The award recognizes a business journalist’s commitment to editorial integrity. At VNU, employees need look no further than the company intranet to see Sielaff’s determination to keep church and state separate. Posted right next to the company’s sexual harassment policy is an official code of ethics, penned last year by Sielaff. Rather than a series of broad strokes, it’s specific, even defining the lines not to be crossed when an editorial staffer and an advertising representative attend the same meeting.
In making its selection, ABN noted Sielaff’s “history of active campaigning” since 1989, when he was an assistant editor at National Jeweler, to ensure that advertising pressures did not influence the editorial product.
Sielaff left the publication in 1992 to become U.S. bureau chief for International Diamond Publications, Tel Aviv. He rejoined National Jeweler in early 1996 as editor in chief and in 1999 was named publisher. “I went out of my way at that point to ensure that the lines weren’t crossed, and I protected the integrity of the editorial department. As a publisher, that means taking heat from advertisers” that push for favorable editorial coverage.
“My belief is there’s nothing more motivational for reporters than when there’s nothing better than the truth,” said Sielaff, who added the title of editorial director in April 2002. “What’s more motivational than if the company is going to stand behind those things.”
Sielaff said readers can see through publications’ editorial efforts to promote advertisers. “Everything comes back to value to the reader,” he said.
The editorial courage award was named after Timothy White, the longtime editor of Billboard, who died in June 2002.
Separately, ABM named Scott Berinato, senior editor of IDG’s CIO and CSO, as this year’s winner of the McAllister Editorial Fellowship. Winners of the fellowship, now in its 11th year, spend a week at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism to act as a teacher and adviser on the Medill Magazine Project.
For Berinato, who earned his master’s of science degree in journalism from Medill in 1996, the fellowship is a chance to offer students a glimpse of the real world as well as to sing the praises of the b-to-b press. He joined CXO Media four years ago and has won four Neal awards.
“A lot of people say they want to be writers and reporters, but what they really mean is they want to be famous writers and reporters,” he said. “One of the best things about the track I took is that I like what I’m doing. It’s for a smaller audience, yes, but it’s for a smarter audience in a lot of ways.”