Monday, November 20, 2006

Competition brochures mailed today

Entry brochures for the Azbee Awards of Excellence were mailed out today. If you are on our mailing list, you should receive yours in the next couple of weeks. If you don't want to wait or are not sure you're on the list, you can just use our online entry form or download a PDF version of the form (831K).

Note: Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while ASBPE-KC blog administrator Spring Suptic is away.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission"

Note: "Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission" comes from the ASBPE Boston blog.

Those words come from Neal Vitale, CEO of 1105 Media, as quoted in Folio:'s report on today's CEO roundtable at American Business Media's Top Management Meeting. According to the report by Folio:'s Matt Kinsman, "the CEO panel emphasized that the transformation facing publishers isn't just about adapting online but breaking established, outdated molds throughout their companies."

Vitale's comment had to do with moving corporate focus away from the bottom line. The full quote from Vitale, as it appears in Kinsman's article, was this: "We want there to be a sense that it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. If people have a good idea, don't wait around for approval from the budget department."

Other highlights from Kinsman's report:
  • Panelists stressed the importance of investing in the company and fostering entrepreneurship, even in the face of the lean times we've seen recently.

  • Vance Publishing president and COO Peggy Walker noted that her company has had to rethink its decentralized organizational structure; the energy and resources expended on multiple small projects could have been used on larger projects that might have benefitted the company more. That advice seems to contradict the point immediately above, and Vitale's comments, which seem to call for a less-centralized decision-making structure. Perhaps the point is to be flexible and rely on common sense, not fads or trends, in deciding when and how to remake your business.

  • With 18 different publications, Farm Progress Companies suffered from overlap among titles. Kinsman quotes company president Jeff Lapin as saying. "Advertisers recognized us as a strong brand, but said we just did the same content across 18 magazine[s]." It must have hurt to hear that. Farm Progress deserves credit for taking the advice to heart and overhauling its offerings.

  • Also of note: As part of its revamp, Farm Progress entered the consumer market with a new magazine called Rural Life.

  • Interestingly, Vance Publishing brought on board staff members it referred to as "change agents," including a new human resources staffer.

  • Also in the human resources arena, McGraw-Hill's Harry Sachinis advocated what he called "overhiring," noting that the company hired a former astronaut and aviation-industry executive to head up its AviationWeek group.
It's nice to hear all this emphasis on investing in products and personnel coming from corporate leaders, but it's hard not to think that for many companies -- especially given the recent economic situation in the industry -- such investments are just not an option. And fostering an entrepreunerial culture is something much easier said than done. Still, there are companies that seem to manage one or both feats fairly successfully (IDG comes to mind). The hard part is figuring out how they do it, and how to replicate that success. At one of last year's [Boston] chapter meetings, it became evident that innovation often happens under the radar.

Related link:
Other B2B media news today from Folio:
Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while ASBPE-KC blog administrator Spring Suptic is away.

Online Azbee entry form posted

The online version of the Azbee Awards for Excellence entry form is now available. This form lets entrants fill out and submit entry information online instead of filling out paper forms, and basic publication information and contact information can be entered just once for multiple entries.

A PDF version (831K) of the Azbee Awards for Excellence entry form that can be downloaded, printed, and mailed in is also available. Hard copies of the entry brochure will be mailed out in a few weeks.

And don't forget: We've added 16 new categories, in these areas:
  • Multi-Platform
  • Print Magazine Editorial
  • Print Magazine Design
  • Print Newsletter Editorial
  • Print Newsletter Design
  • Digital Magazines
  • E-Newsletter
  • Blogs
  • Web
A full list of new categories is here.

Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while ASBPE-KC blog administrator Spring Suptic is away.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Airing problems in science, industry, and reporting

Note: Airing Problems in Science, Industry, and Reporting comes from the ASBPE Boston blog.

The PBS show AIR: America's Investigative Reports is always fascinating viewing. Each episode looks at the reporting behind a specific investigative story. Last week's episode, "Science Fiction," was of particular interest for professional, industry, and association publications, though. It centered on reporting done by Environmental Science & Technology, which is published by the American Chemical Society.

Paul D. Thacker, who was a reporter at ES&T, starting finding evidence of deliberate attempts to slant science news to benefit certain industries. Among Thacker 's findings:
  • Steven J. Milloy, the publisher of, which criticizes scientific research findings on topics like global climate change and health issues, was a science consultant for Philip Morris at the same time he was debunking the risks of second-hand smoke on Fox New's web site. (At this writing, has posted no statement about the AIR episode.)

  • A purportedly grassroots activist group in Oregon called Project Protect was connected to the timber industry. The group advocated for cutting down trees as means of preventing forest fires, a position also espoused by the industry.

  • The consulting firm The Weinberg Group submitted a proposal to DuPont detailing ways to defend an allegedly carcinogenic chemical used in Teflon.
Thacker reported on these issues in ES&T (see Related Links, below, for stories accessible to non-ES&T subscribers). He received acclaim for his work -- including an award from the Society of Environmental Journalists -- and got positive feedback from readers.

Thacker's story especially resonated because of the recent publication of ASBPE's book Journalism That Matters, which tells how B2B writers reported articles that brought about positive change in their industries. But Thacker's reporting didn't result in quite such a happy outcome as those in the book.

An American Chemical Society board member questioned the value of Thacker's reporting on the Weinberg group, and Thacker says he was soon asked to stop doing investigative pieces. When he found evidence that the Bush administration had tried to stop scientists from discussing connections between climate change and hurricanes, ES&T wasn't interested in publishing the story, he says; in September his climate change story was published on Thacker says he was later fired by ES&T. (The magazine has released a statement about the AIR report and Thacker's departure from the magazine, saying among other things that American Chemical Society rules prohibit board members from interfering with publication editors' activities. Thacker now works for the web site Inside Higher Ed.)

If you get a chance to catch a repeat of the episode, or any installation of AIR, I highly recommend it. And for a look at techniques business press reporters used to get key information for controversial articles, see this report from the ASBPE Washington, D.C., blog.

Related links: Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while ASBPE-KC blog administrator Spring Suptic is away.

Azbee entry forms now available!

Note: Azbee Entry Forms Now Available! is adapted from the ASBPE Boston blog.

A PDF of the entry form (831 KB) for the 2007 Azbee Awards of Excellence is now available.

Hard copies of the entry brochure will be mailed out in a few weeks, and a form that can be filled out and submitted online* will be posted on the ASBPE web site as well.

ASBPE has added 16 new categories to the competition, greatly expanding the digital and newsletter portions of the competition. In the print magazine area, there are new categories for headline writing, buyer’s guide s, product sections, and overall photography/illustration. A full list of new categories is here.

* Be aware that copies of magazines and other materials still must be mailed in for most categories even when submitting the form electronically.

Martha Spizziri is vice president of the ASBPE Boston/New England chapter. She is posting to this site while Spring Suptic is away.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ASBPE National Conference Heads for New York;
Awards Program Adds Digital, Newsletter Categories

Note: ASBPE National Conference Heads for New York; Awards Program Adds Digital, Newsletter Categories comes from the ASBPE Boston blog.

For the first time ever, ASBPE's National Editorial Conference will be held in New York City. The conference and the national Azbee Awards of Excellence banquet will be held at The Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan on Aug. 2-3, 2007 (a Thursday and Friday). The national Azbee awards banquet will be held at the hotel the night of Aug. 2. For more details, see the ASBPE web site.

Speaking of the Azbees, the digital and newsletter categories have been greatly expanded. The most exciting new award is for General Excellence in Multi-Platform Journalism; it's the first time ASBPE is presenting a multi-platform award. There also are six new digital categories, five additional print newsletter categories, four new print magazine categories, and four category name changes. Details on the changes are here.

Martha Spizziri, vice president of ASBPE Boston, will be posting to this blog while Spring Suptic is away. Spring returns on Monday, Nov. 27.

Update, Nov. 14, 2:22 p.m. CST: Entry forms (831K PDF) are now posted on the ASBPE web site.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Change Agents: Trade Pubs Making a Difference

Notes: Change Agents: Trade Pubs Making a Difference comes from the ASBPE Washington, D.C. blog. Some links were added.

Martha Spizziri, vice president of ASBPE Boston, will be posting to this blog while Spring Suptic is away. Spring returns on Monday, Nov. 27.

Journalism That Matters, ASBPE's book on high-impact articles, was the focus of an ASBPE chapter panel presentation in Washington, D.C. on October 12, 2006. The book (available on features case studies built around industry-changing articles from English-language business publications around the world (US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.).

The panel was moderated by Steve Roll, editor with BNA. Roll, who is D.C. ASBPE's chapter president, and co-editor of the book, said he is struck by his encounters with award-winning editors who are proud of "not so much the award, but the change that[their] piece triggered within a particular industry." He said that the book contains both investigative pieces and "elephant-in-the-room" stories where biz pubs are the first to tackle large industry problems.

The four panelists summarized their case studies which appear in the book. John Gannon, senior editor with BNA's Right-to-Know Planning Guide, discussed his coverage of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are supposed to warn of dangers posed by the use of chemicals in the workplace. He noticed that problems with the sheets kept cropping up in Chemical Safety Board reports where faulty information had caused explosions and even deaths. "Can you imagine if you go to the store and you buy medication, and two times out of six if you follow the directions you end up in the hospital or dead?" Gannon asked rhetorically.

Gannon tried to get answers from OSHA and EPA. "OSHA acted so strange about it, I figured there must be something here," he said. He eventually turned to plaintiffs' lawyers and victims families for big pieces of the story. After he started reporting on the issue, a Senate hearing was held and a professional association called for corrective action.

Patience Wait, senior writer for PostNewsweek Tech Media's Government Computer News, followed up on a tip about a deputy CIO in the then two-month old Department of Homeland Security who claimed a doctorate degree on her resume from what subsequent investigation revealed was a diploma mill. The only requirements for the degree were two short papers. The school granted credit hours for "life experience" to cover all course requirements. Upon graduation, the school provided a transcript listing specific courses but giving no indication they were all waived. Wait found that it is a criminal offense in Oregon to claim a degree from the school in question (and others listed on a state website) on any job application, public or private, in the state.

She broke the story online to scoop other reporters who were beginning to sniff around. "Three days later," she said, "I got another email from another person saying 'didn't you know that she claims that all three of her degrees come from the same school?'" National media picked up the story and congressional hearings were held. The woman in question went on paid leave and ultimately resigned.

Jeanne LaBella, vice president of publishing for the American Public Power Association, published a six-part series about electricity pricing in her magazine in 2004. Most of APPA's members are electric utilities that are owned and operated by municipal governments. Historically, utilities would allocate costs and set rates according to the size of the customer. If a town had a large industrial plant that consumed 60 percent of the power, then 60 percent of overhead and facilities (lines, substations, etc.) was allocated to that customer.

APPA's chief economist advocated a different pricing scheme based on whether power was being consumed during peak or off-peak hours. Think of " how a hotel is priced," LaBella said. "If you go to the beach in the summer, you're going to pay one price for your hotel room. If you go to the beach in the winter, you're going to pay a much lower price. The same concept should be applied to electricity." Letting prices fluctuate with demand would signal customers when to back off from heavy consumption.

This was heresy in the industry, LaBella said. Reader reaction was strong and she got many requests for extra copies of the magazine so readers could pass it around to their colleagues. "Ultimately, the series led to the formation of a group of utilities from across the nation who started looking very seriously at the ways that they would redesign electric rates to come closer to the kinds of things that [the economist] was advocating in his article," LaBella said.

Molly Moses, editor/reporter with BNA's Transfer Pricing Report, started hearing in 2004 that Canadian tax authorities were taking outrageous positions in transfer tax negotiations. At issue were tax liabilities arising from imputed cross-border 'sales' of goods and services between parent and subsidiary corporations.

Moses found that company sources were reluctant to speak. "Nobody wanted to go on the record with this because they all have cases and they don't want to poison the negotiations," she said. She got around the problem by talking to a knowledgeable source at a trade association which represented the companies involved. "She could just go off on this issue without repercussions to any one company," Moses said.

After the story was published, "what was really gratifying was I could tell that it had an impact [because] cases started to move after that," Moses said. Not only did negotiations start to go smoother, but new understandings were reached among the parties as to how to resolve

Much of the question-and-answer session that followed revolved around getting past public relations departments who are sometimes overzealous gatekeepers. Patience Wait suggested trying to talk to the source at a public event. Another tactic: "You come in unobtrusively directly to the person that you want to talk with, and get them to agree that, if public affairs signs off on it, they'll talk to you," Wait said. You may find that the source will give you clues off the record and is willing to go on the record if public affairs clears it.

John Gannon said these techniques would not work at OSHA where every staff member is well-trained not to speak to the media under any circumstances without public affairs' approval. He used a different tactic after an OSHA public affairs officer didn't answer his questions and kept stringing him along. "I eventually had enough stuff that she either didn't know [or] couldn't find out that I sent her an email ... and said that when my story comes out, I'm going to do a sidebar about all the things that you don't know. I think that's going to be very interesting to my readers," Gannon said. Cooperation improved immediately thereafter. Threaten early, Gannon advises, don't let it drag on for two months like it did in this case.

Related links (added by ASBPE KC):