[Update 10/25/12. I asked the BBC for a comment, and this is what I received, from a spokesperson who asked that I attribute it to "a BBC spokesperson":
“Katia Moskvitch’s article about the VLT was produced in accordance with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. Her visit to the ESO’s facilities in Chile was taken during a period of leave from her internship at the ESO and was paid for by the BBC. For the duration of the visit, Katia was contracted to the BBC after pitching a range of stories to the Science and On Demand teams. A note disclosing Katia’s prior secondment to the ESO is published with the story.”]
On Oct. 4, I expressed disapproval of new science-writing prizes in Europe that provided reporting trips instead of cash or plaques to the winners. I said the awards too plainly served the interests of those sponsoring them and that such awards should be avoided. I called them awards junkets in another guise.
On Oct. 9, in a post entitled Press Junkets, part two, I reported some of the comments that the first post had stirred up, some favorable, others critical.
Now the plot, already thick, thickens again. The winner of the astronomy prize was a journalist-in-residence at one of the organizations that sponsored the prize and that helped to pick the winner. And here's the icing on the journalistic cake: Her story was about that same organization.
The 2012 winner of the new European Astronomy Journalism Prize was Katia Moskvitch of the BBC. Her prize is to be "ESO’s guest at the inauguration of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the Chilean Atacama desert next March 2013," the press release proudly announces.
This was the first year for the prize, which is run by the British Science and Technology Facilities Council "in conjunction with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), and the Royal Astronomical Society," according to the STFC website.