Zorpette should know. Early last year he spent 11 days in Iraq investigating the struggle to reconstruct the country's electrical grids amid growing sectarian violence. "There's a feeling that the chaos in Iraq is linked to a lack of critical infrastructure, which leads to a lack of economic activity," Zorpette said. "There were several Iraqi engineers who spoke to me, and some of them even let me take their picture, which could have meant death."
Zorpette has been rewarded for his tenacity and his passion for communicating a complicated story. His article, "Re-engineering Iraq," which ran as a two-part series in the February and March 2006 issues of IEEE Spectrum, earned American Business Media's Grand Neal Award last month at the 53rd Annual Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards.
The awards ceremony at New York's Waldorf-Astoria was attended by more than 400 people. Robert Dowling, the incoming chairman of the Neal Board of Judges and former editor in chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, handed out the Grand Neal.
"You couldn't have seen such an article on the newsstand," Zorpette said, referring to "Re-engineering Iraq," which ran almost 10,000 words. "You might see a story that long about Iraq in The New Yorker, but it's not going to be a story on electrical engineering."
Zorpette was the winner of this year's McAllister Editorial Fellowship, which promotes the study of b-to-b media by having the recipient spend a week as an adviser to the Medill Magazine Project at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
The 2007 Neal competition drew 1,333 entries, up from 1,265 in 2006. For print, awards were given in three revenue classifications, based on a combination of gross advertising revenue and gross circulation. Categories were: less than $3 million; $3 million to $7 million; and more than $7 million. For the Web, awards were given in three classifications based on unique monthly visitors. Categories were: fewer than 100,000 unique monthly visitors; 100,000 to 500,000; and more than 500,000.
The three runners-up for the Grand Neal were CIO's "The How-to Issue," published by IDG Corp.; the article "Recipe for Disaster" in The American Lawyer (ALM); and the September 2006 issue of Photo District News, which is published by Nielsen Business Media.
There were several media companies that earned multiple awards. Advanstar Communications won four, including two for Ophthalmology Times. IDG Corp. won five awards. Computerworld, CIO and Macworld each received one Neal award while CSO took home two honors.. McGraw-Hill Cos. also took home four Neal awards, including best start-up publication (GreenSource: The Magazine of Sustainable Design) and best Web site with fewer than 100,000 unique monthly visitors (ENR.com).
Forbes.com, which has taken great pains to distinguish itself from Forbes, won the Neal for best Web site with more than 500,000 unique monthly visitors.
"You need excellent editorial, a laserlike focus on your audience and a real sensibility to what works on the Web," said Paul Maidment, editor of Forbes.com, when asked what makes for an award-winning Web site. "You also need a strong commitment to Web publications in their own right. And you have to do it all 24/7."
Deborah Whistler, editorial director of Newport Communications Group, was selected as the recipient of the 2007 Crain Award, given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the development of editorial excellence in business media. The award is named after G.D. Crain Jr., founder of Crain Communications Inc., which publishes BtoB and Media Business.
In an emotional acceptance speech, Whistler said: "It's pretty easy to be an outstanding journalist when you have a publisher who supports editorial excellence."
Don Tennant, VP-editor in chief of IDG's Computerworld, received the Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity, named after the late Billboard editor. "We need to be in tune and in touch with what our readers are feeling inside," Tennant said. "If we can do that, we will serve them well."