Tim Folger Receives 2013 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism—Features: Citation

Freelance journalist Tim Folger received the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism–Features at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. Folger was honored for the article “The Calm Before the Wave,” published in February 2012 by National Geographic magazine. In this feature report, Folger recounts the story of tsunamis, especially the ones that struck Japan and Indonesia in the past decade, exploring the science of those hazards, their history, the destruction and terror they inflict, and efforts to improve survival odds for victims of future inundations. The article brings to life the personal terror, the scientific puzzles, and the enduring, seemingly insurmountable dangers to large populations around the world from these hazards. The Sullivan Award is for work published with a deadline pressure of more than 1 week.



A writer needs two distinct qualities to produce an article like “The Calm Before the Wave,” the piece on tsunamis for which Tim Folger is being honored with the 2013 Walter Sullivan Award. Like any good science writer, he needs the ability to sort through a large mass of scientific information and transform it into a clear, compelling narrative. But he also needs an empathic eye and ear—the ability to feel his way into the lives of people whose stories are utterly different from his own and to see and hear the telling details that will make those people come alive on the page.