Up Front: July 2008

His heart is in it

In one of the three straight years that Ed Martin won the Alliance of Area Business Publications gold medal for best body of work by a magazine reporter, the judges wrote: “His biggest talent? Telling a story. The concept sounds simple, but all writers — and especially business writers — seem to have a great trouble doing it. Martin knows reporting is the key to good storytelling and brings an intense level of investigation to stories.” In the nearly 40 years I’ve been at this craft, I’ve never seen another writer throw himself into a piece the way Ed does.

During his time at BNC, he literally has done that twice, with this month’s cover story and the account of his earlier surgery that appeared in our December 2001 issue. Nobody goes under the knife — or, as was the case this last time, some high-tech incarnation of it — and has his heart sliced open just to get a story, no matter how compelling it makes the telling. But Ed has used his operations as entry points to bring readers to grips with broader, often complex economic issues that transcend his personal experience.

Seven years ago, the account of his triple bypass allowed him to examine whether managed care’s clampdown on costs was causing hospitals to cut corners in ways that affect the quality of care they provide patients. The one in this issue tells how a medical school and the health-care industry that grew up around it are transforming a region.

“I’m really glad to be able to report on the attention the medical school and surgeons like Dr. Chitwood are bringing to Eastern North Carolina, but as a reporter who’s always felt awkward writing about myself, it’s not the kind of story I like to write — even if you can do a lot of the footwork lying down.” He’s not looking forward to a third installment, adding with a grin: “The research is killing me.”

What the judges said back then holds true today: “Edward Martin is clearly one of the best reporters and writers working in business journals today. His work, in fact, is comparable to the top business writing done anywhere.” And he has the scars to prove it.


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