Best Single Article, B-to-B, Banking/Business/Finance
While McGraw-Hill’s BusinessWeek usually maintains its intense focus on business subject matter, it occasionally branches out to examine the intersection between business and government. And, sometimes, with award-winning results.
That’s what happened with BusinessWeek’s April 21, 2008 issue featuring the cover story “The New E-Spionage Threat.” Written by Brian Grow, Keith Epstein and Chi-Chu Tschang, the story provides a behind-the-scenes look at how U.S. national security computer networks have been penetrated by outside intruders. It won FOLIO:’s Gold Eddie award this year for Best Single Article in the b-to-b banking/business/finance category. (BusinessWeek’s October 29, 2007 issue also took home the Gold Eddie for best overall issue in the same category, among other awards for BusinessWeek.com.)
“Industry actually bears responsibility for huge areas of American national security, whether by producing weapons, communications gear or computer networks,” explains Paul M. Barrett, BusinessWeek’s assistant managing editor of investigative and special projects. “We nominated this piece because it was unusual in its depth and breadth, and because it’s findings are so surprising and original.
“The vulnerability of industry and the military-intelligence establishment to digital intrusions seemed like a topic of vital interest to BusinessWeek’s business audience,” Barrett continues. “The dangers are obvious: first and foremost, there’s the risk of foreign espionage. Second, these kinds of intrusions can lead to expenditures of billions of dollars if they require the overhauling of expensive computer or weapons systems.”
Cracking U.S. Security—No Easy Task
The biggest challenge in producing “The New E-Spionage” was persuading government officials to speak on the record about sensitive—and at times embarrassing—security matters.
“Brian and Keith overcame this with two strategies: extreme persistence in seeking out candid officials and circling around to defense industry sources, who are sometimes more willing to talk, at least on background,” says Barrett. “They were persistent primarily by gathering so much information from private-sector sources on the degree of government vulnerability that eventually some government officials felt compelled to confirm at least some of the information we gathered. We also gained access to industry and government records and many e-mails that told part of the story.”
With that in mind, it took Grow, Epstein and Tschang a surprisingly short three months to produce “The New E-Spionage.” In fact, BusinessWeek was so pleased with it the edit staff decided to turn it into a three-part series on high-tech threats to the American military and defense establishment. The second installment, “Dangerous Fakes” (October 13 issue) was about how conterfeit computer parts from China “imperil” the U.S. military.
As of presstime, the third story had not been published.
Judges Comments: “Riveting article about a very timely topic. The investigative piece tackled cyber threats in government with an unsettling candor. Educational, informative, and captivating from start to finish.”