Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press Wins Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting

Marilynn Marchione, a medical writer at the Associated Press, has been awarded the 2010 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Journalism for her compelling and enterprising reporting for a worldwide audience.

Marchione’s wide-ranging daily and in-depth consumer health coverage has sought to bring medical science findings to readers in a way that is relevant to their own health choices. She was recognized for her insight and narrative skills as reflected in stories on the overuse of diagnostic radiation, the hazards of alternative medicine, the plight of severely wounded U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq, a preview of the world’s first face transplants, and the dangers of soda increasing obesity.

The Victor Cohn prize, for a body of work published or broadcast within the last five years, was established by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, a not-for-profit organization of journalists and scientists committed to improving the quality of science news reaching the public.

Marchione will receive a $3,000 check and a certificate in New Haven, Connecticut, on Sunday, November 7, at an awards ceremony to be held in conjunction with ScienceWriters2010, a joint meeting of CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). The annual gathering includes NASW’s professional training workshops and CASW’s 48th annual New Horizons in Science briefing for reporters at Yale University and the Yale School of Medicine.

The judges of the Cohn prize were impressed by Marchione’s authoritative approach to timely medical issues and her ability to juggle the demands of day-to-day wire service coverage with in-depth reporting that is rich in human interest.

AP health and science editor Kit Frieden’s nominating letter said that Marchione “has been at the front of the pack in reporting what’s essential, compelling and useful to ordinary people trying to make sense of it all.” Former AP medical editor Daniel Q. Haney, a 2002 Cohn award winner, noted that “with the decline of newspaper medical coverage and the shortening attention span of the news business, her stories rise far above the clutter. They are clear, nuanced, graceful and dead-on accurate. She helps steer the AP away from miracle cures in mice, the statistically weak clinical trials and the other flotsam that can underpin medical coverage.”

Marchione, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, joined AP as a senior medical writer in 2004 and, in September 2005, was the first to report that doctor and patients were trapped in flooded hospitals in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She came to AP after having spent 28 years as a reporter and editor at metropolitan daily newspapers, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association as well as health and medical organizations. She earned a degree in journalism from Kent State University.

This year’s entries were judged by Ron Winslow, deputy bureau chief for health and science and medical writer at the Wall Street Journal; CASW president Cristine Russell, a freelance writer and senior fellow at Harvard’s School of Government; and Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director.

This marks the 11th presentation of the Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Journalism. The inaugural award in 2000 was shared by Laurie Garrett of Newsday and Lawrence K. Altman of The New York Times. Subsequent recipients, in addition to Haney, were Jon Palfreman, a public television documentarian; Shannon Brownlee, a widely published magazine and newspaper journalist; Michelle Trudeau of National Public Radio; Rick Weiss of the Washington Post; Jerome Groopman of The New Yorker; Geeta Anand of the Wall Street Journal; Joe Palca of NPR; and Denise Grady of The New York Times.

The award honors the late Washington Post medical writer and health columnist Victor Cohn, who distinguished himself by the clarity, honesty and effectiveness of his reporting during a 50-year career. He was also a co-founder in 1959 of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.