Homeland security reporter David Silverberg beats NFL

Photo: David Silverberg, winner of ASBPE's first Journalism That Matters AwardWhen the National Football League refused to run a job recruitment ad for the U.S. Border Patrol, HSToday editor David Silverberg made a quarterback’s run right up the middle of the Super Bowl game program.

HSToday covers homeland-security issues, and Silverberg noted the NFL’s stance that running an ad that mentioned terrorism, borders, and immigration would be “too controversial” for placement in the Super Bowl publication.

In his January 2008 editorial, Silverberg, whose magazine has long covered Super Bowl security arrangements, argued that game security depends heavily on the resources of local communities, not just on the NFL providing stadium security.

“It is outrageous that a private, for-profit event that depends on and benefits from taxpayer-funded government protection cannot find it within itself to contribute to the homeland security of this nation,” he wrote, adding that that year’s Super Bowl would take place in Arizona, a state where border security is on the frontline.

“The NFL makes staggering amounts of money from the Super Bowl. It drapes itself in patriotic colors and overhypes a mere football game as the ultimate all-American event,” he wrote. “Surely — surely! — it can make at least one small, painless contribution to the American homeland and to the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol who guard the security of the country that makes the NFL’s riches possible.”

Soon the NFL did. After Silverberg mailed the editorial and comments from readers to the league, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello (who earlier refused to return calls) told Silverberg that the 2008 Super Bowl program would now contain the ad.

Inspired by the journalism in the ASBPE- published book Journalism That Matters: How Business to Business Editors Change the Industries They Cover (Marion Street Press, 2006), the award recognizes a B2B journalist whose coverage triggered a tangible change within government or industry. This is the first year the award has been given.

“David’s hard-hitting editorial is another example of the powerful impact that B2B journalists can have on developments that receive little or no coverage in the consumer press, yet have implications that extend far beyond industry insiders,” said Steven Roll, president of ASBPE.