Mark Johnson joins The Washington Post as science writer


Announcement from National Editor Matea Gold, Deputy National Editor Phil Rucker, Health and Science Editor Stephen Smith, Deputy Health and Science Editors Carol Eisenberg and Tracy Jan and Health and Science Assignment Editor Katie Zezima:

We are delighted to announce that Mark Johnson is joining The Washington Post as a science writer, bringing his deep scientific knowledge and empathic reporting to this important line of coverage.

Mark comes to The Post from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he covered science and health for the past 14 years. He was part of a five-member team of journalists recognized with the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a gripping, richly reported account of physicians’ quest to use genetic technology to unravel a mysterious condition besetting a 4-year-old. That package melded narrative storytelling with videos and graphics to powerful effect. Mark was also a Pulitzer finalist in 2003, 2006 and 2014 for stories that ranged from chronic wasting in deer to rabies to gross anatomy. He also shared the Selden Ring, ASNE, IRE, Scripps Howard, APME and Gerald Loeb awards in 2014 for an investigative series about flaws in the nation’s newborn screening programs. Mark also demonstrated his nimbleness in handling breaking science news, playing a leading role in coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Before writing on science, he was a general assignment reporter for eight years.

Before joining the Journal Sentinel, Mark worked for the Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin, Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette and Provincetown (Mass.) Advocate, where he recalls his first assignment covering a sewage commission meeting in Truro. He also worked at the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star.

Mark, whom colleagues laud for his collegiality and devotion to his craft, was born in New York and spent his youth in the Northeast and England, where his mother was pursuing a PhD in history. At Brookline High, just outside of Boston, he worked on the school paper with future nighttime talk show host Conan O’Brien (the future comedian was managing editor; Mark was entertainment editor). He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Toronto and was a 2016-2017 O’Brien Fellow at Marquette University.

Mark’s wife, Mary-Liz Shaw, is a magazine editor, and their son, Evan, has just started his career as a professional composer in New York. In his spare time, Mark enjoys birdwatching and once played guitar (badly, he swears) in a punk/grunge band in Rockford called The Bloody Stumps. Mary-Liz was the bassist. His climate apocalypse novel, “Though the Earth Gives Way,” was published in January.

Mark joins the Health and Science team in mid-July, and he and Mary-Liz plan to relocate to the Washington area later this year.


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