in History is Running Now,” by Lydia Denworth, for Scientific American

 The article looks at the pandemic from two perspectives, big picture and ground level, and the many personal stories make the topic come alive. It is well reported and incredible writing. Denworth touches on almost every psychological aspect of the virus and leaves you wondering how we will fare in the end.

Personal Essay

"Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus," by Anndee Hochman, for Broad Street Review

This piece is the epitome of the personal essay: something so grounded in the particulars of individual experience that it becomes universal. In terms of the COVID-19 experience, it exquisitely captures a specific transitional moment—in fact, the pivot from then to now—with grace and poignancy.

Honorable mentions

"Just This Breath," by Heather Sellers, for The Sun

When the disease itself is her metaphor, the writer can't fail to convince us. This is heroic narrative for an indelibly personal sense of life and death in the era of coronavirus 19.

"Under Lockdown in Italy's Coronavirus Quarantine Zone,” by Kenneth R. Rosen, for The New Yorker

Rosen's piece is beautifully written. We follow the author’s father-in-law visiting around town and after much exposure coming home and reaching out to touch his grandchild—and the anger that follows when that is not okay with the parents.

Politics & Government

Preparedness Spending Exploded After 9/11. Is That Helping Now?,” by Michael Schulson, for Undark

Deep and wide-ranging reporting combined with clear writing made this piece the standout among the dozens of excellent stories we reviewed. This story showed how the U.S. failed to capitalize on the public health improvements made in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, creating gaps that have exacerbated the heavy toll of COVID-19. 

Science

"Coronavirus May Be A Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything" by Dana G. Smith, for Elemental.

The piece covered several extremely complex topics but was still clear and easy to read, with strong writing backed by rigorous research. Because of the incredible quality of writing that's come out of this crisis, judges had a difficult time picking a winner.

Social Adaptation

Processing Grief When Nothing is Normal,“ by Elizabeth Yuko, for Rolling Stone.

Judges said: “Of all the bewildering, heartbreaking things we’ve all dealt with during the pandemic, the loss of loved ones, and so many strangers, has been the most crushing. Elizabeth Yuko’s words are a much-needed reminder that there are ways to deal with even this grief, and that whatever complicated feelings we’re having, it’s normal during this most abnormal time. It’s a well-written piece on a strong subject with deep reporting.”

Technology

"Tests to Detect Coronavirus on Surfaces Show Mixed Results,” by Lina Zeldovich, for Undark.

Judges said: “This article wove narrative storytelling and thorough reporting, resulting in an interesting and important piece with a high facts-to-fluff ratio. Zeldovich went deep on a topic that concerns us all — how to prevent further COVID-19 infections — and made it accessible to both patients and professionals. The reporting and writing cut through the noise to provide an informative piece of journalism at a time when such work is more urgent than ever.”  

Categories:

  • Business & Economy – including all financial aspects, the effect on contract workers, recession, furloughs, open-up movements, remote work, supply chain disruptions, unemployment and travel and tourism.
  • Education – including homeschooling, school-related online classes and virtual internships.
  • Healthcare – including the broad spectrum of COVID-19’s impact on medical personnel, infection spread and testing, hospital overload, the reduction of elective procedures and long-term implication of delayed treatments for issues unrelated to COVID-19.
  • Mental Health – including explorations of resilience, grief, isolation, stress, pandemic fatigue, anxiety, depression and suicide.
  • Personal Essays – first-person accounts of any aspect of the pandemic.
  • Politics & Government – including federal, state, local and international government responses, positions by political entities, effect on campaigns and elections, stimulus efforts and the disparity of COVID-19’s impact on different demographics.
  • Science – including COVID-19 research, efforts toward vaccines and treatments, virus origin and evolution and future implications.
  • Social Adaptation – including parenting and innovative ways of dealing with isolation (i.e. incorporating social distancing into celebrations, finding at-home hobbies, online versions of traditionally in-person activities).
  • Technology – including quarantine chats, Zoom popularity, TV shows from home (like Saturday Night Live), tracking technologies, vaccine/treatment technologies and 3D printing of protective equipment.

Due to the overwhelming response, ASJA had enlisted the help of more than 75 judges to review the contest submissions. Each awards category had been assigned a judging team of award-winning journalists and authors. Thank you to the following judges!

Category Coordinators: Salley Shannon, Sherry Paprocki, Mickey Goodman

Judges:

* Cheryl Alkon, Sophia McDonald Bennett , *Stephanie Bernaba, Suzanne Boles, Bethany Bradsher, *Jessica Wambach Brown, Barry Burd, Tania Casselle, Caren Chesler, *Rebecca Christie, *Merlisa Lawrence Corbett, Ellen Count, *Diane Daniel, Lisa J Daniels, *Kristine Meldrum Denholm, *John Egan, *Arielle Emmett, Dan Ferber, *Lisa Fields, Sunny Fitzgerald, Stacey Freed, Linda Gilden, Beverly Gray, *Vince Guerrieri, Jennie Helderman, Parul Hinzen, Gloria Hochman, Elizabeth Meade Howard, *Casey Hynes, Tracy Ecclesine Ivie , Debbie Kaplan, *Kim Kavin, *Judy Kirkwood, Cindy Kuzma, *Ellen Lee, Christina Leimer, *Darcy Lewis, Charlotte Liebov, Ilima Loomis, Antonia Malchik, Linda Marsa, Pat McNees, *Debbie Miller, Eileen Moon, *Jennifer Nelson, *Keith Paradise, Emily Paulsen, Alicka Pistek, Kimberly Potts, Sallie Randolph, *Sarah Ludwig Rausch, *Deborah Robson, Christina, Schweighofer, Susan Shafer, Ellen Sheng, Dava Stewart, *Marisa Sullivan, *Erica Sweeney, Lori Tripoli, *Stephanie Trovato, David Volk, Nancy Wade, Karon Warren, Robin Warshaw, Jill Wechsler, Dawn Weinberger, Robin Westen, Sylvia Whitman, Minda Zetlin

  • A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
    – Sidney Sheldon
  • A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
    – Kenneth Tynan
  • A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self–addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
    – Ring Lardner
  • A young musician plays scales in his room and only bores his family. A beginning writer, on the other hand, sometimes has the misfortune of getting into print.
    – Marguerite Yourcenar
  • All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary – it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
    – Somerset Maugham
  • Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
    – Christopher Hampton
  • Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.
    – Lawrence Kasdan
  • Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research.
    –Wilson Mizner
  • Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.
    – Flannery O'Connor
  • I just wrote a book, but don't go out and buy it yet, because I don't think it's finished yet.
    – Lawrence Welk
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
    – Douglas Adams
  • I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.
    – Stephen Wright
  • It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
    – Robert Benchley
  • It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.
    – Andrew Jackson
  • Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.
    – Richard Curtis
  • No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self–deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.
    – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
    –Somerset Maugham
  • Writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It's a wonder that most of them don't.
    – Stephen King
  • Writing a novel is like spelunking. You kind of create the right path for yourself. But, boy, are there so many points at which you think, absolutely, I'm going down the wrong hole here.
    – Chang–rae Lee
  • Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
    –Samuel Johnson