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Innovators: editor

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Deborah Whistler credits the seven years she spent at a California newspaper, with its daily news cycle, for her success during the past 24 years at Heavy Duty Trucking .

"My strength is knowing what people are good at," she said. "I'm used to assigning a lot of people to a story and then packaging it."

Whistler's leadership helped the monthly win a Neal Award last year for a 20-page cover story on high fuel prices. The coverage centered not just on the fuel prices themselves but also on how truckers can cope, right down to new anti-idling technologies.

"You have to dig deep at trade publications," said Whistler, who has been the magazine's editorial director the past five years. "You can get press releases everywhere these days. I've always felt like readers need our help in how to deal with this stuff, so we need to know how to deal with it. It's almost like we need to know how to be a trucking company owner."

Whistler noted that several members of her edit staff hold licenses to drive big rigs and regularly test new equipment. At times, the review process can lead to pressure from top advertisers, she said. "These are our major advertisers, and sometimes stuff happens and the trucks don't work so great," she said. "I have fights. We've always sold HDT based on journalistic excellence."

These are tough times for trucking companies, given the regulatory environment and fuel prices. That puts pressure on the magazine's revenue stream, but Whistler prefers to put a positive spin on it. "It's bad news for trucking, but it makes for great journalism," she said.

-M.E.P.

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