Trade journalists as investigative reporters

Journalism That Matters

Cover Image: Journalism That Matters
ASBPE’s second book tells how stories how B2B publications have made a difference in the industries they serve.

The book can be ordered online or via mail from ASBPE.

See a chapter summary.

Book examines major government and industry changes driven by tough reporting in the business-to-business and association press.

John Gannon in 2001 was just getting familiar with his new beat covering the chemical industry when he stumbled on an alarming fact: One-third of the first six chemical accidents investigated by a little-known federal body, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, involved faulty chemical data sheets.

Chemical manufacturers are required by law to fill out these sheets — instructions on how to handle industrial chemicals safely — but the Board’s findings suggested the federal government was exercising little oversight over how the companies complied with the law. The results were headline-making accidents like the explosion at the Morton International plant in Paterson, N.J., in 1998 and the 2001 Bethlehem Steel Mill fire in Chesterson, Ind.

Intrigued, Gannon dug into the matter and wrote about his findings in a hard-hitting piece in the Daily Report for Executives, published by the Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of National Affairs. The piece caught the eye of a leading national industrial safety advocate and, within months, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had developed a plan for improving the accuracy of the sheets.

“By rolling up his sleeves and pushing OSHA for answers to his questions, Gannon demonstrated how effective the business-to-business press can be in driving concrete change in government and industry,” says Robert Freedman, co-editor of a book on business-to-business journalism released in June that details stories like Gannon’s. Freedman is immediate past president of the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

Journalism That Matters: How Business-to-Business Editors Change the Industries They Cover (Marion Street Press, Oak Park, Ill.; ISBN: 1-9333-3808-3; $16.95) looks at 17 stories of change-making journalism by trade and association publication editors.

Among them:

  • How the U.S. Department of Defense came clean on weaknesses in its computer network after a report by Federal Computer Week.
  • How federal agencies stepped up their verification of job applicants after Government Computer News uncovered egregious resume padding by a top U.S. Department of Homeland Security IT official.
  • How London-based Legal Business shook up the tradition-bound U.K. judicial system by exposing broad discontent among lawyers with one of the country’s most important courts.

“We selected stories from a wide range of business-to-business and association publications to showcase the power of trade journalism,” says Steven Roll, co-editor of the book and president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of ASBPE. “We include pieces from traditional trade magazines and tabloids, newsletters, association publications, peer-reviewed association journals, and publications that sit in the nexus between trade and the consumer publications, like PC World.”

The book is designed as a compilation of best practices for professional editors, but it’s also a window into the world of business reporting for journalism students. “It may wake up some journalism professors to inspire young students to join the trade press,” Don Ranly, professor emeritus, Missouri School of Journalism, says in the book’s foreword.

The book is set to make waves. Its case studies are by editors who are members of, or have had their work recognized by, ASBPE, which in early 2005 spearheaded a panel discussion with the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of National Association Publications at the National Press Club to look at the ways interest groups blur the lines between advocacy and journalism. The panel, which was broadcast on C-SPAN-2, took aim at the inadequate disclosure of publication ownership by some interest groups.

Some of the book case studies are also by editors who have had their work recognized by Trade Association and Business Publications International, which hosts an international awards program for trade journalists.

“We’re showing that trade journalism is journalism that matters,” says Freedman. “Trade editors are changing the face of the industries they cover by running stories that shake up the status quo and lead to innovation.”

“The book also shows the dynamic role trade publications play as the forums through which industry leaders debate issues and drive change,” says Roll. “The book makes clear that editors who know how to shape these forums create an environment that attracts the kind of issue exploration that leads to change.”

Journalism That Matters
Table of Contents

Chapter 1 — Robert Freedman
Editors as Change-makers

B2B publications are uniquely positioned to drive change in their industries.

Chapter 2 — Steven Roll
How Editors Push Industries Forward

All the President’s Men has something to teach B2B editors — to a point.

Chapter 3 — Frank Tiboni
Getting Real on Virtual Espionage

Spurred by Federal Computer Week, the U.S. Dept. of Defense acknowledges weaknesses in its computer network.

Chapter 4 — John Gannon
Coming Clean on Bad Chemical Data

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration wakes up to the dangers of sloppy chemical warnings after investigation by Daily Report for Executives.

Chapter 5 — Matthew Rushton
Judgment Day for Judges

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, reacting to a Legal Business piece, tells the Technology & Construction Court to shape up.

Chapter 6 — Michelle Vanderhoff
Off the Critical Path

Software makers, challenged by Engineering News-Record, close a hole that lets construction timing be manipulated.

Chapter 7 — Katy Tomasulo
Second Thoughts on a Lobbying Plan

Exposed by Housing Affairs Letter, a former U.S. official decides not to charge a fee for help on a rule he wrote.

Chapter 8 — Patience Wait
Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On

The U.S. government weeds out bogus degree-holders in its midst after Government Computer News uncovers an
egregious example of resume padding.

Chapter 9 — Molly Moses
When U.S.-Canada Tax Relations Hang in the Balance

Transfer Pricing Report helps the two countries agree to stop bickering on trans-border tax issues.

Chapter 10 — Alice Lipowicz
Caught in a Feedback Loop

Executives air concerns to Washington Technology then abandon a high-priced computer security advisory board

Chapter 11 — Michael Martin
Switching the Current on Electrical Rebates

Manufacturers and distributors tap TED magazine to help tame an electrical product monster.

Chapter 12 — Catherine A. Kreyche
Saying Hello to the Elephant in the Room

With help from Journal of Government Financial Management, policymakers find beauty in federal accounting reforms.

Chapter 13 — David Silverberg
Trauma Care on Life Support

Lawmakers and HSToday step up efforts to save emergency response capacity.

Chapter 14 — Beatrice Schriever
Sounding the Alarm on the Teacher Shortage

Led by Professionally Speaking, Ontario’s classes echo with the sound of learning

Chapter 15 — Christopher M. Wright
Taking the Specter Out of “Spec Abuse”

A standards board is receptive to a truth-in-advertising plea after PC World gives manufacturers a reality check

Chapter 16 — Claire Sandt-Chiamulera
Raising a Legal Bar to Improve Children’s Lives

Standards inspired by ABA Child Law Practice give child welfare agency lawyers a target to shoot for.

Chapter 17 — Sherry L. Harowitz
Better Ideas, Better Security

A company puts its guard contractor on the hook to earn all of its pay—just like in the Security Management case study.

Chapter 18 — Jeanne LaBella
Rattling the Electricity Pricing Cage

A heretical pricing idea, floated in Public Power, survives to fight another day.

Chapter 19 — Taylor Rau
Turning a Club into a Rock Star

Nightclub & Bar shows beach-goers how to trade in their sandals for dancing shoes.

Mastery of Business Publication Editing
Is Focus of ASBPE Book

ASBPE Book Cover ImageNAPERVILLE, Ill. (February 4, 2004) — The American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a professional society for editors of trade and business-to-business publications in the United States, today applauded the release of Best Practices of the Business Press (170 pp., Kendall Hunt Publishing, $35 (0-7575-0862-6).

The book is a resource for mastering business, trade, and association publication editing based on the practices of veteran editors in the field.

“With its focus on practical, how-to help, the book aims to fulfill a need for professional and aspiring business publication editors seeking ideas from editors who are working in the field today,” says Robert Freedman, ASBPE president and editor of the book. “Professional trade publication editors and college-level journalism instructors made it clear there’s a need for more information on what the business press is all about and how publication editing in this field differs from practices in the consumer press.”

The book’s hallmark is its nuts-and-bolts approach. Each chapter, written by a veteran editor, covers a key element of business publication editing, from publication launch and redesign to business reporting to trade show coverage to technical editing.

The editors outline the main principles they follow in their own work, then share examples of how those principles are fleshed out on the pages of publications, both theirs and others. Several chapters include exercises to help readers apply what they learn. All contributors are either ASBPE members, winners of national ASBPE editorial excellence awards, or college instructors with roots in the business press.
Chapters and examples of what you learn:

Chapter 1, Business Reporting
Among the lessons learned: How to keep reader usefulness uppermost in your mind by walking in the readers shoes.

Chapter 2, Publication Launch
Among the lessons learned: Determining whether to take a “formal” or “guerrilla” approach to a start-up, based on the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Chapter 3, Publication Redesign
Among the lessons learned: How to develop a plan, set up a timetable, and then implement the redesign.

Chapter 4, Trade Show Coverage
Among the lessons learned: How to balance pre-written stories with on-site news coverage.

Chapter 5, Special Supplements
Among the lessons learned: Which of eight popular formats for showcasing themed coverage is right for your needs.

Chapter 6, Technical Editing I
Among the lessons learned: How to define your expectations early for contribution by a subject-matter expert.

Chapter 7, Technical Editing II
Among the lessons learned: How to approach a paragraph-by-paragraph rewrite of an expert-written contribution.

Chapter 8, How-To Articles
Among the lessons learned: Maximizing reader benefit through strategic uses of break-out information.

Chapter 9, Visual Design I
Among the lessons learned: Making the most use of free art, modest-quality photos.

Chapter 10, Visual Design II
Among the lessons learned: Building a strong editor-designer relationship.

Chapter 11, Feature Planning
Among the lessons learned: Identifying the right mix of primary and secondary features based on the subject-matter.

Chapter 12, Government Coverage
Among the lessons learned: Organizing your beat around behind-the-scene sources.

Chapter 13, Web Publications
Among the lessons learned: Identifying unique online content that maximizes reader benefit.

Chapter 14, Freelancers
Among the lessons learned: Avoiding conflict-of-interest snags with writers specializing in narrow fields.

Chapter 15, Editorial Advisory Boards
Among the lessons learned: How an advisory board gave direction to a magazine suffering from editorial drift.

Chapter 16, Editorial Ethics
Among the lessons learned: Formulating arguments in support of editorial quality over short-term financial interest.

What editors have to say about
Best Practices of the Business Press:

“Editors who don’t learn from the best practices of their peers can quickly fall behind in an increasingly competitive publishing world. This book is a gold mine of proven ideas from successful magazines and Web sites. I can’t imagine reading it and not coming away re-energized about the possibilities of business journalism. I certainly did.” —Harry McCracken, editor, PC World

“The authors present a high-level yet practical picture of how to serve a specialized group of readers with editorial integrity and journalistic excellence. These are the lessons a journalist learns over the course of a career; it’s great to have them brought together in one work, informed by such a depth of experience.” —Abbie Lundberg, editor-in-chief, CIO Magazine

Best Practices of the Business Press is a must-read for both rookie and experienced business-to-business editors. It’s a collection of how-to articles written by trade publication editors designed to educate their colleagues on all aspects of their profession. It is an excellent resource.” —Dana Chase, Jr., editorial director, Appliance Magazine, and chairman, Dana Chase Publications, Inc.

How to Order

To order Best Practices of the Business Press from ASBPE, click here and order online. Or download and print a PDF order form to order via fax. For phone orders, call (727) 553-4214.

About the Publisher

The publisher, Kendall/Hunt Publishing, Dubuque, Iowa, publishes materials for primary, secondary, college, and professional continuing education. Information about the publisher is available at www.kendallhunt.com.

About ASBPE

Founded in 1964, ASBPE is the professional association for full-time and freelance editors and writers employed in the business, trade, and specialty press. The society is known for its annual Awards of Excellence competition, which recognizes the best in editorial, design, and online achievement. The society also sponsors the annual ASBPE National Editorial Conference, maintains a Code of Preferred Editorial Ethics, and hosts regular educational seminars through its 18 local chapters.