New Delhi: A detailed story in The Wire on why the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) – the country’s largest science experiment yet – had become stalled has won a RedInk Award from the Mumbai Press Club in the ‘Science and Innovation’ category. The prestigious national awards recognise excellence in journalism. Its 2017 winners were felicitated at a ceremony in Mumbai on June 7, with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis as the chief guest.
The winning story, ‘Why India’s Most Sophisticated Science Experiment Languishes Between a Rock and a Hard Place‘, had been reported by science journalists Nithyanand Rao and Virat Markandeya. It focused on why the INO’s construction, in Theni, Tamil Nadu, had become stalled despite the significant scientific gains it promised to the country’s scholars and economic gains promised to the country itself. Rao and Markandeya produced the story over the course of three months. It was edited by Thomas Manuel and illustrated by Satwik Gade.
The primary conflict in the narrative was between scientists involved in the INO collaboration and environmental activists wary of the INO’s source of funds: the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). The observatory itself had been planned to study elementary particles called neutrinos, to continue research pioneered by Indian scientists in the early 1990s. However, fake news about the adverse effect of neutrinos on human health, procedural lapses on the collaboration’s part and finally regional political opportunism together stonewalled the experiment.
Apart from Rao and Markandeya, The Wire‘s Consulting Editor, Vinod Dua, received the RedInk Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism for the year. He currently hosts the Jan Gan Man Ki Baat video series for The Wire‘s Hindi edition.
In 2016, The Wire won the RedInk Startup of the Year award.