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Asia Society Announces First Winner of the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism

May 12, 2003
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Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times Receives $10,000 Award for Her Groundbreaking Coverage of the AIDS Crisis in China

May 12, 2003, New York City — Richard C. Holbrooke, chairman of the board of trustees of the Asia Society, announced tonight at the Society’s annual dinner that Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times is the recipient of the first Osborn Elliot Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and chair of the independent jury that oversaw the selection process, praised Rosenthal for her pioneering coverage of the rampant spread of the HIV virus through rural areas of central China, giving rise to an AIDS epidemic that seems likely to affect more than ten million persons by the end of the decade.

Ms. Rosenthal, a medical doctor herself, began her coverage in Henan province in May 2001, where impoverished villagers who had sold their blood to a state agency became victims of a mass infection.  Her dispatches brought the crisis to the attention of health officials in Beijing where after a delay of several months, its seriousness was finally acknowledged.  Her reports also inspired coverage by newly emboldened Chinese journalists. Staying with the AIDS story for three years, she then chronicled the losing struggle of Chinese doctors and health officials with a repressive state machine bent on cover-up rather than a national campaign of education and treatment, filing an unforgettable series of dispatches that showed the devastating consequences at the village level. Her reporting of China's AIDS crisis foreshadowed the Chinese response to the more recent SARS outbreak. “Distinguished by her persistence and compassion, Elisabeth Rosenthal is a worthy recipient of the first ‘Oz Prize’," stated Mr. Zakaria to the Asia Society audience.

Born in New York City, Ms. Rosenthal received a B.A. degree in history and biology from Stanford University in 1978, an M.A. degree in English literature from Cambridge University in 1980, and an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School in 1986, with a board certification in internal medicine. A member of the New York Times staff since 1993, Ms. Rosenthal covered New York area health and hospitals before moving to her post in China in 1997. She was recently named science editor for the Times, which will be effective this summer.

The prize honors legendary journalist and author Osborn Elliott, former editor-in-chief of Newsweek, who set new standards for reporting and editing and became one of the earliest practitioners of "civic journalism"— the deliberate focusing of the journalistic enterprise on urgent issues of public policy. Asia Society will announce the $10,000 award every year at its annual dinner.

In addition to Mr. Zakaria, the jury for the Osborn Elliott Prize includes Carroll R. Bogert, Communications Director for Human Rights Watch, Ian Buruma, noted author and Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College, Henry Cornell, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs and Asia Society trustee, Barbara Crossette, author and contributor to the New York Times, Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of  The Aspen Institute,  Joe Klein, bestselling author and columnist for TIME, and Joseph Lelyveld, former executive editor of the New York Times. Criteria for the prize included consideration for the impact of the work, its originality, creativity, depth of research, and educational value in informing the public about Asia.

About Asia Society
Asia Society is America’s leading institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Asia and communication between Americans and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific. A nonprofit, nonpartisan educational institution, Asia Society presents a wide range of programs including major art exhibitions, performances, media programs, international conferences and lectures, and initiatives to improve elementary and secondary education about Asia. The Asia Society is headquartered in New York City, with regional centers in Washington, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Melbourne, Australia, and representative offices in San Francisco, Manila and Shanghai.

Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City
(212) 517-ASIA
www.asiasociety.org

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