SciFri is a PMJA Award Winner!

New York, NY, June 6, 2024— The Science Friday Initiative is honored to have won The Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA)’s First Place award for Narrative/Produced Podcast by an Independent Outlet for How ‘Panda Diplomacy’ Led To Conservation Success,” a science policy story produced by Rasha Aridi and Aja Drain.

“This year, we had over 1,450 entries from 144 different organizations in our awards contest,” said PMJA Executive Director Christine Paige Diers. “We’re proud to be able to recognize the great journalism across the country through this contest.”

In the award-winning story, SciFri producer Rasha Aridi and freelance journalist Aja Drain look back at 80 years of panda conservation and the thorny politics that paved the way for groundbreaking panda research. And they try to answer the multi-million dollar question: Was  all the time, money, and effort that went into saving pandas worth it?

“When the pandas were set to leave the National Zoo in D.C., it was all over the news. But there is so much more history and science as to why the pandas were there in the first place,” said Rasha Aridi. “From my own experiences as a wildlife scientist, I understand how contentious endangered species conservation is and the endless factors that play into saving a species. So I wanted to know: why pandas?”

The importance of pandas to China’s conservation efforts is another underexplored angle to this story. The pandas’ international fame put pressure on China to establish national parks, fund massive research projects, and foster a new generation of conservationists. China’s efforts worked, and the pandas became upgraded from an endangered species to a vulnerable one—a very rare win in the midst of the current biodiversity crisis.

This story was produced by Rasha Aridi, with help from Aja Drain. Edited by John Dankosky, with help from D. Peterschmidt and Emma Gometz. All our music and sound design is by D. Peterschmidt. 

Special thanks to the experts Science Friday spoke with: Dr. Chee Meng Tan, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli, Dr. Mel Songer, Michael Brown-Palsgrove, Dr. Rich Bergl, Dr. Jack Liu, Dr. Binbin Li, as well as Dr. E. Elena Songster and Dr. Carolyn Lin.

About Science Friday: Science Friday’s mission is to increase public access to science and scientific information. They strive to deliver enjoyable, understandable science to people and communities across the country. Founded by Ira Flatow, Science Friday was first broadcast in 1991 as a caller-driven public radio talk show focused on science and connecting the public with scientific experts. Since then, they’ve expanded their offerings into podcasts, digital and social media, education, live events, and community programming, all in service of their mission.

About PMJA: The Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA) is a professional association for public media journalists in the United States. Membership includes over 130 local public radio newsrooms across the country. PMJA’s programs provide professional development, career support and networking opportunities to the over 1,800 journalists working at its member stations.