I've previously blogged about the journalism awards that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has received for its coverage of bisphenol A safety. Today Fast Company magazine joins the parade, with a first place award from the Association of Health Care Journalists' annual awards for excellence. David Case of Fast Company won for his Feb. 1, 2009 report, "The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A." The major contribution this story made to the BPA debate was its effort to show the similarities between the chemical industry's defense of BPA safety and the tobacco industry's earlier efforts to discredit research on tobacco dangers. Case's report noted that some of the same organizations that chemical makers are using now were once key players in the tobacco industry's effort. The AHCJ judges wrote this about Case's report:
Our trust in science was shaken after reading Fast Company's investigation of BPA. The writer, David Case, makes a compelling argument that commercial interests - in this case plastic manufacturers - distort science and manufacture doubt in order to keep their products on the market. With its detailed revelations, the piece ultimately shows us how all industry can try to co-op science to serve a profit-making agenda. And our government, sadly, may be more complicit than we know. Excellent reporting, good storytelling, and some truly brilliant sidebars add up to a winning entry.TV Week has a report about the AHCJ awards, which notes that Case said he first started reporting on BPA a decade ago.
He pitched the story "many times to editors over the years, but it wasn't ripe yet." So he took his box of notes and cassette tapes with him on every move -- to San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia and New York, each time debating whether to toss it. In mid-2008, his diligence paid off with an assignment, but it took another nine months to pull it together. "The story involves several very determined groups of people trying to keep BPA on the market, one of the biggest industrial chemicals out there," said Case of the challenges. The other, he said, was making sure everyone understood the science.As I've pointed out in the past, it's worth keeping track of which plastics-related stories win big journalism awards. Those issues tend to stay in the public and legislative spotlight for a long time.