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Medill announces 2014 John Bartlow Martin Award winner

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is proud to announce that Alexandra Robbins is the 2014 winner of the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism. Robbins’ winning piece, “Children Are Dying,” was published May 22, 2013 in the Washingtonian magazine. She will be awarded a $4,000 prize.

Medill awards the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism annually to honor work that sheds light on the causes, consequences and remedies of problems in American society.

Robbins’ article brings to light how a nationwide shortage of critical nutrients premature babies and other patients need to survive. Some Washington hospitals were rationing, hoarding and bartering the nutrients. Robbins interviewed doctors who reported conditions normally seen only in developing countries. They told her they had witnessed deaths of young children caused by the shortages.

“Amid American affluence, Alexandra Robbins discovered that many patients were developing severe nutritional deficiencies. Based on previously unpublished Congressional documents and reams of FDA records as well as the stories of those who suffered, Robbins' Washingtonian investigation, "Children Are Dying," focused on neonatal ICUS to reveal both the human costs and policy shortfalls of this shortage. This story of what one observer called “a public health crisis and a national emergency” took both the government and manufacturers to tasks. A week after its publication, the FDA allowed importation of nutrients that had been in far too short supply,” said Abe Peck, Professor Emeritus-in-Service, director of B2B Communications and senior director of Medill’s Media Management Center, who served as a judge for the contest.

In this award winning piece, Robbins writes, “By remaining silent, hospitals end up doing a greater disservice to the patients they’re worried about scaring. If people don’t know about the problem, they won’t push lawmakers to fix it. And patients will continue to suffer.”

Her words have made a difference -- a dream for every journalist.

“The best journalism gives a voice to the voiceless—in this case premature infants, their stressed out families, and the relatively powerless nurses charged with their care. Alexandra Robbins tells their story while also breaking down an extremely complex policy dilemma in a way that her readers can understand. Her skillful work delivered real- world results that may have been literally life-saving,” said Sara Austin (MSJ98), deputy editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, and competition judge.

This story has also won the 2014 Donald Robinson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism and the 2014 June Roth Award for Medical Journalism.

Robbins is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic. Her most recent book, “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” won a Books for a Better Life award and was named Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by the Goodreads Choice Awards, the only people's choice awards for literature.

Martin was a journalist, author, political speechwriter and diplomat who served on the Medill faculty for 10 years. The John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism honors the type of journalism which Martin pioneered in magazines such as Harper’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Life.  He died in 1987, and is remembered at Medill as both a preeminent journalist and a skillful teacher.

“His legacy in magazine journalism is an important one. This award provides a chance to remember him while honoring outstanding contemporary magazine journalism,” said Medill Dean Brad Hamm.