How Rotary International scored coverage for an ‘old’ topic

The service organization has been working for decades to eradicate polio from the face of earth. So how did it land coverage in The New York Times, National Geographic and other major outlets?

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Rotary International is pushing a spectacular success story: Medical science has nearly eliminated polio, the crippling, sometimes lethal scourge of countless generations.

“There’s only been one other human disease, which is smallpox, that’s ever been eradicated through human intervention,” says Petina Dixon-Jenkins, Rotary International’s manager of corporate communications.

How, though, to get reporters to cover the issue? After all, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was released for general use in the U.S. in 1955. Rotary, a volunteer service organization, has been working to eradicate polio since 1988. The battle isn’t yet won and involves vaccinations, which are so commonplace, resulting in a topic that might strike a reporter as ho-hum.

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