The eerily realistic deepfake video “In Event of Moon Disaster” — an immersive experience that imagines an alternative history in which the Apollo 11 moon mission ends in tragedy — turned heads when it debuted at a film festival in Amsterdam two years ago. Now the project, which involves four former Knight Science Journalism Fellows, has turned the heads of jurors for the prestigious News & Documentary Emmy Awards: It is one of five finalists for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Interactive Media, Documentary.
The project was led by Francesca Panetta of MIT’s Center for Advanced Virtuality and Halsey Burgund of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. But Jeff DelViscio, Magnus Bjerg, Pakinam Amer, and Rachel Gross — all members of Knight Science Journalism’s 2018-19 fellowship class — contributed at every turn, helping with the initial concept design, the video editing and documentary production, the animation, the reporting and writing, and the copy editing. Said DelViscio, “It was the fellowship that brought us all together to make that possible.”
“In Event of Moon Disaster” is up against entries from The Marshall Project, Univision, Oculus TV, and RT Creative Lab. The winners of the News & Documentary Emmys will be announced in live ceremonies on September 28th and 29th.
Among the honorees of the 2021 Society for Environmental Journalism Awards is former Knight Science Journalism Project Fellow Lynne Peeples (’21). Peeples’ “Troubled Waters” — a series of features for solutions-focused Ensia magazine probing the pervasive problem of drinking water contamination — won third place in the category of Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Small Publication.
“Drinking water stories typically deal with one contaminant in one locale,” the judges wrote. “This terrific series offers a national picture of problem pathogens, metals, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals plaguing U.S. water systems.” The product of a nine-month investigation, Peeples’ series grappled with topics such as the persistent dangers of legionella, the surprising links between wildfires and drinking water contamination, the rising threat of PFAS pollution, and the dark side of water disinfectants.
Peeples and other SEJ award winners will be honored in a live ceremony in October.
Mićo Tatalović (‘18) has won the Medical Journalists’ Association award for News Story of the Year, Specialist Audience, for his feature “UK’s £120m vaccine network ignored Covid-like virus threat,” published in Research Professional News. The story probed UK science advisers’ decision to omit SARS-like viruses from their list of top viral threats just months before the Covid-19 pandemic began. In an awards ceremony held last week, judges said “the winner was never in doubt, this story opened our eyes to disturbing information which needed to be exposed.” The panel lauded Tatalović for “patiently piecing together a complex story based on scientific evidence and informed judgement.”
Tatalović also recently teamed up with colleagues from the Balkan Network of Science Journalists and from the Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences to host an online science journalism symposium for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The symposium brought together leading science journalists from across the region to discuss ways to improve media reporting of science and to train more science journalists in the region. Most of the sessions are now freely available, in local languages, on YouTube.
The Knight Science Journalism Program mourns the loss of celebrated Brazilian science journalist Ruth Bellinghini (’03), who died in August of complications from diabetes. Bellinghini is remembered by her colleagues as a great science writer with a huge sense of humor. From former fellow Rafael Garcia (’11):
Ruth covered a wide range of subjects throughout her career, and she spent her last few years writing pieces about charlatanism and fake cures in medicine. She has covered particularly well the phosphoethanolamine controversy (a drug that was being widely prescribed off-label for cancer in Brazil despite any hint of effectiveness) and the chloroquine debacle following the arrival of Covid-19 in the country.
She was a very kind colleague and competitor who gave advice to many younger science and health journalists who were new to the area. Her writing was superb. The fine sarcastic flavor of her pieces didn’t compromise the soundness of the research work behind them. Many journalists in our generation learned a lot from her, and we will miss her a lot.
Said Deborah Blum, Director of the Knight Science Journalism Program, “KSJ is proud to have hosted such an outstanding journalist. Her work clearly left an indelible mark on the world.”
In other alumni news …
Alister Doyle’s (‘12) first book, “The Great Melt,” will be published in October by The History Press. The book will feature “unprecedented stories from the knife edge of our receding glaciers” and a foreword by Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Eva Wolfangel (‘20) served as curator of SilberSalz, an international Science and Media festival held in Halle, Germany in September. The program centered around the future of science journalism and featured several projects related to virtual and augmented reality.
Maryn McKenna (‘14) has now joined Wired magazine as a senior writer for health, after working for a year and a half as a part-time correspondent with the magazine. McKenna will be covering “all aspects of public health, global health, medicine, and disease” in her new role.
Tim De Chant (’19) has joined digital outlet Ars Technica as a senior technology reporter, where he’ll be covering Big Tech, clean tech, and more.
Anja Krieger (’16) is now a science editor with the Helmholtz Climate Initiative, which will focus on the Helmholtz Centers’ efforts aimed at reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Finally, here’s what other alumni are writing, a compendium from Federico Kukso (‘16):
Eva Wolfangel (‘20): “The boss sees everything: Monitoring in the workplace,” Die Zeit (in German).
Rod McCullom (‘16): “How wearable AI could help you recover from covid,” MIT Technology Review.
Valeria Román (‘05): “What should happen to see Argentina without Chagas in 2030 according to affected people and scientists,” Infobae (in Spanish).
Andrada Fiscutean (‘20): “World’s best headphones? The Cold War story behind these high-end products.” ZDNet.
Angela Posada-Swafford (‘01): “These see-through frogs are full of surprises,” National Geographic.
Federico Kukso (‘16): “A small skull illuminates the enigmatic origin of lizards and snakes,” Agencia SINC (in Spanish).
Richard Fisher (‘20): “How to train like an Ancient Greek Olympian,” BBC.
Amina Khan (‘19): “Pandemic concerns may prime people to discriminate against Asians and Latinos,” Los Angeles Times.
Anil Ananthaswamy (‘20): “AI Designs Quantum Physics Experiments beyond What Any Human Has Conceived,” Scientific American.
Rachel E. Gross (‘19): “Taking the ‘Shame Part’ Out of Female Anatomy,” New York Times.
Teresa Carr (‘18): “Debate Erupts (Again) Over Women’s Libido Drugs,” Undark.
Zack Colman (‘16): “Biden says U.S. will quadruple climate aid to poor countries,” Politico.
Olga Dobrovidova (‘15): “Russia’s Sputnik V protects against severe COVID-19 from Delta variant, study shows,” Science.
Yves Sciama (‘14): “What if … Greenland’s melting skyrockets?” Science & Vie (in French).
Dan Falk (‘12): “Is your brain a computer?” MIT Technology Review.
Kimani Chege (‘09): “Bioethanol for Refugees: A Startup’s Plan for Weeding Lake Victoria,” “A Kenyan Startup’s Ventilator May Bridge Local Demand,” Engineering for Change.
Ted Wood (’21): “The once-perennial Gila River ebbs to an uncertain future,” High Country News (photography credits); “Once a Rich Desert River, the Gila Struggles to Keep Flowing,” Yale E360 (photography credits).
Esther Nakkazi (‘08): “It takes a continent: Scientific ecosystem provides oversight to combat pandemic,” Natue Africa (with Paul Adepoju and Aimable Twahirwa).