Inc.’s Burt Helm Wins 10th Annual Stephen Barr Award for His Article on Small Business Banking

Burt Helm, Inc.‘s senior writer, received ASBPE’s 10th annual Stephen Barr Award – its highest honor for feature writing – in recognition of his November 2012 small-business banking article “After the Squeeze.”

Burt Helm

Helm, a 2004 Yale University graduate who previously worked at BusinessWeek, joined Inc. in February 2011. The banking story covered the aftermath of the financial crisis. It was, said Inc. editor Eric Schurenberg, entirely Helm’s idea. Spurred by curiosity about the lending drought that had hit small businesses particularly hard in recent years, Helm leavened his reporting on jilted borrowers with his deep understanding of the banks’ pressures during the crisis. From the  black-and-white picture he first saw of evil lenders and innocent borrowers, he was able to construct a far more nuanced story of desperation and agonized decisions made on both sides of the table.

What is “especially impressive about this story is its reporting on the human consequences of bank retrenchment,” said one Stephen Barr Award juror. “Lost jobs and wages, crippled companies and damaged relationships. The writer was able to get people caught up in the calamity to talk openly and candidly about their experiences.”

Said Inc. editor Schurenberg, “Burt is one of the most gifted journalists in the field right now. His compassion for entrepreneurs is surpassed only by his integrity and his fierce devotion to getting to the truth.”

Helm received the award at the July 26 Oak Brook, Ill., national conference of ASBPE.

The Stephen Barr Award is named for one of ASBPE’s most honored reporters, who died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 43. Unlike other ASBPE awards, it honors individual writing across our feature categories, and especially work that shows inventiveness, insight, balance, depth of investigation, and impact on readers. A check for $500 accompanies the award, endowed by Stephen Barr’s parents and administered by the not-for-profit ASBPE Foundation.