ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Winner is a Journalist of the First Rank
By Robert Freedman
ASBPE President, 2003-2005
Anyone who looks at this year’s ASBPE award winners can’t help but note the quality of the work being done in business-to-business journalism today, and the 2016 winner of the ASBPE Lifetime Achievement Award, Roy J. Harris, Jr., embodies that kind of world-class journalism as well as anyone.
Harris, the son of a Pulitzer-winning journalist and a noted author of a book on the Pulitzers, is both a journalist par excellence and a champion of our profession. Harris will receive the honor at the 2016 Azbee Awards of Excellence banquet July 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
He got his start on the consumer side of journalism, first as a Los Angeles Times reporter in the late 1960s, then as a defense and aviation reporter for The Wall Street Journal in the early 1970s, and then as the Journal’s deputy Los Angeles bureau chief in 1988. He moved to the B2B side in the early 1990s and brought his journalistic curiosity and elegant prose style to CFO, simply one of the finest B2B magazines there is.
The magazine’s founder and former publisher, Julia Homer, says it was one of Roy’s tasks to bring the same quality of writing to CFO that characterized his work at The Wall Street Journal, and he certainly did that. You won’t find finer journalism anywhere than in the pages of CFO.
At the time Roy was with the publication, CFO won ASBPE’s Magazine of the Year award twice and carried away so many national gold awards that its editors only half joked about needing a shopping cart to get them all back to the office.
They were awards well earned. When you were reading the magazine’s articles on accounting practices, financial markets, and corporate management, you could easily forget that you were reading a B2B magazine.
Journalism that helps people do their jobs better—our kind of journalism—can be just good journalism, period.
Roy has always strived to make our profession better. At ASBPE meetings, first as Boston chapter president, then as national president, and then as president of the ASBPE Foundation, he was always about journalism quality. You see that particularly in the annual Stephen Barr Award, which he has spearheaded since 2004.
Stephen Barr worked with Roy at CFO and was a major talent who died in 2002 at the age of 43. It was the inspiration of Stephen Barr’s family and of Roy to commemorate Stephen’s work by rewarding excellence in B2B reporting with ASBPE’s only monetary award. Each year Roy and a hand picked panel of editors of national reputation sift through all of the entries submitted to find the best B2B reporting of the year.
Roy’s highly regarded book, Pulitzer’s Gold, originally published by the University of Missouri Press in 2008 and now in its second edition with Columbia University Press, is just another way he’s worked to recognize journalism excellence. Inspired by the journalism career of his father, Roy J. Harris, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when it won five public service Pulitzers in the 1930s through 1950s, Roy devoted years to writing this definitive book on the public service Pulitzers. As Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and a public service Pulitzer award recipient puts it, Roy is “the master historian of the Pulitzer Prize.”
Great journalism, whether it’s on the B2B side or the consumer side of the profession, is fueled by a passion to get the story so others can benefit from it. This year, ASBPE is honoring a journalist who has devoted his life to getting the story so others can benefit from it. Congratulations to a journalist of the first rank whose passion has always been to make B2B journalism a profession of the first rank.
Have you worked with Roy? Want to share memories? Please share them with us and with Roy on ASBPE’s Facebook page.
Roy is a wise and generous editor. During the onset of the financial crisis, he always offered valuable context and perspective and he had a knack for helping young reporters find interesting ways to tell complicated stories
—Alan Rappeport, reporter, The New York Times
Roy Harris’ career bookends a noteworthy contribution to business writing and B2B. At The Wall Street Journal he served as a deputy bureau chief and covered stories from the Olympics to the police beating of Rodney King with insight and verve. And his book, Pulitzer’s Gold – a chronicle of the premier prize that’s been part of his DNA since his dad won one – led Bob Woodward to call him the award’s “master historian.” Closer to our mark, Roy has played key roles within B2B and ASBPE. He penetrated the C-suite as a senior editor for The Economist Group’s CFO magazine. And he guided both ASBPE and the ASBPE Foundation as president. Roy has mentored legions of young reporters, editors and students, especially as his alma mater, Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. As anyone who knows him can attest, he’s the exemplar of a nice guy finishing first.
—Abe Peck, director, business to business communication, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Roy has been an incredible asset to the ASBPE organization. He came to the national board at a time when we had finally established consistent leadership, and he was passionate about helping the group expand its offerings. Roy was always full of ideas—but importantly, he was willing to move on those ideas and do the heavy lifting to accomplish each goal. He served as the first chair of our Ethics Committee, and he was instrumental in creating both the Stephen Barr Award and the ASBPE Foundation. The Barr Award, which he spearheaded—and continues to champion—recognizes the highest caliber individual work by a writer in the b2b space. I’ve worked with Roy for more than a decade, and his commitment to both ASBPE and to the b2b editorial craft has been unmatched. On a personal note, he has served as a marvelous role model for me, and I am honored to call him and Eileen my friends.
—Paul Heney, past president, American Society of Business Publication Editors
Roy Harris has been a very good friend to all of our family It was a heartfelt experience for us to work with him from the very first thought of the award in Stephen’s name until it came to fruition. Our appreciation is extended to him for his kindness and for all he has done in our behalf. We are so pleased that Roy is being recognized for all he has done for ASBPE.
—Sam, Rebecca, and Charles Barr
Roy is the consummate journalist, with a keen understanding of reader needs and a passion for meeting them. I had the pleasure and the honor of working with Roy on a new web property for IDG and I got to witness close up his deep knowledge of business issues, his strong writing and editing skills and his clear focus in envisioning and shaping stories. Roy knows what it means to provide true service journalism and to ensure that an editorial team delivers on its mission of serving readers. I learned a great deal working with Roy – not the least of which was to stay dedicated to the values and traditions of journalism and to putting the interests of readers above all other things. On a personal level, I enjoyed Roy’s sense of humor, his warmth and his friendship. I couldn’t be happier for him to receive this award. Congratulations on behalf of everyone at IDG.
—John Gallant, chief content officer, IDG US Media
When I hired Roy in 1996, he promised to bring the reporting capability and editorial flair of The Wall Street Journal to CFO Magazine. He more than delivered on that promise, setting a tone for everybody who worked there. As an editor, he taught junior reporters how to structure feature articles and helped them craft stories with that magic balance of readability and substance. His patient, persistent approach to nailing big interviews and asking soft-spoken tough questions served as a model for all of us and resulted in some of CFO’s best stories. (Two that come to mind immediately: a critique of Harvard Business School’s case study methodology, and an interview in which the then-CFO of Apple, Joe Graziano, candidly explained why the board fired him. Working at CFO meant meeting with sophisticated, busy, and impatient executives of very large, complicated companies. I was never worried when Roy went to do the interview. With his tact and impeccable Midwestern manners, he somehow managed to get even the hardest-boiled CFOs to confide in him. Roy also took the lead in strategizing and developing some of our biggest projects, including our evaluations of finance education in MBA programs. CFO ran several conferences dedicated to best practices and always tried to find best-in-class finance executives for its keynote addresses at conferences. In conjunction with REL Consultancy and The Hackett Group, we ran numerous features on improving working capital management and benchmarking finance performance. Our most-requested article of all time was a story called The Corporate Ivy League, about the companies that had the longest track record of strong finance teams. (Honesty forces me to acknowledge–although I hope you won’t–the ill-fated CFO Excellence Awards, which were a major embarrassment for the magazine.)
—Julia Homer, founding editor, CFO Magazine
Although Roy is best known for his business reporting (e.g. with the Wall Street Journal and CFO Magazine) and most recently, for his masterpiece book, “Pulitzer’s Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism,” he has a long history of writing about a wide variety of subjects. As his sisters, we consider him somewhat of a “Renaissance Man” of journalism. In his early days at the WSJ he covered aviation and aviation safety. But he also wrote occasional features such as in his June, 1976 article on the “est” self-help movement. He has covered music (for example, his December 2009 feature in the WSJ on “The Best-Selling Record of All,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”) He has covered baseball (for example, his October 2004 feature in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on “The End of the Curse,” about the Cardinals’ World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox—heartbreaking to our ardent Cardinals fan brother!) Often his warm human interest features have been sparked by family experiences. For example, his October 2001 article in the LA Times, “Goodbye and Thank You, in the Name of the Father,” told the poignant story of Father Edward Barrett’s unusual relationship with our Protestant Harris family and how he nurtured us through joys and sorrows over a 23-year period. He has been a frequent contributor to South Boston’s Patriot Ledger and Hingham Journal as a reviewer of theatre or as a commentator on local events. His features on Travel have appeared in local papers as well as The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, notably stories on the Imperial War Museum, London/Churchill and Hawaii.
—Ann O’Keefe and Judy Wolman
About the American Society of Business Publication Editors
Founded in 1964, ASBPE, or the American Society of Business Publication Editors (www.asbpe.org), is the only professional association in the United States exclusively for full-time and freelance editors, writers, art directors, and designers employed by business-to-business, association, specialty, and trade publications and websites. The Society helps its members develop editorial, digital, and management skills that will enhance their performance with the highest ethical and journalistic standards. ASBPE is widely known for its annual Azbee Awards of Excellence, which recognizes the best in business-to-business editorial and design, as well as its annual national conference and series of monthly educational webcasts. ASBPE has chapters in cities nationwide, including Chicago, New York City, Boston, Kansas City, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., which hold regional educational, networking, and awards events.