Ziff Davis' 'Baseline' wins Grand Neal

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Radiation-dosage software led to the deaths of at least five cancer patients in Panama. Was there a problem in the software itself or did medical technicians use the software improperly?

Baseline's March 2004 cover story, "We Did Nothing Wrong," looked at all sides of a "very complex and provocative issue," said Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, editor in chief of the Ziff Davis Media title.

While the package of articles never reached a conclusion as to who was at fault in the Panamanian case, judges of American Business Media's 2005 Jesse H. Neal Awards concluded the effort of Baseline's writers, editors and art directors was "extraordinary in every respect."

The ABM presented Baseline with the Grand Neal Award, the top prize in the annual competition, at a luncheon March 16 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The 51st annual awards ceremony was attended by a record-breaking audience of almost 500.

Illustrated with a gripping photograph of bare feet sticking out from under a sheet in what appeared to be a morgue, Baseline's story brought home the importance of the seemingly mundane topic of software quality so that readers could appreciate the difficulty of detecting and preventing software errors, Steinert-Threlkeld said.

Using the problems in Panama as a dramatic backdrop, Baseline's editors took care to make the 16-page cover story package relevant and actionable for the magazine's 125,000 readers. For example, Steinert-Threlkeld asked Executive Editor John McCormick and Senior Writer Deborah Gage to talk with software developers and industry experts and distill their comments into two pages of recommendations for the software industry.

"We Did Nothing Wrong" also took top honors for best single article in its revenue category. Baseline has now won five Neal awards in its short lifetime of three and a half years and just 40 issues.

This year's 1,168 Neal entries went through a rigorous screening and judging process. The first cut was made by 148 senior editors from ABM member companies, who forwarded the highest-scoring submissions to members of ABM's Editorial Committee. Those Stage II judges culled entries down to three in each of 27 categories. The Neal Board of Judges then selected 27 winners. The Grand Neal and three runners-up were then picked as the "best of the best" from among all awardees.

The first runner-up for the Grand Neal was the China issue of McGraw-Hill Cos.' Architectural Record, which was honored as the best single-theme issue in its revenue category.

The second runner-up was the September 2004 issue of ALM's The American Lawyer, which won the award for best single issue in its category. The third runner-up was Medical Economics' "Starting a Practice," which also won an award for best how-to article.

IDG came away with five Neal awards, with four going to its CXO Media division. CSO won three awards.

Advanstar Medical Economics Healthcare Communications had five finalists going into the final judging and came away with four winners.

VNU Business Media, which had nine finalists, received three Neal awards, with two of those going to Editor & Publisher.

Including the Grand Neal, Ziff Davis also received three Neal awards, all of them for Baseline.

Three companies won two Neal awards each: Crain Communications Inc., parent company of BtoB and Media Business; McGraw-Hill (not counting Architectural Record's recognition as first runner-up for the Grand Neal); and Reed Business Information.

Awards are given in three revenue classifications, based on a combination of gross advertising revenue and gross circulation revenue. The classifications are: less than $3 million; $3 million to $7 million; and more than $7 million.

This year's Neal Board of Judges was a mixed group of b-to-b and consumer journalists and two journalism professors. The chairman was Marshall Loeb, a longtime journalist and a columnist with Two of the judges-Diana Henriques, financial investigative reporter for The New York Times, and Thomas Temin, senior VP and editor in chief of PostNewsweek Tech Media's Washington Technology and Government Computer News-were presenters at the awards ceremony. M

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