“[The niche media are] generally not involved in watchdog, exposé journalism that by its very existence is a check on malfeasance.” When he hears statements like that, ASBPE president Steven Roll bristles a little.
The statement above was made by Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He’s quoted in an article in The Washington Post that laments the shrinking of mainstream media presence of Capitol Hill and notes the corresponding increase in the number of B2B reporters there. “The thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way is the statement that specialty publications don’t really have hard-hitting stories,” says Roll. In fact, he counters, the B2B press has produced plenty of stories that have blown the whistle on questionable practices by industry, and even helped bring about positive change.
That’s why ASBPE launched the Journalism That Matters Award this year.
The germ of the idea started several years ago at an ASBPE Washington, D.C., chapter presentation on how to win editorial awards, Roll explains. “People were mentioning stories that they were really proud of, and we were noticing that with each of these stories, there were tangible results from them.” That experience inspired former ASBPE president Rob Freedman to write the book Journalism That Matters: How Business to Business Editors Change the Industries They Cover (Marion Street Press, 2006). And the writing of the book, in turn, led to establishing the award.
“When we did the book, it was so clear that we were only skimming the surface of the great reporting that was being done in the B2B press,” says Freedman. “We wanted to recognize examples of great work that we weren’t able to include in the book.”
Roll adds, “Part of what we do as B2B journalists is, we’re involved with service journalism, so our goal is to provide useful advice to our readers. So it comes as no surprise that oftentimes the business press is a source for triggering change within a given industry. … B2B publications are the embodiment of the term ‘the devil is in the details.’ ”
What does he mean by that?
Often, he explains, “it’s the niche publications that are doing the legwork that unearth the stories the general media aren’t hearing about right away. Many [mainstream] stories have their genesis with the lesser-known specialty publications.” One recent example is the scoop by Jon Ostrower of the B2B blog Flightblogger, who broke the story about Obama’s VP pick. “He got the story out there, and he didn’t even get any credit,” Roll points out.
If your publication did reporting during 2008 that triggered change within government or industry, make sure that work isn’t overlooked. Nominate it for a Journalism That Matters Award. The award is open to all forms of media — print, online, video, and audio. The winner will be recognized at the 2009 National Editorial Awards of Excellence banquet, July 16 in Washington, D.C. The deadline is this Monday, March 2.
Martha Spizziri is a Boston-based freelance writer and is ASBPE’s web editor. She is also vice president of ASBPE’s Boston/New England chapter. She worked for many years at Reed Business Information, where she served as web editor of Modern Materials Handling, managing editor of Digital News & Review, and in various positions at Traffic Management (now Logistics Management). She has written for About.com and DC Velocity magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.