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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Online, non-deadline reporting, independent


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Friday, June 30, 2006
SDX Awards: Online, non-deadline reporting, independent

Winner: Jayne Garrison, Gina Shaw, Charlotte Grayson and Marjorie Martin — WebMD

By Chris Speckman

As women’s waistlines continue to shrink on the covers of fashion magazines and other popular publications, many people say America’s problem with anorexia is destined to grow.

It remains an oft-discussed topic in our society. Critics say the media’s portrayal of women leads to self-image problems in young girls. But few take the time to reflect on the fact that anorexia is not all mental; it is a condition that may even be genetic.

“Anorexia, and Web sites encouraging anorexia, were widely covered in the early part of 2005 by the general media at large, and it was a topic of wide, social discourse,” said Jayne Garrison, senior projects director for WebMD. “But we wanted to cover it as a serious medical issue, not just as an issue of how ‘thin’ people look.”

So the medical information site published a special report, “Anorexia: Crossing the Thin Line.” On the Web page, visitors could view a variety of pieces, all offering insights on eating disorders that few other outlets take the time to illuminate.

WebMD’s coverage includes links to stories about anorexia’s prime targets, the possibility of the eating disorder being genetically inherited, how anorexia attacks the human body and whether Web sites celebrating skinniness are a part of the problem.

Additionally, five first-hand accounts of the damaging disorder can be accessed from the page. Even though the women in the profile come from varying backgrounds, each struggled with the same adverse affliction.

“(It was hard) finding a wide range of women with anorexia who were willing to tell their personal stories,” Garrison said. “We wanted to be sure the stories, and the project, had a human, personal touch, covering a wide range of people.”

Even for the people putting the project together, seeing the scope of anorexia’s spell was hard to swallow.

“It taught us how wide the problem is, and how it affects not only ‘strangers,’ but family members, co-workers and the people next door. It is a serious problem, and it is getting worse, not better,” said Garrison.

A difficult topic. But one that had a gratifying effect for those who tried to tackle it.

“It is hard to find good subjects to deal with the issue honestly, but at the same time, having done so, we feel that covering such a painful topic honestly, and comprehensively, we have helped those who suffer from the disease and helped those who don’t have the disease to have more compassion for those that do,” Garrison said.

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