By Warren Hersch
As more trade magazines focus limited resources on realizing a Web-first or platform agnostic strategy, B2B editors are finding it harder to dedicate time to in-depth investigative reporting and to championing positions that can profoundly impact the industries they cover. That’s unfortunate, because such game-changing content helps editors build a loyal readership, distinguish their publications, and win editorial awards.
Bernie Knill, who passed away on Jan. 22 at age 82, understood this as well as anyone else. As ASBPE’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2000 and the former editor-in-chief of Material Handling Management, Knill built a reputation for such cutting-edge editorial and industry advocacy during his 43-year tenure at MHM, starting in 1957 and ending with his retirement in 2000.
The B2B editor as advocate
He authored a monthly column, the “Red Tag Report,” that explained how the inspectors were illegally depriving VRC buyers of low-cost alternatives to expensive freight elevators. Knill’s advocacy on behalf of the industry played a part in rolling back the worst of the state practices.
“Bernie was very much an industry advocate,” says Tom Andel, Knill’s successor as MHM’s editor-in-chief from 2000 to 2005. “He had a good instinct for what was important to his audience. He knew how to connect the problem at issue with industrial material handling in a way that made for compelling reporting.”
And, it seems, with an ease that would be the envy of any B2B editor. In the pre-computer era, adds Andel, Knill would compose an article in his head before typing it, without the mental anguish that so often attends writer’s block.
Bernie Knill, in sum, leaves behind a lifetime of achievement — and an example to live by. The material handling field, and we in the B2B editorial community, are forever indebted to him.