The Stephen Barr Award Turns Ten

By Roy Harris

As a presenter at ASBPE’s annual honors for B2B journalism excellence, the Azbees, I always get emotional presenting their crown jewel: The crystal trophy representing the Stephen Barr Award. Stephen Barr was a friend, as well as a top contributing editor and reporter for my old magazine, CFO, before he died of cancer in 2002, at age 43. So I’ve taken an interest in learning the story behind each of the individuals who have been called to the lectern to receive the award and the accompanying $500 check.

But realizing that this year’s winner, Inc. Magazine’s Burt Helm, was our 10th honoree hit me hard. Could it be that Stephen’s been gone so long, and that the program in his name now has matured to “double-digits”?

Actually, Burt’s selection proves that the Stephen Barr Award has matured in more than just chronological existence. A look back at the decade of awards—given to the writer of the best piece of feature journalism among the year’s Azbee recipients—and knowing that Stephen’s parents were sitting in the audience, took the announcement to a new level on July 26 in Chicago.

Our first winner, Adam Minter, wrote stories on the burgeoning scrap-metal industry in China—coverage that was far ahead of its time in analyzing the Chinese industrial powerhouse and the pollution and health threats associated with it.

Since then there have been winners that covered everything from legal issues surrounding a nuclear plant, to the horrendous abuse of horses inflicted by some trainers.

We think Burt’s story, detailing specific cases showing how banks hurt entrepreneurial enterprises during the financial crisis, belongs in that rarified company with stories that won their writers the Stephen Barr Award.

ASBPE is mighty proud to acknowledge such great work. And we hope it will thrive for many more decades.

Photo of Roy Harris
Roy Harris


Roy Harris, currently the president of the ASBPE Foundation and a former national president of ASBPE, has worked for CFO Magazine, and has served as editorial director of He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

Roy Harris

Roy Harris is a semi-retired newspaper and magazine journalist who continues to write for, and to write freelance. Previously he was a reporter and deputy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal from 1971 to 1995; senior editor at The Economist Group’s CFO Magazine from 1996 to 2009; and editor of IDG’s from 2010 to 2016. He is the author of “Pulitzer’s Gold: A Century of Public Service Journalism,” published by Columbia U. Press in 2015.

A longtime ASBPE member and former president of the ASBPE National Board of Directors, he helped found the ASBPE Educational Foundation, as well as the Stephen Barr Award, ASBPE’s top feature-writing prize. Harris was an ASBPE Lifetime Achievement Award honoree in 2016.

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