Most monthly magazines have a fairly predictable format of editorial columns, news briefs, product announcements, departments and features. But when diesel fuel prices spiked above $5 a gallon last spring, Deborah Whistler, editorial director of Newport Communications' Heavy Duty Trucking, scrapped it all to devote the upcoming issue entirely to the fuel crisis.
This gave the editorial staff just three weeks to report and write new stories to fill more than 50 pages in the June issue. They sought to help their readers cope with the crisis by looking at escalating fuel prices and their implications from many angles, from the worldwide economic and political causes to specific tactics truckers and fleet owners could use to increase fuel efficiency.
Meanwhile, the sales staff hit the ground running to tell existing advertisers of the change and ended up selling so many ads that the issue became Heavy Duty Trucking's largest of the year.
The hard work on the “Fuel Crisis Surival” package paid off for the editorial staff, which last month won the 2009 Grand Neal Award at American Business Media's 55th Annual Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards ceremony in New York.
“One of the final judges came up to me afterward to tell me how fascinated he was by one particular story,” Whistler said. “It was about a driver who took a bug screen off the front of his cab to see if it would save fuel. He got a fuel economy improvement of 1%, which is huge in this industry. He told the company president, who performed a more scientific test and proved the driver was right. This change saved the company $1 million.”
This was the second Grand Neal for Heavy Duty Trucking, which also won it in 2001. Whistler dedicated it to Bette Garber, a member of the editorial staff who died suddenly last November.
Journalists from Crain Communications Inc. and McGraw-Hill Cos. won nine and eight Neal Awards, respectively. Crain Communications' Financial Week won the largest number of awards—five—of any publication. The magazine published its last print edition on Dec. 7, and suspended its Web site last month in response to the economic downturn. Glenn Coleman, Financial Week's former editor and now managing editor of Crain's New York Business, accepted the awards.
Financial Week was one of three runners-up for the Grand Neal Award. The others were McGraw-Hill's Engineering News-Record and Nielsen Business Media's Photo District News.
Engineering News-Record won four Neal Awards. The magazine's Midwest bureau chief, Tudor Van Hampton, was selected as the 2009 McAllister Editorial Fellow. In this role, he will spend approximately one week with students involved in the Medill Magazine Project at Northwestern University.
Van Hampton said the editor who gave him his first job in journalism “always pushed me to dig a little deeper in my reporting. I want to continue that mentoring tradition.” The McAllister fellowship is named after Donald McAllister Sr., who was the longtime CEO of Geyer-McAllister Publications.
Two other editors were also recognized with special awards. Robert Ivy, VP-editorial director of McGraw-Hill Construction Media, received the 41st Annual G.D. Crain Award for excellence over the course of a career, and James E. Prevor, founder and editor in chief of Produce Business and CEO of Phoenix Media Network, was the fifth recipient of the Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity.
Before presenting the G.D. Crain Award, Chris Crain, VP-associate publisher of Crain Communications' Advertising Age, referred to his grandfather, for whom the award is named. “I've been thinking a lot about my grandfather, who founded [Advertising Age] in 1930 at the start of the Great Depression,” he said. The current economic downturn is giving him a new appreciation for what his grandfather accomplished, Crain added.
In accepting the Crain award, Ivy said the world had shifted in unprecedented ways with the rise of the Internet. While he has embraced the Web as a means to communicate with and engage audiences in new ways, “my core values and beliefs have remained consistent,” he said. “I believe great journalism still has value for our audiences and our world. Factual reporting remains at the heart of what we do.”
Prevor said that winning a Neal Award for editorial excellence, as he has in the past, “is a great honor. But winning the Timothy White Award, which celebrates our core values of credibility and integrity, is the greatest honor I could ever receive.”
The award is named after the late editor of Billboard. M