Top of the game

 In 2015-08

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In May 1980, Jay McIntosh was taking time off from his Longview Daily News reporting job to join a colleague on a backpacking trip in the mountains of Washington state. When they learned that a volcano at nearby Mount St. Helens had erupted, journalistic adrenaline kicked in. Jay was one of the first reporters on the scene. For their work describing and photographing the disaster over the next few months, Jay and his associates received the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for local, general or spot news reporting. With journalism’s highest prize as a calling card, it wasn’t hard for Jay to land a job at The Charlotte Observer, where we worked together in the mid-1980s. In 1991, he moved to Furniture Today, the venerable trade publication based in High Point, where he was news editor for the last 14 years. Sadly, Jay died in June at age 60 after a two-year battle with cancer, prompting an outpouring of praise for his fairness and skills from dozens of home-furnishings industry executives as well as former and recent colleagues.

Industry awards are capricious, easy to discount when one doesn’t win, but glorious when one’s name is called. Business North Carolina has a tradition of winning awards in the Alliance of Area Business Publications’ annual competition. This year was no exception — so let me brag about my colleagues. At the annual conference, held in Charlotte for the first time, our magazine won eight awards, more than ever, including silver for best magazine. (D CEO of Dallas won gold, deservedly.) University of Missouri professors, who judged the work, credited us with “high-quality reporting, a clean and easy-to-consume design and exceptional feature writing.” Stories that won awards included Chris Burritt’s profile of Raleigh broadcaster Jim Goodmon and Edward Martin’s articles about the Duke Energy coal-ash spill and rising sea level. Ed’s success was no surprise because he has achieved Jordanesque-level status among business-magazine journalists. Judges also honored our Picture This feature that highlights some of North Carolina’s best photographers.

Successful magazines require a remarkable blend of reporting, writing, editing, graphics and photography. Four teammates who contributed to our success have retired or moved on to other challenges: David Kinney, Spencer Campbell, Jim Denk and Courtney Price. Thanks to colleagues Cathy Martin, Moira Johnson, Ben Kinney, Laura MacLean, Jim Dodson and Andie Rose and contributors including Ed, Lisa Davis, Ken Otterbourg, Ralph Voltz and many others, plenty of awards are in the magazine’s future. Enough bragging. Back to my friend Jay. A “right place, right time” experience changed his life, but his superb, consistent work over the next 35 years accomplished as much or more than his Pulitzer Prize honor. Awards are great, but the real reward of journalism is winning consistent respect of readers and advertisers through a devotion to accuracy, integrity and truth telling. Hold us to that standard every month.

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