ASJA Announces 2007 Award Winners

April 20, 2007, New York – The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) will recognize 19 members on April 20 for their exemplary work and/or commitment to the organization and the profession. The awards will be made during the organization’s 36th annual writers’ conference in New York City. More than 1,275 independent writers of magazine articles, trade books and other forms of nonfiction writing form ASJA, the nation’s leading organization of professional nonfiction writers founded in 1948.


Claudia Dreifus received the ASJA’s prestigious career achievement award for her exemplary writing, as well as her many other commitments to the profession including being a teacher, speaker and mentor.

Dreifus says, “If you tell people true stories and give them good information that changes the world.” She has been causing such shift changes by providing readers “with a front seat on history” for almost forty years. As the writer of the “Conversation With…”feature of the Tuesday Science Section of The New York Times, Claudia is known internationally for her unique interviews with scientists and policymakers. Dan Rather has described her as “one of the world’s great interviewers and a superb writer…. Being interviewed by Claudia Dreifus is like playing tennis with Steffi Graf: do your best, and you’ll learn a lot; anything less and she’ll pave the court with you.”

In her illustrious career not just at The New York Times, but filing stories for other magazines, as well, Dreifus has interviewed such notable people as the Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, Toni Morrison, Daniel Ortega, Jessica Lange, Gregory Hines, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

She is the author of Scientific Conversations: Interviews on Science from the New York Times (Times Books 2002) and of Interview, a book of political and cultural interviews (Seven Stories Press 1999), which is used in journalism programs worldwide, including the classes she teaches to future correspondents as a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Additionally, Dreifus is a contributing editor to AARP–The Magazine.

Former ASJA president Claire Safran of Westport, CT won ASJA’s Extraordinary Service Award for her more then three decades of exemplary service to the organization. In 1981, she and another member launched the organization’s well-known, “I Read Banned Books” campaign. As a member of ASJA’s First Amendment Committee for some 36 years, and now as its chair, she has also battled censorship. Under her capable leadership, the committee has issued numerous statements on such topics as FEMA restrictions on freedom of speech, jail threats for journalists, onerous visa requirements for foreign reporters, abuse of journalists in Iraq, and the Patriot Act. Through her many years of taking courageous stands on behalf of writers, and alerting the media, fellow ASJA members, and the public to threats to constitutionality protected speech, Claire fully meets the criteria for this coveted award which is given to a member “whose pattern of providing service, assistance, information, and encouragement to other members—or to the entire membership or profession—exemplifies the society’s role as a supportive organization.” Two members, Edwin Black of Gaithersburg, MD, and Victor Chase of Yorktown Heights, NY, were recognized for their significant contributions in the General Non-Fiction Book Category. Black won an honorable mention for Internal Combustion (St. Martin’s Press), an exhaustively researched history illuminating the corruption, greed and corporate criminality that enabled Big Oil to dominate the global energy market. Black draws upon a vast array of background materials, and previously uncovered documents to paint a damning picture of how we became addicted to oil.

Chase won an honorable mention for Shattered Nerves,(Johns Hopkins University Press), which is a tightly woven journey into the lives of people who have benefited from the technology of electronic implants. He makes the complicated scientific advances clear and readable and helps us look to a future in which not only blindness, hearing loss, and paralysis can be surmounted, but possibly Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other diseases as well.

In the Service/Self-help/Collaborative category, Allen and Linda Anderson of Minn, MN, won for Rescued, Saving Animals from Disaster (New World Library). Rescued gives readers the inside view of what happened to the much-loved pets of people who had to evacuate their homes in a hurry during Hurricane Katrina. This blend of photographs, inspiring personal stories, and methodology focuses on the unsung heroes who worked to rescue left-behind cats and dogs and reunite them with their owners. In 272 readable pages, the Andersons present a blueprint for future disasters, as well.

Honorable Mention in this category was awarded to This is How We Do It, The Working Mothers’ Manifesto (Hudson Street Press), by Carol Evans of Chappaqua, NY and Christine Larson of Sacramento, CA. In human, direct, funny and often touching prose, This Is How We Do It tells perhaps the most important story of all — how the world manages to keep working, thanks to working moms. A fresh and inspiring take on a topic endlessly debated and discussed, this book helps us to see that, with enough maternal love — and coffee — nothing is impossible.

The 2007 Arlene Award for Books That Make a Difference was given to Katherine Eban of Brooklyn, NY for Dangerous Doses (Harcourt Inc. Not only did this horrifying expose reveal glaring flaws in America’s drug distribution system–including widespread counterfeiting of prescription medications–but it has sparked sweeping legislative changes to protect the public in many states, investigations, and FDA action. This may well have saved lives and spared already ill people needless suffering–exactly the kind of documented difference the award was created to honor.

Melba Newsome of Charlotte, NC, received the Arlene for her article, “True Crimes, False Confessions,” published in the April 2006 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. Her compelling reporting shed light on a little known phenomenon, educated policymakers, and helped advance the work of the Innocence Project, which seeks to overturn wrongful convictions, many of them based on false confessions. The article influenced legislators in two states–and possibly others–to pass laws making it easier for defendants who have confessed to obtain post-conviction DNA evidence.

An honorable mention for the Arlene went to Lisa Armstrong. of Brooklyn, NY, for “It Takes a Village,” published in the October 2006 issue of Essence magazine. This searing profile tells the remarkable story of Rebecca Lolosoli, chief of a rural Kenyan village created by victims of rape and violence to provide a safe haven for themselves and their children. By publicizing the horrible plight of these courageous women, the article moved readers to send donations of money and goods to aid this humanitarian effort.

An honorable mention for the Arlene was also awarded to Christine Larson, of Sacramento, CA, for “A New Way to Ask, ‘How Green Is My Conscience?'” published in The New York Times on June 25, 2006. The article deftly explains how consumers can offset pollution their activities cause by giving money to environmental causes. One charity received thousands of dollars in donations as a direct result of the article, enabling it to plant many trees to absorb carbon dioxide from car exhaust, thus helping combat global warming.

Lisa Collier Cool of Pelham, NY, was awarded the June Roth Memorial Award for Medical Journalism for her article, “Saving the Smallest Patients,” which was published in Good Housekeeping in July 2006. A surprising number of life-saving medical devices, such as heart defibrillators and pumps, don’t come in children’s sizes, revealed Cool in this startling report, so doctors often must choose between what they know is a less effective treatment or jury-rigging an adult device. Happily, she notes there is some hope that the FDA will soon fast-track permission to use kid’s devices designed in Europe. In the meantime, Cool’s level-headed advice to parents is to head for a children’s hospital if your child has a chronic problem or needs unusual surgery because that’s where they are likely to get the best treatment.

The 2007 Outstanding Article Award for First Person Essay went to Christie Aschwanden of Cedaredge, CO for her moving story, “One Daughter, One Dad, Two Bikes,” which ran in Health in June 2006. Writing about the people who are dearest to us in a way that is honest and freshly compelling, while tapping into deep wells of universal experience, is one of the toughest challenges in our craft. Aschwanden makes it seem almost effortless in her essay about the bicycle journey across Kansas that she makes with her father, a retired Air Force pilot and Vietnam vet. Readers are luckily privy not only to her own journey of discovery and hard-won understanding, but gain insight into their own complicated relationships, as well.

Honorable Mention for her first person story went to Lisa Collier Cool of Pelham, NY, for her moving, two-part series, “Rescuing Rosalie,” in the September and October 2006 Ladies Home Journal. In heart wrenching prose, Cool shares with readers the intimate details of every mother’s nightmare: the unexpected descent of a child into the drug scene. Readers learn of Rosalie’s disappearance into the night, the frantic search for her, the anguish of trying to find the best drug treatment program where she might actually have a shot at dumping her cocaine addiction, etc. The high note of the story is Rosalie’s recovery; however, Cool probably helped saved other children, too, with her candid story.

Jonathan Green of New York City won the Outstanding Article Award for Reporting on a Significant Topic for “Hooked on the Gold Rush,” published in The Mail on Sunday on July 30, 2006. After reading Green’s story, you might never enjoy wearing gold jewelry again, knowing the suffering that underlies its production. Green risked his safety to descend into a gold mine in Ghana, where he reported on dangerous conditions among miners, their families and community members. He exposed health and safety hazards including mercury poisoning, mine collapses, cyanide contamination, decimation of rainforests and stagnant pools that cause malaria outbreaks among the local people—all in the name of corporate profit.

Christine Larson of Sacramento, CA won the Outstanding Service Article Award for “Taking Care of Mom and Dad,” published in U.S. News and World Report, November 19, 2006. Larson’s piece was a strong, clear, compassionate story about a familiar set of dilemmas with a fresh slant. She provides Americans with aging parents several alternatives they might not have thought of.

Russell Wild of Allentown, PA won Honorable Mention for his service article, “Your Take-Charge Guide to Affordable Health Care” published in AARP: The Magazine, July/August 2006. Among items on Wild’s comprehensive and inventive list of all the ways you can save on health care costs are ways to score a free eye exam, bargain over your hospital bill if you’re uninsured, and advice never to apply for a health insurance policy in writing before you get a phone approval from a trusted broker. If you apply and get turned down once, you’ll have to report it on all future applications.

Sarah Richards of Baltimore, MD won ASJA’s Outstanding Article Award for her profile of an Algerian executioner in, “Master of the Guillotine,” which was published in The Walrus Magazine in May 2006. Her portrait was fearless and disturbing, and raised fascinating questions about cultural identity and the nature of guilt.

“Grand Plans, “by Michael Fitzgerald of Millis, MA is the story of two brothers who use a combination of modern technology and traditional skills in an attempt to make Mason & Hamlin a notable name in pianos again. A hundred years ago, these pianos could be found in homes and on concert stages all over American. The contrasts between using computer-aided routers one day and loving hand-varnishing the next clearly fascinated Fitzgerald, who won ASJA’s prize for Business and Technology writing for his October 6 story which ran in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

In “Gary Heavin is on a Mission from God,” Alison Stein Wellner tells how Heavin built the nation’s largest fitness chain, Curves, which has gone from zero to 10,000 centers in only 14 years. Among Heavin’s secrets: the amount each franchisee must pay back to Curves International is capped at 5 percent. “If they do well, bless ’em,” Heavin says. For her fresh, compelling coverage of a subject, Wellner won ASJA’s honorable mention in Business and Technology writing for her October, 2006 story which ran in INC.

Links to Award-winning Articles.

1. “It Takes a Village” by Lisa Armstrong

2. Internal Combustion by Edwin Black

3. Shattered Nerves by Victor D. Chase

4. “Rescuing Rosalie, Part I”“Rescuing Rosalie, Part II” by Lisa Collier Cool

5. Dangerous Doses by Katherine Eban

6. This is How We Do It: The Working Mother’s Manifesto by Carol Evans with Christine Larson

7. “Grand Plans” by Michael Fitzgerald

8. “Hooked on the Gold Rush” by Jonathan Green

9. “Taking Care of Mom and Dad” by Christine Larson

10.“A New Way to Ask, ‘How Green Is My Conscience?'” by Christine Larson

11.“Master of the Guillotine” by Sarah M. Richards

12.“Gary Heavin is on a Mission from God” by Allison Stein Wellner

13. “Your Take-Charge Guide to Affordable Health Care” by Russell Wild