Excuse The Hoot!

By Carl Zimmer | November 14, 2012 11:00 am

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has just announced this year’s Kavli Awards for Science Journalism. I’m pleased to report that I won in the category of newspapers with a circulation of 100,000 or more.

The award was for three stories I wrote for The New York Times. They didn’t have much in common, which is how I like it:

A Sharp Rise in Retractions Prompts Calls for Reform (April 17)–The scientific enterprise is getting dysfunctional. The fact that this article received 341 comments suggests to me that it hit a nerve.

Studies of Microbiome Yield New Insights (June 19)–I explore the emerging concept of medical ecology, in which we look at our bodies as wildlife parks to be managed, rather than battlegrounds to be carpet-bombed.

Evolution Right Under Our Noses (July 26)–My editor at the time, James Gorman, came across a cool paper on the rapid evolution of fish in the Hudson River. I said, “It’s nice, but it’s not unique by any means. I mean, evolution’s going on all over New York.” Gorman, with that sharp editorial nose of his, said, “Really? Then write about that.” So off I went to the wilderness of Manhattan parks and median strips.

I am now officially barred from winning this award again, having won it in 2004 for my writing here at The Loom and in 2009 for another batch of stories for the Times. I happily hang up my cleats and thank AAAS for all three honors.

Of course, you can’t win a prize for newspaper writing without a newspaper to write for, so I have to give heaps of thanks to the Times, to which I’ve been contributing stories for the past eight years. Along with Jim Gorman, I’ve worked with many other fine folks at the Science Times (including David Corcoran, Michael Mason, Jill Taylor, Jennifer Kingson, and Barbara Strauch), as well as Jamie Ryerson at the Sunday Review. They are compatriots in curiosity. Over the past eight years we have looked anxiously at the woes faced by our dear Gray Lady, as the entire world of journalism has shuddered with changes. Things are not all lollipops and rainbows in 2012, but there are many reasons for optimism–not least of which, I think, is the mere existence of the Science Times, still dedicating every Tuesday to the world beyond elections and quarterly employment reports after more than 30 years.

I’ll be heading up to Boston in February to pick up the prize at AAAS’s annual meeting. My wife Grace will be accompanying me, which only makes sense, since she makes it possible for me to scurry off after new species of ants living on Broadway without the rest of our life collapsing in on itself. Ultimately, all thanks must go to her–including thanks for going to Boston in February.

[Image: Portrait of Brother David With A Mandolin, Marc Chagall, via Wiki Paintings]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Meta, Writing Elsewhere

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Comments (11)

  1. Brian Ogilvie
  2. Well done! I remember the piece on retractions as quite interesting, and will definitely read the piece on evolution.

    But – and I think this is hilariously ironical for a piece on writing awards, you mean “Really? Then WRITE about that!” (You have “right.”)

    Congrats and best of luck.

  3. Congratulations, Carl!!! And long live Science Times!!!

  4. Vinny

    Congratulations Carl! It is well deserved. As a graduate student, i often wish that scientific papers are written with the type of clarity that you bring to science writing.

  5. Rkt
  6. stillwaggon
  7. Well done! And, in my opinion, no need to excuse anything – you deserve to be able to hoot about yourself when the occasion merits it.

    (But did Gorman really say, “Then right about that.” Shouldn’t it be “right about then”? ; ) )

  8. Andrea

    Contests! And, he said “Write about that,” not “Right about that,” right?

    [CZ: Right! Fixed!]

  9. Congrats indeed… and I’ll assume that if you’re ‘hanging up your cleats’ then Ed Yong will be in line to win the award next year 😉

  10. Brian Too

    Think of it in terms of them retiring your jersey. You’re in the Hall of Fame now. Congrats!

    By the way, I think you mean to quote “Really? Then write about that”. If you could right about it then logically you could left about it too!

  11. David B. Benson

    Even the world of journalism evolves. Congratulations on hung up cleats.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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