Elena Gritzan has won the annual Student Writing Award for the Specialized Business Press, in a competition sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Foundation.
Her winning article, titled “Healthy Skeptic,” embraced the challenges of journalism covering technical topics related to health and medicine. Gritzan was drawn to writing about science because of her background in the subject. As an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, she earned her degree in chemistry and psychology, wrote for the science section of the school newspaper, and spent her summers working in research labs.
“It would always bother me when I’d see the scientific method misinterpreted or exaggerated in the news,” said Gritzan, who is graduating with her master’s degree this fall. “It’s a hard subject to write about if you don’t have the training in it or time to learn through experience.”
Within her story for the Ryerson Review of Journalism’s 2016 issue—written while she was studying for her master’s degree in journalism from Toronto’s Ryerson University—she stressed the importance of getting the facts straight within health journalism.
“The information people come across in the news can affect the choices they make about their health: whether to get a new vaccine, how to choose their diet, or how they feel about a new treatment or medication,” she said. “While I know that one story won’t change the entire field of health journalism, I do hope that readers–especially those who don’t regularly cover health or science—are inspired to look at scientific research more critically.”
For the story’s angle, she gave credit to Tim Falconer, her instructor at the Ryerson Review of Journalism. He suggested that she profile Andre Picard from Toronto’s Globe & Mail, and she decided to explore the state of health journalism through the example of a journalist who does it very well. She interviewed many science and health journalists about the challenges they face, and she talked to experts about why health can be distorted in the news. In addition, she spent time with her subject—including watching him speak a few times and visiting him at his office in Montreal. She also asked his friends and colleagues to tell her about him.
Gritzan said she’s excited to be the recipient of the award and thankful to the AEJMC and the ASBPE for reading her work. As the winner of the 2016 competition, she earned a $100 prize from ASBPE and was invited to attend the association’s national conference and awards banquet July 21-22 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg Fla. The ASBPE Foundation joined with AEJMC in 2012 to honor the best business-to-business writing in AEJMC’s broad student competition.
“As a recent graduate who hopes to keep writing magazine features well into the future, it’s great to be recognized,” Gritzan said.