A Special Folio: Tribute
The 53rd Annual Jesse H. Neal Awards
The History of a Storied Competition
The Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards, which have been called "the Pulitzer Prize of the business press," are named after American Business Media’s first managing director, who remained active in promoting the business press throughout his life.
When it was first established in 1955, the Neal Awards competition drew a grand total of 22 entries. This year, the award competition netted more than 1,100 entries. The Board of Judges spent a day-and-a-half deciding on this year’s winners. Their criteria: Journalistic enterprise, extent of service to the field and editorial craftsmanship.
The Neal Awards are open to any publication or Web site produced by a member of American Business Media, which represents more than 5,000 print and online titles that reach an audience of 100 million professionals.
Entries for award consideration are submitted in one of three classifications, which are based upon the publication’s gross advertising and circulation revenue. All materials for this year’s award competition were required to be in a publication bearing a cover date of December 1, 2005 through November 30, 2006.
This year, Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum, earned the 53rd Annual Grand Neal. The magazine was honored for its two-part series "Re-engineering Iraq," which examined the reconstruction of Iraq’s electric power grid and telecom services.
Zorpette, who took took the top prize for Best Subject-Related Series of Articles in the category of magazines with more than $7 million in circulation revenue, was also the 13th recipient of the McAllister Editorial Fellowship, which was presented by incoming chair of the Neal Judging Board Bob Dowling, former editor-in-chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter.
Many of the Neal Awards recipients spent months, and thousands of dollars, to research and write their award-winning stories. The winners have achieved the highest goal in business journalism in their efforts to educate and inform the business, industrial and professional community.
A Unique Iraq Series Earns IEEE Spectrum the Grand Neal Award
Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum, was awarded with the 2006 Grand Neal for his two-part series, "Re-engineering Iraq," which focused on the reconstruction of Iraq’s electric power grid and telecom services. Zorpette’s work also took the prize for Best Subject-Related Series of Articles in the category for magazines with more than $7 million in circulation revenue.
In September 2005, Zorpette traveled to Iraq to talk one-on-one with private-contract engineers, who were working on very difficult technical projects in extremely inhospitable circumstances. Zorpette, who earned an electrical-engineering degree from Brown University, was uniquely positioned to talk with the engineers and could discuss technical aspects at their level.
IEEE Spectrum is the flagship publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The series appeared in the February and March 2006 issues of the magazine. here, a conversation with Zorpette.
What does winning the Grand Neal mean to you and to your magazine?
For me, personally, it’s a great honor. And aside from being incredibly flattered, I’m pleased that it will call attention to the stories and to IEEE Spectrum. The best outcome of winning the award would be inspiring some of my colleagues here at the magazine to want to take home one of these awards, as well.
What led to your writing this particular series for IEEE Spectrum?
I didn’t go to Iraq or write the series as some kind of crusade. But once there;I spent 11 days in Iraq;I realized that not nearly enough reporting had been done on the reconstruction issue. There was no shortage of journalists in Iraq, but none were interested in the actual nitty-gritty of reconstruction, or their editors weren’t been interested, or the reporters didn’t have the background to write about it. Articles written by general-assignment reporters had appeared, but those reporters had neither the interest nor the background to get into the technical problems in any depth. And there were enormous problems.
I realized pretty quickly that this was a phenomenal opportunity for a special-interest journalist. I’ve been in similar situations, where the general press missed a huge story because the reporters didn’t have the patience or background to follow up on it; but nothing of this magnitude. We’re talking about billions of dollars affecting millions of people’s lives. So it was a great experience for me; singular, unusual, unique in my career.
How did your background help you get the story?
Even though I’ve never worked as an engineer, my degree in electrical engineering provided me with the technical language to use when talking with the engineers. Knowing the mindset of those people and their terminology helped tremendously in Iraq. When engineers sense that a reporter doesn’t understand the details, they envision garbled quotes or bad information attributed to them and freeze up.
The situation in Iraq is very sensitive, because the engineers must deal with a very challenging political situation and technological problems everywhere. Once the Army Corps of Engineers felt comfortable with my knowledge, they allowed the private contractors to talk directly with me. So that was key. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to drill down and get the kind of technical detail that allowed me to fill 14 pages in the magazine.
Of course, the articles could not have been written without the trust, generosity, and hospitality of several dozen individuals in Iraq;most of whom were risking their lives to bring electricity and telephone service to people living in Iraq, including a very small minority who were trying to kill them.
What was the reader reaction to the articles, especially given the politically charged nature of the topic?
We ran two stories; one on electric power and, the next month, one on telecom. Those were two of the major technical reconstruction thrusts in Iraq and also represent the focus of many of our readers. Our readers are engineers, computer scientists and they represent all sorts of political persuasions. I was very careful to keep this series straight down the centerline politically, which was very hard given the subject. I was very gratified, however, when I didn’t get a single letter that said the article was polemic.
In addition, the stories made a rather large impact on the general-interest press, because the basic idea was out there that reconstruction in Iraq had gone very wrong. When the stories were published in a format that was readily intelligible to the lay reader, it triggered interest and attention on the subject.
2007 Crain Award Winner: Newport Communications’ Deborah Whistler
Deborah L. Whistler, editorial director of Newport Communications Group, has been selected as the 2007 Crain Award winner. The award specifically honors editorial excellence in the business media by an individual, making the recognition particularly gratifying.
"I’m extremely honored to have received the award," Whistler says. "I know how many good magazines and good editors there are, so it’s very special to have been singled out. I’m only the third woman to have received this award since it was first awarded in 1969, so that makes it a very big deal, too." The other two women who received the Crain Award were Marianne Dekker Mattera in 1997, when she was editor of RN, and Karen Schaffner in 1993, when she was with Shore-Varrone, Inc.
Being singled out is nothing new to Whistler. "I’ve loved my career path," she says, "but it has also been a struggle. For a long time, I was one of the only females;not only on the journalism side of the trucking business but in the trucking industry at all. At industry meetings, for example, the 1,000 or more people present would often be greeted with, ‘Welcome lady and gentlemen.’ So that experience also makes this award very special to me."
Whistler was a newspaper reporter when she was recruited 25 years ago by Newport Communications Group to be lead reporter/writer for Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. "I didn’t know much about b-to-b publishing and certainly didn’t know anything about heavy-duty trucking," she says. She became copy editor in 1983, managing editor in 1985, and editor in 2000. In 2001, she was named editorial director of all Newport media. Her responsibilities include assignments, editing and layout, writing features and editorials, and maintaining high-level industry and reader contacts.
She feels fortunate to be associated with a relatively small, editorially driven publisher. "I have a really great staff," Whistler says, "and a lot of editorial flexibility. We’re not locked into a grid, which allows me to swap a cover story at the last minute and, instead, run a 30-page feature on a huge, breaking issue. I believe that’s the hallmark of our coverage in the industry, and that type of in-depth editorial has led to a lot of our Neal awards." Since 1983, Newport Communications has won 15 Neal awards, including the Grand Neal in 2001, as well as 11 Neal certificates.
Covering the trucking industry is "phenomenal," according to Whistler. "Besides covering trucks, there are people, political, and environmental issues," she says. "Also, specializing in a single industry has made me a better journalist. Even though the trucking industry is huge, I know most of the people."
Whistler’s staff also specializes in different aspect of the industry, and one of her strengths as an editor is recognizing their interests and expertise when assigning stories. "I see what my people do well and know what they like to do, so I don’t arbitrarily dish out stories," she says. Most of her staff; which includes two former Crain Award winners; have worked together at Newport Communications Group for at least 15 years, and some have reached the 30-year mark. Doug Condra, president of the company, won in 1990 and James D. Winsor, an executive editor, won in 2001. "I think we’re the only publishing company that has three Crain Award winners," Whistler notes.
In fact, a lot of Whistler’s staff members were editors in chief at their own trucking publications prior to joining Newport Communications. "It’s hard to be the boss of people who were the boss at their own publications," she quips, "but I’m making it work." Indeed, she is.
The American Business Media Crain Award is given annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the development of editorial excellence in the business media. Nominees must have a proven career record of editorial accomplishment, must have formulated editorial policies and directed editorial activities for one or more business publications, and must have assumed leadership in the field that his or her publication serves. The nominee also must have demonstrated a capacity for maintaining the highest editorial standards and must have advanced ABM’s tradition of editorial initiative, leadership, and integrity.
The Crain Award is named for G.D. Crain Jr., founder of Crain Communications, and was established with a grant from the G.D. Crain, Jr. Foundation. The award includes a distinctive crystal trophy and a $1,000 prize.
Glenn Zorpette, 2007 Grand Neal Winner, Also Receives McAllister Fellowship
Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum, received the 2007 McAllister Editorial Fellowship, the 13th winner of the award since its inception. "It has always seemed to me that inside every good specialized journalist is a lecturer desperately trying to get out," Zorpette said upon receiving the honor. "Through the McAllister fellowships, [the McAllisters and Geyer-McAllister publications] we are actually helping journalists get in touch with their inner lecturers." At ABM’s Neal Awards ceremony, Zorpette also received the 2007 Grand Neal for his two-part IEEE Spectrum series, entitled "Re-engineering Iraq."
"For years, the IEEE Spectrum staff has done really good work elucidating and illuminating the technology aspects of critical issues of the day," says Zorpette. "As executive editor, my goal is to continue to raise people’s awareness of Spectrum as a general-interest technology magazine, one with in-depth reporting and details on key technology issues that no one else covers. A fair number of movers and shakers in the world of technology read and appreciate the magazine, but I’d like to raise our profile even higher."
Zorpette, who earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Brown University, joined IEEE Spectrum in 1984. In 1993 he won a National Magazine Award in the reporting category for an article on Iraq’s attempt to build an atomic bomb. From 1995 to 2000, Zorpette was part of a team at Scientific American that won a National Magazine Award for a single-topic issue titled, "What You Need to Know About Cancer." For 10 months, at the height of the dot-com boom, he worked at Red Herring. Then in June 2001, he returned to IEEE Spectrum.
In addition to winning the McAllister Editorial Fellowship and the Grand Neal, Zorpette’s "Re-engineering Iraq" series was honored with a Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series of Articles for magazines with more than $7 million in circulation revenue. This year, too, the first part of his series; the article on electric power reconstruction in Iraq;is also a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the reporting category.
"I’m really looking forward to my week at Medill," Zorpette says. "I’ve had the great pleasure of being a guest lecturer a few times at Stevens Institute of Technology, where a former colleague from Scientific American now runs the writing program. Talking to young people and getting them excited about what goes into a good story is a great deal of fun for me." During one of his lectures at Stevens, Zorpette spoke to the students about his experiences as a special-interest journalist in Iraq;both his personal observations and his reporting on the technology involved in the Iraq reconstruction projects.
The McAllister Editorial Fellowship, named in honor of former ABM Chairman Donald McAllister Sr., selects one b-to-b editor each year to act as a teacher and advisor for a week on the Medill Magazine Project at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.
Timothy White Award Once Again Awarded to Computerworld Editor
Don Tennant, VP and editor-in-chief of Computerworld, received the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity, the third annual recipient of the award and the second winner from Computerworld. Maryfran Johnson received the inaugural Timothy White Award in 2004, when she was editor-in-chief of Computerworld.
"It would have been impossible for me even to have been considered for this award if not for the cornerstone of editorial integrity at the foundation of IDG," says Tennant. "And that cornerstone was laid by Pat McGovern when he founded IDG 40 years ago."
Tennant assumed the post of editor-in-chief of Computerworld in August 2004 and is responsible for the magazine’s editorial operations. Prior to joining the domestic staff in 2000, he spent eight years as editor-in-chief of Computerworld’s Hong Kong edition. "At IDG, content is sacrosanct," he says, "and it’s the culture at IDG that allows us to be recognized for integrity and passion. It’s not the editor…it’s the company."
Tennant is also a past recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. His weekly editorial column won the 2006 national gold awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and from Trade, Association, and Business Publications International.
The Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity acknowledges the challenges and pressures that editors face daily. Named for the longtime editor of Billboard, who succumbed to a heart attack in June 2002, the award is given annually to an editor whose work displays courage, integrity, and passion.
CHAIR OF THE NEAL BOARD OF JUDGES: MARSHALL LOEB
Marshall Loeb is a columnist on MarketWatch from Dow Jones and an author. He was formerly editor of Columbia Journalism Review, managing editor of Fortune and Money, and business editor of Time. He was named one of the top business reporters of the 20th century by the TJFR Group.
THE NEAL BOARD OF JUDGES: SHARON BEGLEY
Sharon Begley is the science columnist at Newsweek. For the previous five years she wrote the science column at The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the 2007 book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain and is the recipient of numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of North Carolina in 2004 and the Public Understanding of Science Award from the Exploratorium in 2005.
ROBERT J. DOWLING
Robert Dowling is the former editor-in-chief/publisher of The Hollywood Reporter and launched the companion Web site, thehollywoodreporter.com. He is a frequent lecturer in both fields of publishing and entertainment and is a past recipient of the ABM Crain Award for business media editorial career achievement.
Jill Dutt joined The Washington Post in 1995 as economics editor and is now assistant managing editor for business news. She began her career as a reporter for Institutional Investor and Investment Dealer’s Digest.
Financial investigative reporter Diana Henriques is a 15-year veteran of The New York Times. She was previously a reporter for Barron’s, a Wall Street correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer and a reporter for The Trenton Times.
Professor Abe Peck is Helen Gurley Brown professor of journalism and chair of journalism & cross-media storytelling at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He is also the director of magazine programs for the Media Management Center. He has written and edited for Rolling Stone, Outside, The Chicago Daily News, The Chicago Sun-Times and several other magazines and newspapers. He is also a book author and a board member of the National Arts Journalism Program.
THOMAS R. TEMIN
Thomas R. Temin is the former senior vice president and editor-in-chief, at Post-Newsweek Tech Media’s Washington Technology and Government Computer News, where he also oversaw the content for Post-Newsweek conferences. Before joining Post-Newsweek Tech Media (now part of 1105 Media), Temin held editorial positions with Cahners Publishing Company. He is a member and former chair of both ABM’s Editorial and Neal Committees.
Arnie Weissmann is the editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly and an author. He founded Weissmann Travel Reports and created the first core destination content for America Online as well as licensing content for Apple. He is a member of American Business Media’s Editorial Committee and the current chair of its Neal Committee.
The 2007 Neal Awards Winners
Best Single Article
Classification A (mags with circ revenue under $3 million)
Aquatics International, "Who’s Watching the Children?"- Hanley Wood LLC
Linda G. Green
Classification B (mags with circ revenue of $3 million – $7 million)
Pool & Spa News, "In the Minority" – Hanley Wood LLC
Rhonda J. Wilson
Classification C (mags with circ revenue over $7 million)
The American Lawyer, "Recipe for Disaster" – ALM
Best Subject-Related Series of Articles
Editor & Publisher, "Knight Ridder Sale and the Industry Fallout" – Nielsen Business Media
Counselor, "Family Business Spotlight" – Advertising Specialty Institute
IEEE Spectrum, "Re-engineering Iraq" – IEEE Media
Best Staff-Written Editorials or Opinion Column
Produce Business, "The Fruits of Thought" – Phoenix Media Network
Contemporary OB/GYN, Editorials – Advanstar Communications
Computerworld, "Frankly Speaking" – IDG"
Classification A Instructor, "Masterpiece" – Scholastic Inc.
Lee Ann Murphy
Custom Home, "From the Trenches" – Hanley Wood LLC
Dennis A. Dixon
Baseline, "Hands On" – Ziff Davis Media
David F. Carr
Anna Maria Virzi
Steven S. Ross
Paul A. Strassmann
Best How-To Article or Subject-Related Series of How-To Articles
CSO, "The How-To Issue"- IDG
Contemporary OB/GYN, "Critical Care in OB" – Advanstar Communications
Medical Economics, "Adding Ancillaries" – Advanstar Communications
Gail Garfinkel Weiss
Wayne J. Guglielmo
Marianne Dekker Mattera
Best News Coverage
Editor & Publisher, War Coverage – Nielsen Business Media
Ophthalmology Times, "Fusarium Outbreak Among Contact Lens Wearers" – Advanstar Communications Jennifer A. Webb
Mark L. Dlugoss
Peter J. McDonnell, MD
CIO, "IT versus Terror" – IDG
Best Single Theme Issue of a Magazine or Newspaper/News Tabloid
CSO, "The Career Issue/Dream Jobs" – IDG
Fire Engineering, "Hurricane Katrina Response and Recovery" – PennWell Corporation
The American Lawyer, "Litigation Department of the Year" – ALM
Best single issue of a magazine
Classification A BusinessWeek SmallBiz, Summer 2006 Issue – The McGraw-Hill Companies
Photo District News, September 2006 Issue – Nielsen Business Media
The American Lawyer, June 2006 Issue – ALM
Best single issue of a newspaper/news tabloid
Washington Technology, May 29, 2006 Issue – 1105 Media
Ophthalmology Times, October 25, 2006 Issue – Advanstar Communications
Classification C Government Computer News, August 21, 2006 Issue – 1105 Media
Best Start-Up Publication
GreenSource: The Magazine of Sustainable Design – The McGraw-Hill Companies
Best Web Site
ENR.com, Engineering News-Record – The McGraw-Hill Companies
CFO.com, CFO – CFO
Best Online Article or Series
ENR.com, "Driven Dubai" – The McGraw-Hill Companies
BusinessWeek.com/SmallBiz, "The Best Entrepreneurs Under 25" – The McGraw-Hill Companies
Macworld.com, "A maximum look at a mini Mac" IDG
Best use of personal voice online
No Awards Given