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'Farm Journal' wins Grand Neal

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Farm Journal captured American Business Media's Grand Neal Award last week at the 52nd Annual Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards. The flagship publication of Farm Journal Media won the top prize for a series of articles, “Asian Soybean Rust Takes Root in the U.S.,” that chronicled the hardship U.S. farmers face because of the funguslike disease.

The awards ceremony at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was attended by about 500 people.

“We tried to make [a complicated topic] digestible and tried to speak in [farmers’] language,” said Pam Henderson, technology editor of Farm Journal, who wrote the series of articles. She was assisted by chemicals editor Andrew Burchett.

“We really broke the disease apart and tried to think about what every farmer should know, from a very practical standpoint, about how to combat the disease rather than writing about how the sky is falling for them,” Henderson said. “We wrote about what farmers were worried about in a way that made readers feel, ‘Hey, they’re really trying to get inside my head.’ ”

Another key component of the series: a spread illustrating how the disease infiltrates soybeans. “We showed readers how the disease works. They couldn’t treat something unless they could understand the disease cycle,” Henderson said.

“It is one thing to tell readers they need fungicides, but it’s another to tell them how to spray the fungicide and how it’s going to affect their livelihood. …You want to give readers an a-ha moment, which is not something you often associate with b-to-b writing. But we were able to because we knew this was a hot topic for our readers.”

Farm Journal (440,000 circ.) won the Grand Neal from a pool of more than 1,200 entries, up from 1,168 in 2004.

Steve Custer, exec VP-publisher of Farm Journal, said the series succeeded because of “the combination of science and bringing the science down to earth that provided readers with the whole picture” of the disease. He added that allowing Henderson to travel to Brazil, where the disease originated, was another critical element in the series because readers “wanted to know others who have experienced [the problem], which added to the total editorial package.”

IEEE Spectrum’s articles “China's Tech Revolution” and "Who Killed the Virtual Case File?" were first and second runners-up, respectively, for the Grand Neal. This was the first year that Grand Neal runners-up were recognized. IEEE Media publishes IEEE Spectrum.

Another first for the Neal Awards this year: three separate best Web site awards, based on the number of monthly unique visitors. Porkmag.com, from Vance Publishing, won in the category of fewer than 25,000 unique visitors; aviationnow.com, the Web site from McGraw-Hill Cos.’ Aviation Week & Space Technology, won in the category of between 25,000 and 100,000 unique visitors; and CIO.com won in the category of more than 100,000 unique visitors.

Tech publishing giant IDG won three awards, with two going to CSO Magazine for best single article and best single issue of a magazine (May 2005). IDG's other award was for CIO.com. IDG's chief rival, Ziff Davis, garnered two awards. One went to Baseline for best editorial department and the other to CIO Insight for its special issue on globalization.

For a full list of Neal Award winners, go to www.americanbusinessmedia.com/abm/Default.asp.

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