Tag Archives: SABEW


SABEW extends Best in Business deadline to Feb. 3


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers has extended its deadline for the Best in Business competition until Monday afternoon.

The new deadline is Feb. 3, 6 p.m. Eastern time for the competition, which is entirely conducted online.

Warren Watson, executive director, said this additional time will enable dozens of companies and individuals to comfortably enter their best work.  The contest featured a number of new categories this year after adding some new wrinkles a year ago.

The competition includes a variety of new personal writing divisions (open to all), in addition to new social media and blogging categories.

For more information, contact Watson at 1-602-496-5186 or email watson@sabew.org.


SABEW to hold 2015 conference in Chicago


For the first time since 1992, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers will conduct its annual spring conference in Chicago.

The dates: April 23-25, 2015, at the Hyatt Magnificent Mile Hotel. The spring conference is SABEW’s largest and most important event of the year.

“It’s been more than 20 years and we’re delighted to be back in one of America’s most exciting cities, an important journalism and financial hub,” said Warren Watson, executive director.

Although SABEW has held education events in Chicago throughout its 51 years, this will be only the third time the spring event will be held in the city.

Its first Chicago conference was in May 1976. The organization also did a conference in late April 1992.

But Chicago has made a special place in SABEW history. Numerous regional events covering personal finance, technology and reporting and writing have been held in the city. The most recent was a special symposium on the business of health care in November 2013.

Read more here.

Michael Lewis

Lewis named SABEW Distinguished Achievement Award winner


Michael Lews, the financial journalist for Vanity Fair who has written such best-selling books as “Liar’s Poker” and “The Big Short,” has been named the latest recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Lewis will receive his award at the SABEW annual conference in Phoenix in March 2014. He was selected by a committee led by former SABEW president Jill Jorden Spitz.

Past SABEW Distinguished Achievement Award winners include Carol Loomis of Fortune, Floyd Norris of The New York Times and Stephen Shepard of BusinessWeek.

Lewis  graduated from Princeton with a BA in art history, and in 1985 received his master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Salomon Brothers hired him as a bond salesman shortly after. He moved to New York for training and witnessed firsthand the cutthroat, scruple-free culture that was Wall Street in the 1980s.

Several months later, armed only with what he’d learned in training, Lewis returned to London and spent the next three years dispensing investment advice to Salomon’s well-heeled clientele. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and survived a 1987 hostile takeover attempt at the firm. Nonetheless, he grew disillusioned with his job and left Salomon to write an account of his experiences in the industry. Published in 1989, “Liar’s Poker” remains one of the best written and most perceptive chronicles of investment banking and the appalling excesses of an era.

Since then, Lewis has found great success as a financial journalist and bestselling author. His nonfiction ranges over a variety of topics, including U.S./Japanese business relations (“Pacific Rift”), the 1996 presidential campaign (“Trail Fever”), Silicon Valley (“The New New Thing”), and the Internet boom (“Next: The Future Just Happened”).

Lewis won a Gerald Loeb Award in 2009 for feature writing. He also has written for Conde Nast Portfolio.

Best in Business logo

SABEW Best in Business contest adds new categories


The 19th annual Best in Business competition from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers will open for entries on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013.

The contest, the largest of its kind, honors excellence in business journalism across all news platforms.

“Honoring the best work in business journalism is one of the most exciting and important things we at SABEW get to do,” said Joanna Ossinger, 2012 BiB committee chair and an editor at Bloomberg News.

Several new categories will be included, Ossinger announced Thursday.

“This year, I’m pleased to say we’re adding a new category to highlight the work of independent bloggers – and one that will recognize excellence in social media. We look forward to seeing many excellent entries in the contest.”

New categories include:

  • Best Independent Blog- defined as a blog written by one to three people not affiliated with an established news organization
  • Real-Time Reporting- focused on the use of social media in a breaking news event.

Rules and further category information will be released soon.

Judges awarded 136 winners a year ago and winners represented various publications, from the Providence Journal to The Wall Street Journal, from American Banker to National Underwriter Life & Health, from CNBC to Southern California Public Radio.

Bloomberg News and its related magazines, Bloomberg Markets and Bloomberg Businessweek, led with 14 wins; The New York Times had nine winners, and The Huffington Post and CNBC had five each.

Read more here.

SABEW home page

Special SABEW seminar in biz journalism ethics


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers will conduct a two-day journalism ethics symposium in downtown Phoenix on Oct. 24 and 25.

The event, open to the public, will feature prominent journalists including Margaret Sullivan, Clark Hoyt and Barney Calame, who all have been public editors at The New York Times; Aaron Brown, former CNN reporter/anchor; and Kelly McBride, ethicist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The event includes a Thursday evening reception and program as well as sessions Friday morning and early afternoon. The seminar will take place at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Though the event is free, you’re asked to register at sabew.org to attend. The schedule can be viewed here.

The program is named after Gary Klott, the former New York Times reporter and columnist who was in many ways the ethics conscience of the SABEW organization for years.

His widow is Sandy Duerr, a former SABEW president who is currently executive editor of the San Luis Obispo newspaper.

This is the first stand-alone Klott event, part of SABEW’s 50th anniversary.


SABEW offers training in covering how biz and government intersect


Reporters who want to learn more about federal data and the business of government are invited to be part of special immersion training be conducted by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in January.

The weeklong session, Jan. 12-17, is thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Chicago-based Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Family Foundation. The training will bring journalists to Washington, D.C., to climb inside economic and labor data, hear firsthand from the Federal Reserve, and understand the differences in government and non-profit accounting.

Partners in the training are the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Standards, the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg Government and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Applications are now being taken. Deadline is Nov. 6.

The workshop will focus on data and accounting skills. Journalists will be able to work with experts at the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics to explore the large cache of data each agency produces, as well as understand its importance to readers.

SABEW and Goldschmidt Family Foundation board member Jim Goldschmidt are in discussions for continued work into 2014.

The 15 journalists will also get a special briefing from economists at the Federal Reserve, and training in regulatory affairs from editors at Bloomberg Government. Journalists from McClatchy’s Washington Bureau will also discuss covering the economy.

In addition, journalists will spend a day learning from experts at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Fifteen out-of-town participants will be selected to be fellows and will receive $400 scholarships to cover travel and food costs, in addition to receiving five nights of lodging at the George Washington Inn near the campus of George Washington University.

Two local participants (northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland) will receive $150 scholarships to cover commuting and food expenses. The participant or his/her employer is expected to cover any additional costs.

To become a fellow, send your resume and a 250-word cover letter to Warren Watson, SABEW executive director, at watson@sabew.org. In the letter, please state why you should be selected and what you hope to do with the information you learn.

SABEW home page

SABEW, national business journalism organization, at a crossroads


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the largest group of business journalists in the country, had its annual fall conference in New York last week.

More than 255 journalists registered for the two-day program.  It was the best turnout in the four years since SABEW revived a fall training event in 2010. In addition, executive director Warren Watson reports that the non-profit organization will finish the year with a financial surplus.

However, the organization, which was founded 50 years ago and is headquartered at the Arizona State University Cronkite School of Journalism, is at a crossroads. There are some on its board who believe that the group needs to overhaul itself from top to bottom if it is to survive, while other board members believe that only some minor tweaking should occur.

The impetus for the navel gazing is a report called “SABEW Strategic Assessment 2013-15″ presented to the SABEW Board of Governors at the New York event last week that proposed widespread changes to the organization, including a total revamping of its membership structure and its pricing, re-doing its five-year-old website and improving in its fundraising and evaluating its training efforts. “The organization seems stuck looking in the rear-view mirror rather than implementing changes that will catapult SABEW forward,” the report stated.

kevin_hall1Kevin Hall, the chief economics correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers and the current SABEW president, believes that the report is too negative.

“Our board reflects a broad and changing media landscape, and our assessment, which is in its initial stages, demonstrates our Big Tent approach,” he said in a statement provided to Talking Biz News on Wednesday morning. “Any major changes that might be proposed as a result of this strategic assessment would be presented to the full membership and put to a vote, as required by our bylaws.”

At stake is the future of an organization that boasts 3,744 business journalists as members but only gets less than a tenth of them to attend its annual conference. Still, in the past, SABEW has been a unified voice for the business journalism community, speaking out in favor of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Fair Disclosure more than a decade ago and urging metropolitan newspapers not to cut standalone business sections. It also wrote the first code of ethics tailored specifically for business journalism.

SABEW’s future success will likely determine how business journalism is perceived in media circles. A more-prominent and better-funded organization will give business journalism — and the media outlets that report business and economics stories — more cache.

Why should you care?

Why do I care? I believe in business journalism and its positive effects on society. I also believe in SABEW’s mission. I have been a member since the early 1990s and served on its board from 2007 to 2009. From 2009 to 2012, I was the organization’s research director. Before that, I ran its website and wrote its Biz Buzz column. I’m also the co-author of The SABEW Stylebook for business journalists. This past year, I spent about 250 hours helping to build a history of business journalism website for SABEW as it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

I also believe that every business journalist in the country — and I estimate that  there are about 10,000 such journalists — should care about SABEW and what it does. So this is a story that covers SABEW just like a business journalist would cover a news story about a company. This story is important to the readers of Talking Biz News.

The Strategic Assessment report came about as a result of SABEW’s need to establish a fundraising program. SABEW’s fundraising has been spotty, at best. It received $29,000 in donations through September of this year and $23,823 in donations in 2012 and $36,935 in donations in 2011, but had $67,267 in donations in 2010. (In comparison, the website you’re reading now, Talking Biz News, has received $120,000 in donations in 2012 and 2013, more than double what SABEW has raised during the same time period.)

LisaGibbsA year ago, then-SABEW president Jill Jorden Spitz of the Arizona Daily Star asked former Forbes senior editor Mark Tatge to join the SABEW board and help jump-start fundraising. Shortly thereafter, board members Lisa Gibbs of Money magazine and Beth Hunt of American City Business Journals joined Tatge, who teaches business journalism at DePauw University in Indiana, to do a formal assessment of SABEW’s fundraising capabilities and develop a strategic plan.

In February 2013, the SABEW executive committee agreed to engage professional fundraiser George Engdahl to offer advice and make recommendations. Many of his ideas are incorporated in the report.

The report notes that SABEW has posted an annual deficit in three of the past five years and claims that journalists who might have once joined SABEW are instead turning to more digitally focused journalism organizations. “It is not a stretch to say that left untended, SABEW faces an uncertain future,” the executive summary stated.

SABEW has tried to land “big-ticket” donations, but failed because of an inconsistent fundraising strategy that changes every year when a new president takes the helm, the report noted. In addition, the organization’s mission statement is too long and needs to be refined to help with fundraising, the document added.

One of the problems that SABEW faces with fundraising is that the organization does not collect basic data about its members. Its membership database often does not include home addresses or demographic information. The report calls for a dramatic overall of its fundraising efforts.

The report compares SABEW to other journalism organizations, noting that Investigative Reporters and Editors gets a quarter of its members to attend its annual conference, has an annual operating budget of $1.1 million compared to $400,000 for SABEW, has a larger staff and also has a robust training program.

And then there’s membership. Large media organizations with dozens of business journalists can join SABEW and pay a fraction in annual dues of what SABEW would collect if each journalist joined separately. (For organizations with more than 25 members, the fee is $345 plus $15 per person.) Reuters (496) and Bloomberg (487) are the two largest SABEW members, paying a combined $12,907 in dues.

Changing dues

The report suggests that SABEW could increase its revenue — money that could be used to expand its membership offerings — if it went to a dues model where most individuals paid. This recommendation is opposed by many members of the SABEW executive committee, who fear alienating some of its largest members.

However, there’s concern that some media organizations are cutting back on their memberships. Reuters has told SABEW that it will not pay for as many members going forward, and last year told SABEW that it shouldn’t count on its regular, end-of-the-year $5,000 donation.

The report also called for SABEW to do more internationally. It currently has 120 international members, most of them from Canada, and that number is far below projected international growth during the company’s last strategic plan under former president Dave Kansas. And SABEW needs to attract freelance business journalists and bloggers. “If SABEW doesn’t seek to serve them now, they will affiliate with other groups more tailored to their needs,” said the report.

As far as training, the report said “SABEW is woefully underequipped to meet the challenge. This has never been the organization’s strong suit.” (As an aside, I did a training session for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center in Business Journalism in Milwaukee, Wisc., last month where I overhead two Chicago Tribune business journalists agreeing that they don’t attend SABEW events any more because of the lack of training sessions they’re interested in.) The Reynolds Center now provides free business journalism training across the country, including at SABEW events. Other journalism organizations also provide business and economics news training.

The overarching question that the report raises about SABEW is what members get out of the organization if they don’t attend its conferences or enter its Best in Business contest. Without providing more, the report stated, “SABEW faces an inexorable decline similar to that experienced by its once-loyal membership whose ranks are thinning due to retirements, buyouts and layoffs.”

A difference of opinion

That is not an assessment shared by other members of SABEW’s executive committee or Watson, its executive director. In response to the report, Hall wrote, “It to me gives the misleading impression that we face slash-your-wrists circumstances. We do not. We do face challenges to be sure, but we have made many strides towards repositioning ourselves in a changing media landscape.”

Hall noted that SABEW holds regular tele-training events and has had training sessions during its fall conference and annual spring conference. “I disagree with the conclusion that SABEW has been looking in the rear-view mirror, especially given our strides in international programs and the expansion of categories” in the Best in Business contest, he added.

Watson argued that the report should not compare SABEW to the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists and IRE, and should instead look at smaller groups such as the Society for News Design, the Religion News Writers Association and the Association of Health Care Journalists. But he added, “The assessment is a perfect launching pad for study and reflection as we look at all operating aspects or our organization, its governance, strategy and tactics.”

EJ580DavidMilsteadHowever, SABEW treasurer David Milstead, a freelance business journalist in Denver, believes that the report is an accurate representation of the situation and endorses it “almost without reservation. I think we have a serious problem with member engagement.” He later added, “SABEW’s Board of Governors has demonstrated an awesome capacity to discuss and study and not actually do things.”

Former New York Times business journalist Diana Henriques, who is also on the board, also agrees with the assessment report.

“I’m not persuaded by the observation that SABEW is a niche organization — that, somehow, compared to other niche organizations, things do not look so bad,” she wrote in response to the report. “My understanding is that niche organizations — the religion writers, the education writers and so forth — are in even more trouble than we are. If we are indeed a niche organization, our plight is worse than the report suggests, not better.”

Henriques argued that the business news now influences all types of journalism today, and that there is nothing “niche” about business news anymore.

She wrote: “It is why SABEW deserves to survive; it is why this report, when refined, deserves the board’s committed support.”


SABEW to recognize top young business journalist


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers will honor the nation’s top young business journalist with a new award named after one of its past presidents.

The Larry Birger Young Business Journalist Award will be presented March 29 at SABEW’s annual spring conference at the Cronkite School in Phoenix.

Made possible by a $5,000 gift from rbb Public Relations of Miami, Fla., the award will commemorate Birger, the former Miami Herald business editor who led SABEW as president in 1977.  Birger was later a principal in rbb until his death in 1998.

“Larry was a business-minded person who explored business solutions and communications,” said Christine Barney, CEO of rbb. “We want this to a be a reminder of the importance of good journalism.”

The award is defined for professional journalists up to age 30.

“We’re pleased to do this in Larry’s honor,” said Kevin G. Hall, SABEW president. “This supports the next generation of great business journalists. More than ever, we are committed to spotlighting the best in business journalism.”

The initial award will be decided by a panel of four judges – a SABEW officer and three others — and presented at the 2014 SABEW conference.  SABEW will award a cash prize of $500 to the winner and pay for that journalist’s expenses to pick up the award. Consideration will be for an individual’s body of work.

Applicants will be asked to write a letter detailing their work.  They would also be asked to include a letter of recommendation from a supervising editor.

Jurors would consider applicants during January and determine the winner the first week of February.

“Besides this being a fitting tribute to Larry Birger, this is a recognition of the essential role that journalists (and journalism) play in our business, in our society and in our everyday life,” said Lisa Ross, president at rbb.

Respected by his peers and revered by younger journalists who worked with him, the cigar-chomping Birger was a pioneer in business journalism, recalled Gail DeGeorge, a later SABEW president who also was business editor at the Herald.

Passionate about the importance of covering the local business community, Birger launched Business Monday at the Herald in July 1980, creating a publication whose format was copied by dozens of newspapers across the country.

“He was a guy who wasn’t afraid to pound his fist on the table with the higher-ups to devote more resources to local business coverage,’’ said David Satterfield, who worked as a reporter at the business section for Birger and later became business editor. “He was a very strong proponent of local business coverage.”

He also mentored many. That aspect of his personality surprised Bruce Rubin after Birger became a partner in Rubin Barney & Birger the precursor to rbb in 1994.  Rubin remembers young associates at the firm, many of whom had never worked at newspapers, spending sessions with Birger on Friday mornings in the conference room.  “You could have blown me over with a feather how the young kids and Larry liked each other,” said Rubin.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Birger died Dec. 18, 1998, at age 71. The conference room at rbb still bears his name and a scholarship at the School of Business at the University of Miami was established in his honor.


SABEW shuffles leadership


A business journalist scheduled to become president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2014 has stepped back from that role, while the organization’s board named a Bloomberg News editor to its executive ranks.

Beth Hunt, manager of editorial operations for American City Business Journals, had been slated to be vice president for the organization, meaning she would have become president in 2014. She is now holding a non-ladder position on its executive committee, according to a post on the SABEW site.

Hunt was actually slated to be the current president, but she had earlier swapped places with Kevin Hall, the national economics correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, who is now the president.

The new vice president is Marty Wolk of MSN Money. Independent journalist David Milstead moves into the treasurer role.

Joanna Ossinger, a team leader on Bloomberg First Word, joins the executive ladder as secretary, meaning she is scheduled to become president in 2016.

Ossinger has been serving as a non-ladder member of the organization’s executive committee and has helped plan SABEW’s annual fall and spring conferences. She has helped coordinate the Best in Business competition.

Read more here.


Jim Cramer and Al Lewis of Dow Jones: Separated at birth?


Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis says that many of his readers tell him he looks like Jim Cramer of CNBC and TheStreet.com.

On Saturday night, the two met at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers‘ event in Washington, DC.

What do you think? Separated at birth?