Up front: August 2012

We're No. 1

During the more than three decades Business North Carolina has been published, the magazine has won well over 100 national prizes for writing, reporting and design. Most have come from the Los Angeles-based Alliance of Area Business Publications, which recently awarded us seven more. Five were gold prizes, one of which was not just a first place but a first for BNC.

Through the years, we had won silver and bronze awards for best magazine, but getting the gold means something very special to us and to North Carolina: You’re reading the best regional business magazine in America. Here’s what the judges who decided that — members of the University of Missouri journalism faculty — had to say about it.

“Solid. A single word that best describes this business publication. Great writing is its hallmark, the output of skilled reporting and impeccable editing. The stories are interesting to read even for people who aren’t interested in business reporting. For the state, sensitivity to its geographical and demographic diversity makes the magazine an important resource.”

Much of that great writing and skilled reporting is done by our senior contributing editor, Ed Martin, whose stories won four of those gold awards. That tally brings his AABP total to 27 — 20 of them first places. He once again took the top prize for best body of work by a magazine writer, marking the 10th time he has been honored in the category. He’s won first place an astounding six times.

“Martin,” the judges said, “excels as a business magazine writer because of his story choice and story execution — fueled by in-depth reporting, elegant writing and first-person observations. Whether he is writing about the biggest farm east of the Mississippi River or an aging speedboat mogul, Martin captures the flavor of his subjects with the use of telling, specific details and a compelling narrative arc.”

The farm is Open Grounds, subject of his September 2011 cover story. Awarding it best magazine feature, the judges called it “a breathtaking article notable for its in-depth reporting and storytelling, a seamless narrative that was just plain interesting to read from beginning to end. It proves that a good idea can be transformed into a great story with skilled writing and editing.”

The previous month’s cover story about Reggie Fountain won best magazine personality profile. “This profile on a speedboat racer who loses his company was well-reported with a more critical look, not just laudatory. The writer told a complex story in an interesting way. The statistics and data were adeptly woven in and didn’t stall the story. The article contained some nice foreshadowing to build intrigue and had quick pacing.”

His fourth gold prize, in a category open to both magazines and newspapers, was best local coverage of a national business/economic story. “Edward Martin weaves a fascinating story about the gas industry in North Carolina (cover story, January 2011). Martin engages us from the opening moments. We are taken back to a dramatic, tragic and long-forgotten mine explosion in the state. He takes us on a time journey to present time, telling us about the challenges and opportunities of extracting gas from shale.”

BNC placed second among magazines and newspapers for best headlines, the judges calling our entries “excellent examples of pairing words with images. Each one reflected the content of the article perfectly with a cleverness that didn’t fall over the edge into triteness.” In awarding us a bronze prize for best use of photography/illustrations, the judges noted, “Business North Carolina has particularly strong infographics, and they use a variety of storytelling methods.“

Which brings me to the point — and a promise: Once you’re the best, you’ve got to keep working that much harder to be better.

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The cover of our June 1996 issue featured a 30-year-old guy attired in a toga, his brow wreathed in a laurel, with the headline: The Wanna-Be Philosopher King. Beneath it read, “It’s so simple and so ... logical: Government, bad. Business, good. If only that unruly mob in Raleigh would listen to what John Hood keeps saying.”

The times, and certainly the mob ruling Raleigh, have changed, and John’s influence has only grown, as has that of the John Locke Foundation, the libertarian/conservative (he prefers the former but has learned to live with for the latter tag) think tank he heads. This month marks his return to the magazine, this time in the guise of a columnist. What does he plan to focus on in Free & Clear?

“What fascinates me right now is how our state’s political climate both reflects and influences our state’s business climate. For decades, North Carolina was, and considered itself to be, a leader of the New South. But in recent years, our state has underperformed the rest of the region and the nation in economic growth. Combine this reversal-of-fortune with demographic changes, and you get political turmoil. In 2008, North Carolina went Democratic for president for the first time since the 1970s. Just two years later, state voters put Republican majorities in both houses of the North Carolina legislature for the first time since the 1870s.

“That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time. I don’t think the voters are done. I’m not sure how all this will shape North Carolina’s economic future. But I have some initial thoughts — which I intend to offer freely and clearly.”