Storm Front to the Store Front: CSP’s Azbee-Winning Diversity Coverage

The editorial leadership at CSP magazine – recipient of the 2022 Azbee Award for coverage of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) – said the winning entry wasn’t only a direct result of an assignment editor imagining what impact the 2020 police shootings and street protests might have on convenience-store operations.

Also informing the coverage planning was soul-searching that already had taken place inside the CSP offices by management and staffers striving to confront institutional racism as a workplace and in their communities as Americans.

AC DEI UPMID 10175 02The result was the August 2021 package “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Starting the Conversation.” The cover story and other multi-layered elements earned CSP the National Gold Award in the Azbee competition’s DEI category, which made its debut in 2022.

Steve Holtz, content director at CSP, said parent Winsight was in the process of ramping up formal internal programming on diversity, including meetings, training sessions and video modules. The editorial team thought that their convenience-store readership surely must be doing the same.

“It was something that we were talking about in our own lives and our own business,” Holtz said. “If we are doing this, our readers are probably doing this too. It was clear that we needed to do something more. We needed to take an in-depth look, and that means reaching out to the retailers.”

Underpinning the “Starting the Conversation” coverage at first were interviews with store managers who were operating in the neighborhoods directly impacted by the events in Minneapolis, Kenosha and elsewhere.

Then came additional interviews and commentaries from diverse voices in the convenience retailing and convenience store community who addressed various subjects ranging from social justice issues and healing to diversity recruitment and ensuring that all groups feel welcome in a store.

Before the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, B2B publications may have had a tendency to consider diversity policies to be a back-office function that did not merit consistent coverage. After the events of 2020, social justice directly impacted virtually all operations – particularly company culture, hiring and retention. Any prior reluctance quickly switched to an eagerness and even urgency.

At CSP, the editors vowed to cover DEI issues more routinely, highlight more minority voices and feature people of color on the magazine’s cover.

“This was maybe a topic that was being kept behind closed doors,” Holtz said. “But if we bring it up, more often than not, folks are willing to talk about the impact it has had on them.”

The Azbee judges called the coverage “an excellent project well-executed on every level.” The entry rose to the top of an extremely competitive category, with 39 qualifying competitors in its first year.

“What separated CSP’s ‘Starting the Conversation’ award-winning piece was its scope and depth in bringing DEI issues to the forefront,” one judge wrote. “It was raw, it was honest, it was sincere throughout, delivering a thorough thought-leadership report that should serve as a model for organizations that want to be transparent about DEI.”

Later, a popular CSP webinar series fleshed out various ways that readers’ business strategies can fully benefit from DEI policies, including how to ensure that a retail workforce is inclusive enough to mirror the diversity exhibited in the community around it.

Holtz said “Starting the Conversation” was truly a product of his entire editorial staff, particularly editors Hannah Prokop, Jackson Lewis, Greg Lindenberg and Chuck Ulie, plus head designer Victoria Rodriguez. Many industry participants have told him that the coverage has inspired debate and helped to prioritize DEI at the retail companies.

As alluded to in the original headline, the August 2021 coverage was just a start, and the conversation is continuing at CSP.

“We are working on a story right now about the labor market,” Holtz said. “We are going to cover the subject of more women climbing up the ladder in the C-store industry … and breaking the glass ceiling and helping more of them get into management. I think that would be very healthy for the industry, which is very male-dominated right now.”

Dom Yanchunas

Dom Yanchunas is a New York City-based business journalist and former national president of ASBPE. He is currently a staff editor with the marine industry news publications Soundings Trade Only and Trade Only Today, both part of Active Interest Media. Earlier in his 28-year journalism career, he worked for the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Euromoney Institutional Investor and various B2B magazines, digital services and newspapers.

Please share this page with your friends and colleagues.