The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is selected by the Loeb Awards’ distinguished panel of final judges. Previous recipients include Hobart Rowen, economics columnist of The Washington Post; Carol J. Loomis, board of editors of Fortune; James W. Michaels, editor of Forbes; Leonard Silk, columnist and editorial writer of The New York Times; Marshall Loeb, former managing editor of Fortune and Money magazines; Jane Bryant Quinn, contributing editor of Newsweek; Alan Abelson, columnist of Barron’s; Stephen Shepard, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek; Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of Time Inc.; Allan Sloan, Wall Street editor of Newsweek; Paul E. Steiger, managing editor and vice president of The Wall Street Journal; Floyd Norris, chief financial correspondent of The New York Times; Louis Rukeyser, economic commentator, financial adviser and host of “Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street” on CNBC; Byron E. “Barney” Calame, public editor, The New York Times; Myron Kandel, founding financial editor, CNN; Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief, Bloomberg News; Daniel Hertzberg, deputy managing editor, international, The Wall Street Journal; Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief, The Economist; Walt Bogdanich, assistant investigative editor, The New York Times; Steven Pearlstein, economics columnist, The Washington Post; John Huey, former editor-in-chief, Time Inc, James Flanigan, business and financial journalist, Los Angeles Times; James Grant, editor & founder, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer; and Paul Ingrassia, Managing Editor, Reuters.
The hand-cut crystal globe presented to the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is symbolic of the qualities honored by the Loeb Awards program: integrity, illumination, originality, clarity and coherence.
By Lionel Barber
Editor, Financial Times
Martin is one of the most versatile writers I have known. He has the intellect of a university professor-cumcentral bank governor, and an insatiable curiosity. This is what makes him such a formidable journalist and commentator.
It has been a personal delight to watch him in action these past three decades, latterly as editor. We’ve sat around the same tables, with the rich, famous and not so famous. It’s always been immensely stimulating because Martin is fearless, willing to entertain new ideas but always confident of his core beliefs. Indeed, he has taken consistently brave decisions on the big issues of the day, from Brexit to the Iraq War, and latterly on the future of capitalism and globalisation.
Martin’s mid-career move into journalism was not obvious. After graduating from Oxford, he worked at the World Bank as an economist before joining the Trade Policy Research Centre (London) as director of studies in 1981. His pithy letters to the FT aroused the attention of then-editor Geoffrey Owen, who invited him to join the leader writing team as chief economics leader writer. It was a masterstroke.
Within three years, Martin had become an associate editor. In 1996, he succeeded the legendary Sir Samuel Brittan as chief economics commentator, a perch he still occupies today. His influence on global macroeconomics remains paramount — Larry Summers called him “the world’s preeminent financial journalist“ — but his method and range have extended exponentially.
Just as the FT has transformed over the past 15 years from a newspaper into a multimedia global news organization, Martin has moved with the times, engaging with readers on every digital platform imaginable. While he has always been a formidable performer on television, Martin has also adapted to video and podcast with aplomb. Never shy of his own opinions, he has also learnt to interact with readers, even if the odd, impertinent critic has come out limping after a robust exchange of opinions.
Martin’s contribution to public debate is enormous. He has written numerous columns (and a couple of books) about the legacy of the global financial crisis. Why Globalization Works, published in 2004, was a much-acclaimed persuasive text. Fixing Global Finance, published in 2008, was a warning written before the global financial crisis. The Shifts and the Shocks, a post-crash follow-up, absorbed and developed many of the lessons of the financial crisis for modern capitalism.
His insights into the developing world, especially China and India, remain must reading. His empathy and his understanding of America sets the bar for the rest of us at the FT. As a trained economist and trade policy expert, he can go toe-to-toe with the world’s finest minds. His economics columns are invariably challenging, but the force of argument is unmistakable, invariably supported by charts and data.
Occasionally, and often to devastating effect, Martin does stray into pure politics. His critique of President George W. Bush’s decision to pursue a war of choice against Iraq in 2003 still resonates, especially the label “rogue nation.” His columns on Brexit, first warning of the dangers and now examining the consequences, have been models of rational debate, spiced with a heartfelt commitment to the liberal internationalist tradition. In the age of national populists — or, as Martin once labelled them, “charismatic despots” — this tradition has increasingly come under assault. As the son of political refugees from continental Europe in the 1930s, Martin has a visceral antipathy to political extremes. But he is not one to represent the soggy center. His advocacy of competition, his contempt for rent-seekers, his denunciation of muddle-headed economic decisionmaking and the consequent dangers to democracy are among the positions of principle he has taken over many years, the result being a consistent editorial line that sets the FT apart from the pack.
Martin still attends the daily leader conference in London when he is not travelling overseas. His contributions are often entertaining, always invaluable. He can act as well as any stage performer. More important, he can advocate as persuasively as any barrister, no more so than when he called for unconventional monetary measures to combat deflation in the wake of the financial crisis, a position vindicated by the actions of the Federal Reserve under Ben Bernanke.
Some colleagues may at times feel a little intimidated in his presence, but they know, as I do, that Martin has always been generous in terms of mentoring the younger generation. He has been responsible for nurturing some of the most gifted journalists at the FT, several of whom, such as Ed Balls and Stephanie Flanders, have gone on to distinguished careers elsewhere. He also has an eye for unconventional talent, a vital quality in a news organization. I would be remiss not to mention Martin’s role as a public intellectual beyond the confines of the FT. In 2010, he was invited to join the Independent Commission on Banking set up by the U.K. government to examine remedies for the banking sector in the wake of the global financial crisis. The report’s conclusions, in particular the recommended higher capital requirements for banks, have had a lasting impact. Martin has also been the face of the FT at numerous prestigious international conferences, from Bilderberg to Davos to the China Development Forum. Combative but (almost always) courteous, Martin is a big draw — though I worry on occasion about the number of air miles he racks up every year.
The Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award is a fitting tribute to Martin, but it also speaks to his role in helping the FT to reach its landmark of 1 million paying readers, a milestone in terms of our success in building a sustainable commercial operation to support our independent, public service journalism.
Over the past decade or more, all newspapers have struggled to reinvent their business models in the age of the internet. My view has always been that the best way to survive (and thrive) is to develop the strongest possible bench of columnists, who become intrinsic to the brand. That way, media can make the case for paid-for content. There is no finer example to sustain this argument than Martin Wolf.
Joann S. Lublin
The Ohio native first worked at The Wall Street Journal as an intern in the summer of ‘69. That was when Joann wrote her first Page One story — which was eclipsed by news of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Joann joined the Journal full time in 1971 as a reporter in its San Francisco bureau after completing her master’s degree at Stanford University. It was the beginning of what became a storied career. Over the subsequent five decades, she covered the Enron scandal and broke huge stories on the decline of General Electric. She interviewed disgraced Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski in prison and helped break the news that Steve Jobs had a liver transplant. She wrote more than 3,000 stories for the Journal — more than 260 of which ended up running on Page One. She won numerous awards and earned many honors over her career, including being a member of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for coverage of corporate scandals and being a Loeb finalist in 2007.
Joann built her legend not with one or two huge stories or prizes, but by relentless, daily shoe-leather reporting. Her unmodulated voice, constantly working the phones with her source list of several thousand, became one of the most familiar sounds in the Journal newsroom. In pursuit of a story, she would call the office, the cell phone, the home, a spouse’s cell phone, an assistant, even a vacation house. Any calls that went unanswered simply led to more calls, texts and emails. “I knew sources of hers who said when Joann called you took the call because if you didn’t she would never stop calling,” says Carol Hymowitz, a former senior Journal editor and columnist. “She would call an executive 20 times until they talked.” Joann was relentlessly efficient. She would begin emailing sources and colleagues before sunrise, before her long bus ride to the office, peppering them with conversational abbreviations like “IMHO” or “Pls” and usually signing them, simply, “J.” She would work the phones until late at night. She became such a relentless tester that one retired CEO and board member changed her name in his cell phone contacts to “Do Not Answer.”
“Why so much shorthand?” asks Dan Fitzpatrick, a Journal editor on the investing team who has co-bylined at least 45 stories with Joann. “I imagine it’s designed to save her precious seconds so she can try that elusive source for the 30th time. No scoop is too small, no source is too unimportant for her to put forward maximum effort. ‘Shall I pursue him?’ she will ask. You know that she means it.”
But while Joann chased every scoop, she also set an example for all, as an unselfish and collaborative colleague who always shared bylines and over time worked with and taught, literally, thousands of reporters at the Journal. “Sitting next to Joann Lublin is like attending a master class in source management, and also time management,” says telecom reporter Ryan Knutson, who sat next to her for more than four years. Adds Loeb board member Paul Steiger, managing editor of the Journal from 1991 to 2007: “Year after year, she has kept the WSJ on top of changes in key leadership positions in corporate America. She does it by relentless sourcing … and by generous collaboration with her colleagues.” Joann earned respect through dogged reporting, fairness and bluntness. She never socialized with her sources. But they learned that when she called, she likely knew something they didn’t. They also knew she’d be straight.
“When you get a message that she called, it’s time to take a couple aspirin and drink three Coca-Colas before you call her back,” says Paul Kranhold, a managing director at Sard Verbinnen & Co., who often advises companies and boards in crisis. “She may not necessarily be the person I want to be dealing with every day, but the nice thing about her is she doesn’t even pretend like that. When she calls, it’s just like, ‘Here’s what it is. This is what I need, and I need it in three seconds, so call me back right away.’”
Says Michael Bonsignore, former chairman and CEO of Honeywell: “She was inquisitive, professional and fair. No matter what the subject, I never felt that she was loaded with ‘gotcha’ questions. And her reporting was complete and unbiased.” As time passed, Joann didn’t slow down a bit, frequently out-hustling — and out-producing — colleagues half her age. “Joann was able to get a source — I believe around 5:00 a.m. on a Friday morning — to tell her that General Electric was dismantling its finance arm and would sell most of its GE Capital assets,” recalls Dana Mattioli, one of the Journal’s M&A reporters. It was just one of several GE scoops the two collaborated on that week.
Even time off didn’t slow Joann down. Over the years, she broke scoops from the poolside with her grandchildren and stepped away from a James Taylor/Carole King concert with her husband at Madison Square Garden to phone in a story. “A few years ago, while we were on a trip to Key West, Florida, Joann happened to look at her BlackBerry while we were sitting on a beach,” says her husband, Mike Pollock. “It’s a brilliant, warm day, the water beckons and Joann is mildly annoyed that right at this exact moment, an investigative reporter named Mark Maremont needs to consult with her about a story. But she calls him immediately and spends about a half hour batting around ideas for how to approach it.”
As one of the first women at the paper who wasn’t a secretary, Joann was a pioneer. Calling sources in her early years, she was sometimes mistaken for a subscription saleswoman. When she won an honorable mention from the San Francisco Press Club for a Page One story about the short tenure of big-city school superintendents, she wasn’t allowed to join the then all-male club.
Eventually, Joann worked in Chicago, Washington, London and New York, while also raising two children.
“She wasn’t just one of the first women reporters at the Journal, she was one of the first women who decided to have children and stayed and balanced her family life with a very rigorous career,” says Hymowitz.
Joann became been a strong advocate for her colleagues and fought to prove women deserved a place in the newsroom and America’s workforce. She is a tireless public speaker, traveling to dozens of events hosted by women groups to share her life lessons and advice. She wrote her first book, Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World, in 2016. Right up to the end of her career, she still was sometimes mistaken on a call for a Journal subscription saleswoman.
The best advice she can give other women, Joann says, is this: “At the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, others won’t either.”
Joann became a model for everyone in journalism with her devotion to reporting, her tirelessness, her nose for scoops, the impact of her stories and her integrity. She never sought accolades, but she worked hard because that was her job and she was good at it. She embodies the best of the profession and the high standards of the Loeb Awards.
Joann retired in April 2018, nearly 50 years after her first byline. Since then, as a freelancer, she has had four more.
When Walt Mossberg started his career in tech more than two decades ago, he began his first "Personal Technology" column with this prescient sentence: "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault."
Hard to use. Yep. Isn't your fault. Double truth.
With those simple and forthright words, the most significant career in tech journalism was launched. It has changed the way most of us think about all the gadgets and digital change that has overwhelmed our lives ever since.
Throughout this digital invasion, Walt has been an unfailingly ethical, fair and savvy guide, leading his readers through a complex landscape and putting them at the center of everything he does. That's no small thing. Tech journalism had long been (and still is) littered with fanboy writers who can only seem to cheerlead everything that emerges from Silicon Valley. Even if it was too often not fully formed, and not nearly ready for the average consumer to use. Walt has never done that. Speaking with respect and in plain English to those who have relied on him over the years, he never made the mistake of descending into cynicism or its ugly sibling, snark. When Walt didn't like something, he said so; when he did, he didn't hide his enthusiasm for good work well done. That balance is harder to strike than you might imagine. Being loud and opinionated too often seems to win over an opinion based on rigorous reporting, analysis and, most of all, experience.
We have all benefited from Walt's experience, which has grown and become more profound and valuable over time. I know I have. When I met him, I was a pretty green reporter working on a book about the then-nascent internet (it was so early that it was actually called "online services"). He was one of the few people who clearly understood what was about to happen, and quickly grokked its implications. As a longtime supporter of emerging talent, Walt was unfailingly generous with his time and wisdom, and more. He was the one who got me a job at The Wall Street Journal, even ovewr resistance, to cover this new digital beat.
To say that Walt changed my life is a massive understatement. I moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. and began a long journey, as the tech world became the most influential sector of business and, really, our whole culture. All along that way, Walt has been a mentor, an advisor, a business partner, a co-editor, a co-producer and, most of all, a true friend. I can count on my hand the number of times we have truly disagreed, and there are not enough stars in the sky to number the times he has helped me be a better journalist and person.
Lots of people know Walt - trying to walk with him down the corridors of CES, nearly trampled by admirers who want to say hello and thanks, is what I imagine it must be like to be a rock star - but here are some things I know that you might not:
He is a huge Star Trek fan, and can tell you the plot to every one of the shows, even if you didn't ask. (Don't ask!)
He loves to visit battlefields for reasons I have yet to understand lo these many years.
He smokes cigars, even if he shouldn't, at a cigar store I have never been invited to, ever.
He has been a champion of women his entire career. Once, he wouldn't let me invite Howard Stern to one of our events because he didn't like the way Stern talked about pretty much everyone, especially females.
He orders some sort of wacky Trenta Starbucks coffee that I still never get right after all this time.
He walked me down the aisle for my wedding, was my first visitor after my son was born, and has been present for pretty much every major event since, in good times and bad.
That is perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Walt Mossberg. He's a mensch, a very good man, and the kind of colleague and friend that is both rare and so very valuable to find. And he's always right: technology is still just too hard to use, and it still isn't your fault.
Ingrassia's career path looks quaint in the era of blogs and social media. He began with a gig at a college paper, progressed to a job on a newspaper in a small city where he was able to tackle big subjects on a small platform, and finally worked his way to a national newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.
Ingrassia was not, and is not, a revolutionary by nature. But he saw the importance of revolutions going on around him, and throughout his career sought to illuminate the forces - and the people - driving upheaval. In 1969, the University of Illinois football team had a perfect season - no wins, and 10 losses. It was an ignominious first for a school where football mattered. Ingrassia interviewed some of the seniors on the team, who - once granted anonymity - unloaded in detail what had gone wrong and how they felt about playing for such a losing side. "They have a story to tell - a starkly human story. It is a story of hopes dashed, of turbulent events, of joy, of pain, of bitterness, and disgust," Ingrassia wrote. His instinct that losers also have stories to tell would serve him well later, when the losers in question were the top of executives of the world's largest auto maker. The University of Illinois campus was rocked by sometimes violent anti-war protests during Ingrassia's junior and senior years. Ingrassia, then the paper's editor, confronted police who raided the Daily Illini's offices, demanding film the paper's photographers had shot of the demonstrations. Some of those shots showed a protestor who had jumped the city's police chief and was pummeling him. Ingrassia was unsure what to do with the pictures, fearing the protestor would be identified and arrested for his act. "We just ran the photo," Ingrassia said. "The kid was arrested. It's what you do." By the time Ingrassia graduated from the University of Illinois in 1972, what had started as a means-to-an-end interest in reporting had become a deeper commitment. By 1976, he had landed a job in the Chicago bureau of The Wall Street Journal. In 1985, he was assigned to take over the Journal's bureau in Detroit.
It wasn't immediately obvious, but he had landed in the middle of another revolution - and a turning point in his life. When Ingrassia arrived in Detroit, the conventional view of the U.S. auto industry's story was this: Detroit's Big Three were booming in the Reagan recovery. The Japanese auto makers? Merely an annoyance. U.S. government import quotas and the return of cheap gasoline would see them off. Ingrassia embraced Detroit, making friends among the automotive executives, lawyers and suppliers. He did not, however, embrace the auto industry's group think. Most memorably, in April 1992, General Motors issued a press release announcing that the company's president, Lloyd Reuss, would be replaced. There were other changes at the top, though the company's then- CEO was left in place, and GM declared he had the full support of the company's board. In the days following the announcement, Ingrassia sought out the losers in the shakeup and pursued his hunch that what had happened at GM was nothing less than a coup by the company's outside directors. He persuaded some of the stunned insiders to talk - as he had done with the traumatized members of the Illinois football team years before. This was the era of the imperial CEO. It was unheard of for outside directors at a Fortune 50 company to confront a chief executive, let alone take control of the company. That article, and others about GM's 1992 crisis, led Ingrassia to a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting that he and I shared in 1993, and a Gerald Loeb Award the same year. It also led to Ingrassia's first book deal, and the first of three books about the auto industry he would write in the following years. In 1994, Ingrassia moved into a senior role at the Dow Jones News Service - the "ticker" that was then a revenue engine for the company that owned The Wall Street Journal. He was responsible for hundreds of reporters across a myriad of beats. But he still found time to weigh in on stories, land interviews and attend the Detroit Auto Show. After leaving Dow Jones in 2007, Ingrassia's plan was to downshift and work on a fun book about American cars that captured the spirit of their times. That plan went to hell along with the auto industry in 2008, and Ingrassia saw that the book he had to write was one that dissected the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler into federally funded bankruptcies.
That book, "Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster," was published in January 2010 and became the first book to chronicle the story behind the auto bailout. (The fun book, "Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars," had to wait until 2012.)
Ingrassia's effort to escape daily headlines veered off course again in 2011 when he was recruited to join Reuters as managing editor overseeing a worldwide organization of 2,500 journalists covering everything from famine, flood and war to soybean prices and interest rates. Reuters presented a different scale and a different culture from Dow Jones, but Ingrassia did not change his methods. "Paul didn't know how to open a spreadsheet. But he did know how to talk about news," said Richard Mably, the Reuters editor in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "Staff were surprised to find an editor was actually reading their stories - seemingly every day and at any time of day. And sending them notes when they wrote good ones." Ingrassia instituted a daily global call that, for the first time, gave Reuters editors in Asia, Europe and the Americas a regular forum to talk with each other about the news of the day. He was a reporter first, and when he saw a memorable story, he'd just go ahead and write it. Attending a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after the annexation of Crimea, Ingrassia drew inspiration from the menu. "You can't say Vladimir Putin lacks a pointed sense of humor. The entrée at the Russian president's dinner for news agency editors on Saturday night was 'Crimean flounder.' No kidding," Ingrassia wrote as the lead to his story about the meal. Ingrassia's position at the time did not require him to write anything. He wrote because he enjoyed it and to show journalists who worked for him that "news" is not just the spinach of communiqués and formal policy. It is also the stuff that makes you laugh. Now officially retired, Ingrassia is considering another book project and working with car collector Miles Collier to develop a multimedia publishing operation at an automotive think tank and museum near Naples, Florida. The Revs Institute has an extensive library of automotive literature, a digital archive of classic car photographs and a museum of over 100 vehicles, including Duesenbergs, Bugattis and a Trabant, parked next to a Volkswagen Beetle. Yet again, Ingrassia has found the perfect vehicle for his talents.
James Grant, Grant's Interest Rate Observer
James Flanigan, Los Angeles Times
John Huey, TIME
Jerry Seib, The Wall Street Journal
Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post
Walt Bogdanich, The New York Times
Bill Emmott, The Economist
Daniel Hertzberg, The Wall Street Journal
Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News
Myron Kandel, CNN
Byron E. "Barney" Calame, The New York Times
Louis Rukeyser, CNBC
Floyd Norris, The New York Times
Paul E. Steiger, The Wall Street Journal
Allan Sloan, Newsweek
Norman Pearlstine, TIME
Stephen B. Shepard, Business Week
Alen Abelson, Barron's
Jane Bryant Quinn, Newsweek
Marshall Loeb , Fortune/MONEY Magazine
Leonard S. Silk (Posthumously), The New York Times
James W. Michaels, Forbes
Carol J. Loomis, Fortune
Hobart Rowen, Washington Post
This award is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence Minard, former editor of Forbes Global, who had a long association with the Loeb Awards. An award winner in 1977, he became a preliminary judge in 1984 and joined the panel of final judges in 1987.
The award that bears his name recognizes the contributions of a business editor whose work does not receive a byline or whose face does not appear on the air for the work covered. The establishment of the award acknowledges an area of journalism that often goes unrecognized. In a posthumous tribute, Minard was the first recipient as part of the 2002 Loeb Awards. In 2003, it was given to Glenn Kramon, business editor of The New York Times; in 2004 to Michael Siconolfi, senior editor for financial investigative projects of The Wall Street Journal; in 2005 to Timothy K. Smith, assistant managing editor, Fortune; in 2006 to Ronald Henkoff, executive editor, Bloomberg News, and editor, Bloomberg Markets; in 2007 to Dan Kelly, news editor, Page One, The Wall Street Journal; in 2008 to Frank Comes, former assistant managing editor, BusinessWeek; in 2009 to Lawrence Ingrassia, business and financial editor, The New York Times; in 2010 to Alix Freedman, deputy managing editor, The Wall Street Journal; in 2011 to Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor, Fortune; in 2012 to Winnie O’Kelley, deputy business editor, The New York Times; in 2013 to Michael Williams, global enterprise editor, Reuters; in 2014 to John Brecher, executive editor for enterprise, Bloomberg News; in 2015 to Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy editor-in-chief, The Wall Street Journal; and in 2016 to Amy Stevens, Executive Editor of Professional News, Reuters.
Born Everett Lawrence Minard III, but known as Laury to his friends and colleagues, Minard began his 27-year career at Forbes as a reporter/researcher. He moved up the ranks to become managing editor of Forbes, a position he held for eight years, prior to joining Forbes Global as its founding editor in 1997.
By Jason Gay
Columnist, The Wall Street Journal
After all, I’ve never won a big fancy award like that. It’s insulting. I’m furious. I’m sure every one of you feels exactly the same way.
Yes, if you’ve ever spent time around the Wall Street Journal, you know that Mike Miller has a peerless reputation as a brilliant editor, owing to his vision, curiosity and an unmatched capacity for patience and thoughtfulness.
In a career that has spanned 35 years, Mike has had enormous influence on the Journal, becoming an institution himself — a much-admired, imaginative and calming force in the newsroom.
Blah, blah, blah, all that. I was determined to find out “the dirt” on Mike. There had to be some sort of issue, some problem, some skeleton in his extremely well-organized closet that would unnerve the Loeb foundation and make it reconsider giving him the Minard. Better yet, it would create a vacancy, and I, as the journalist who unmasked Mike Miller as a charlatan, would be the obvious replacement.
I spent the next several weeks talking and emailing with Mike’s friends, colleagues and family. I asked them to tell me the unvarnished truth about Mike, to pull no punches and fear no recriminations. I begged them to treat this as an opportunity to show all the reasons why Mike should not be honored by this cherished journalistic outfit.
Here’s what found. Hold onto your hats:
Mike does not like the word bespectacled.
Mike does not often wear neckties.
Mike is super into granola — as long as it is not too sweet. (Sometimes, he will pair that granola with Icelandic-style yogurt.)
He knows a ton about classical composers, and once was a contestant on the NPR show “Piano Puzzler,” where he won, easily. What a nerdbox.
Mike is very distracted by live music in restaurants. Then again, who isn’t?
Mike is afraid of heights and more than a little afraid of mice.
Journal real estate columnist Beth DeCarbo told me Mike did not know what a carport was. She found this to be evidence Mike needed to spend more time out of New York City.
Mike loves puzzles, and for fun, he will do a puzzle while riding on his exercise bike.
Mike once grew a beard, just to see what that was all about.
Even though he works for the Wall Street Journal, Mike will occasionally do a puzzle from the New York Times, an adorable daily composed steps from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Mike actually wrote a book about how to beat the New York Times crossword puzzle — while he was still in high school. This is even nerdier than winning “Piano Puzzler.”
When his children, Abby and Eli, went away to college, he tried to keep up with what they were doing by downloading Yik-Yak on his phone. He spied on them, basically.
Mike has extremely strong opinions on what makes an optimal chocolate chip cookie.
OK…so this is not exactly Led Zeppelin’s unauthorized memoir. Mike Miller does not appear to be the least bit scandalous. There are toddlers carrying around more dirt than this.
“Digging for dirt, where there is none,” Emily Nelson, another muckety-muck editor at the Journal, wrote to me.
Not helping, Emily!
It is true that Mike has worked his entire professional career at the Wall Street Journal.
He started as an intern in 1983, while still at Harvard, a respected community college not far from Waltham, Ma. When he joined the paper the next year, he covered tech, including nascent companies called Apple and Bloomberg (whatever happened to them?). Mike would later make the move to editing, where his reach would expand from supervising the old “Marketplace” section, known to Journal dorks as the “second front,” to editing Page One, and then to leading the paper’s expanding feature coverage, where he oversaw runaway successes like WSJ Magazine and The Future of Everything.
But still, I needed to know…. does Mike have temper tantrums? Everyone in the news business occasionally has a good-old fashioned public meltdown. What about in his own home? His family must know. “He’s pretty chill,” says Mike’s wife, Sarah Paul, who is pretty chill herself. “He hates rudeness. He hates great white sharks, which have infested the waters around outer Cape Cod, where he loves swimming.”
Mike hates great white sharks. What a jerk. What about road rage? Everyone has road rage. New Yorkers get road rage on the sidewalk. Does Mike Miller at least have that?
“No road rages, sorry,” says Sarah. “I’m the road rager in our family. My rage does annoy him, so I guess you could say he has road rage rage.”
He has road rage rage. Great.
I guess I should also mention that Mike is highly skilled at an underrated aspect of the modern editor’s job: editing. The guy really reads people’s writing. It’s like he’s from the olden days. Mike is the careful editor who reads copy closely enough to find that stray misspelling, grammatical mistake, or, you know, logical fallacy that undermines the entire piece.
I asked WSJ magazine executive editor Chris Knutsen — who assigns very long, sumptuously-written stories on actors and Corsican day spas — for his thoughts on Mike’s editing talent. He said he would do it, as long as he got to see Mike’s face when he read his comments:
“Eagle-eyed and perspicacious, no dangling modifier has ever been a match for Mike Miller. Errors others’ overlook is his specialty. His decades of experience, with no less than hundreds of reporters, has avoided thousands of poorly-phrased and badly-edited prose.”
Thanks Chris. Everyone’s a comic.
This Mike Miller hit piece is turning into a complete disaster. The best scandal I can do is share this story from Emily Nelson:
“J.K. Rowling came to a WSJ editors meeting at the height of Harry Potter,” she says. “The room was packed, highest turnout I’ve ever seen. Everyone is asking flattering questions, and Rowling is talking about her characters and how she wrote backstories for Harry, Hermione and He Who Shall Not Be Named, and on and on.
“Then Mike pipes up: ‘Can’t even you say his name?’ And it was the only question to stump Rowling. He got her to say Voldemort.”
I’m not sure that’s a scandal, but that’s actually pretty great.
Here’s the truth: It turns out Mike Miller does deserve this thing. Journalists like to give awards for the seismic accomplishment — the well-executed story that speaks truth to power, changes policy or unmasks wrongdoing. Over the course of his career, Mike has had a direct hand in many stories like that. But he’s also the kind of editor who has a daily, even hourly effect on the rhythm of a newsroom — through encouragement, integrity, and that hidden gem of a human quality called kindness. His impact on the Journal and his profession is profound.
It’s embarrassing to gush like this, but I’m afraid it’s all true. Of course, Mike Miller is never going to read this. He’s too busy doing a crossword puzzle. Now there’s your scandal.
Newsroom staffers were accusing Jack Kelley, the paper’s Pulitzer-nominated foreign correspondent, of fabricating quotes, locations and even people in his dramatic dispatches from Cuba, the Middle East, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and other hot spots. An initial investigation by top editors had found plenty of warning signs but no real evidence of misconduct.
Enter John Hillkirk. As USA Today’s Money editor, Hillkirk had defied the newspaper’s reputation for quick news bites, pushing instead for deep dives into the safety of Firestone tires, the dangers air bags posed to children and other investigations. Now he was asked to do the unthinkable: launch an investigation of a star reporter.
Newsroom staffers were accusing Jack Kelley, the paper’s Pulitzer-nominated foreign correspondent, of fabricating quotes, locations and even people in his dramatic dispatches from Cuba, the Middle East, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and other hot spots. An initial investigation by top editors had found plenty of warning signs but no real evidence of misconduct. Enter John Hillkirk. As USA Today’s Money editor, Hillkirk had defied the newspaper’s reputation for quick news bites, pushing instead for deep dives into the safety of Firestone tires, the dangers air bags posed to children and other investigations. Now he was asked to do the unthinkable: launch an investigation of a star reporter.
After assembling a staff of five hard-nosed reporters, Hillkirk spent an extraordinary three months examining more than 1,400 stories Kelley wrote from 1987 to 2003. Under Hillkirk’s direction, the team found that Kelley had made up parts of at least 20 stories, lifted hundreds of passages from other publications and falsified expense reports to cover up his misdeeds.
“John was in an impossible position, and yet he shouldered all the responsibility,” recalls Blake Morrison, a member of the Kelley reporting team and now chief investigations editor at Reuters. “He knew the stakes — his bosses could lose their jobs (and did) — but John insulated the reporting team from any repercussions. In short, he implored us — in his quiet but determined manner — to find the truth. He calmed nerves and cooled tempers.” When the investigation into Kelley’s deceit ran in the newspaper and online, it was hailed as a model of transparency and self-examination. Kelley resigned and apologized. The newspaper, bruised but proud, moved on.
So did Hillkirk.
As USA Today’s leadership changed in the wake of the Kelley scandal, Hillkirk was named executive editor in 2004 and top editor in 2009, at a time when digital technology was changing the inner workings of every newsroom.
Hillkirk’s career made him the perfect editor for the Era of Disruption. He had written three books — Xerox: American Samurai, with Gary Jacobson, published in 1986 (named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by Businessweek); Grit, Guts & Genius, again with Jacobson, out in 1989; and 1991’s A Better Idea: Redefining the Way Americans Work, with Ford CEO Donald Petersen — all examining how companies manage changing environments and technologies.
Hillkirk oversaw the early tech transition as USA Today appeared on Kindles, iPads, iPhones and Android devices. But Hillkirk’s most lasting achievement was to champion investigative journalism from the earliest days of the often-derided McPaper. In the late 1990s, USA Today documented deadly problems with Bridgestone/Firestone tires that cost 148 lives even though the company appeared to know about the dangers. The tire recalls led to laws carrying 15-year jail terms if managers knowingly sell unsafe products.
“On the Firestone story, the auto team did incredible work in no small part because John pushed us every day,” says Judith Barra Austin, an editor on the team. “We constantly broke news because he wouldn’t let up and he wouldn’t allow us to let up.”
In 1996, Hillkirk’s auto team revealed that front-seat air bags had a deadly side effect: they were dangerous for strapped-in children. The reporting led to the air bag warnings now found on car sun visors. One story, “Deadly Airbags: How a Government Prescription for Safety Became a Threat to Children,” is routinely cited by auto experts and Washington analysts.
“John was very involved with air bags, very hands-on,” recalls reporter Jayne O’Donnell. “He was relentless about things dangerous to children and used to push me to get more, to dig deeper.”
After his two-year stint as USA Today’s editor, Hillkirk returned to his investigative roots. As managing editor for investigations, he delivered a robust series of projects, winning 56 awards from 2012 to 2015, including being named a Pulitzer finalist (“Pumped-Up Pensions,” 2013). He received awards from duPont–Columbia, Bartlett & Steele and APM (“Ghost Factories,” about hidden lead waste near schools and homes, 2013); a Gerald Loeb Award; an ONA award for innovation; IRE and APME awards (“Fugitive Next Door,” about criminals easily crossing state lines, 2014); and many more.
Now Hillkirk is senior enterprise projects editor for Kaiser Health News (KHN) and already has delivered investigations on orphan-drug regulations being manipulated by drugmakers, and how urine testing has become a booming business, especially for doctors who operate their own labs. In short, Hillkirk’s entire career has been about how business, regulators and laws pose dangers to some of the most vulnerable among us.
Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and founding publisher of KHN, says, “We have been fortunate to have had John lead the creation and management of KHN’s enterprise and investigative reporting team.” David Rousseau, vice president of media and technology at KFF and publisher of KHN, adds, “John made our newsroom better and more impactful from the moment he joined KHN.”
From his early days as an investigative reporter to his many years as editor and team leader, Hillkirk has built a career of achievement, of leadership and of impact, not only for his staff, but also for millions of readers.
When Nick Varchaver receives the first draft of a feature story from one of his writers, there is typically little delay before "the process" begins. He prints up a fresh copy, changing the font to Times New Roman, the point size to 12, and the right margin to a narrow 3 5/8". Then he bends over the draft at his desk, immovable as a plaster cast, a hand at each temple, and reads. When he is done, he will read it a second time-and a third, fourth, fifth, and often sixth time before he says a word to the writer.
The writers have learned to love the wait, shocking as that may seem. For during that time something extraordinary will occur- and they know it. Their stories will get immeasurably stronger, smarter, better. Their prose will get more precise. Their thinking, sharper. This, before a single word is changed. It all happens in Varchaver's head, and in the former white space of each page of the draft now filled with ballpoint scrawls, and in the long emails to the writer that will surely follow: Do you mean this (fill-in-the-blank)... or do you mean this? As Varchaver himself will say, "I'm a hard case for clarity." By fully immersing himself, he's able to see the way forward. "I once asked him what he looks for in this trance of reading and rereading," recalls Clifton Leaf, Fortune's editor-in-chief. "And Nick answered, 'All of a sudden, things that make sense the first five times I read them...stop making sense.'""What he didn't say, of course, is how damn good he is at finding what ultimately does make sense in any given tale," says Leaf. "Nick has an uncommon talent for identifying the holes in an argument-or pinpointing that key nugget that's missing from a narrative-and then helping his writers fill those gaps gracefully."
Varchaver began developing that keen sense of story at The American Lawyer, where he landed a job as a reporter shortly after receiving a Master's degree at Columbia Journalism School. At The American Lawyer, he also got his first taste of Steve Brill-and of Brill's reporting rigor, which Varchaver relished from the start. There, he wrote a number of powerful stories on the criminal justice system, including one feature about an Indianapolis man jailed for 19 months without ever being brought to trial-including for four months after prosecutors had dropped the charges-which the late Anthony Lewis of the Times praised for its "meticulous care" in reporting. Later stints took him to SmartMoney, and then to Brill's Content, before he was recruited by Fortune in 1999 to run the magazine's short-lived "e-Company" section and to write the occasional deep-dive feature-tales that often explored the dark edges of both business and humanity. A profile of inventor and serial litigant Jerome Lemelson captured the bizarre scene of a cancer-ridden, billionaire patent troll, celebrating yet one more empty legal victory from his hospital deathbed. Another piece-the definitive 11,000-word saga of Bernie Madoff that he wrote with James Bandler and Doris Burke-stirringly revealed the shame of the notorious swindler as he faced his accusers in court. (That story won the 2010 Loeb award for magazine reporting. With the Minard prize, Varchaver will now be one of only three people to win a Loeb for both writing and editing.)
But it was as an editor-particularly of complex corporate narratives and investigative pieces-that Varchaver found his true calling. In 2011, he edited "Inside Pfizer's Palace Coup," written by Peter Elkind, Jennifer Reingold, and Doris Burke, which won a Loeb Award the following year. Then, in 2013, he shepherded two features - Katherine Eban's "Dirty Medicine" and Reingold's "Squeezing Heinz" - that would later be named finalists for the Loeb. The year after that, Varchaver pulled off the same feat - editing two more Loeb finalists: Elkind's "Inside Elon Musk's $1.4 Billion Score" and Reingold's unforgettable tale of Ron Johnson disastrous run as J.C. Penney's CEO ("How to Fail in Business While Really, Really Trying"). Last year, yet another Varchaver-edited story-Peter Elkind's "Inside The Hack Of The Century," was a Loeb finalist. In the case of the J.C. Penney narrative, the editor helped Reingold reconstruct a telling anecdote that captured the board's self-involved disconnection from the calamity unfolding around it: a squabble over the chewiness of the chocolate-chip cookies served to them in quarterly meetings.
That element of human frailty-be it hubris, desperation, yearning, or some other consuming emotion-can be found in many of the stories Varchaver edits. He has a sixth sense for their often-obscured roles in unfolding business plots, say his writers. "The really scary thing is," says Reingold, "sometimes he can channel my own thoughts better than I can. I'll elaborate on something; he'll write it down. Then I'll wish I'd written it that way in the first place." "Nick is the unsung hero of every story of mine that he has edited," says Elkind, who spent two decades writing features for Fortune. "I've never had a more thoughtful and gifted editor-and I've worked with several great ones." Indeed, talk to any of Varchaver's writers and fellow editors over the years and they all return to the same themes: "his relentless effort to make the most complex story clearer, smarter, and fairer," as Elkind puts it; "the countless hours he spends structuring and streamlining," as his longtime Fortune colleague Brian O'Keefe says; and his uncanny ability, notes Reingold, "to extract the story's true essence." The legendary financial journalist Carol Loomis, who spent six decades at Fortune-earning no fewer than five lifetime achievement awards, including one of her four Loebs-says that when she looks back at stories of hers that Varchaver edited, she is invariably "grateful once again" for the guidance he supplied. "When Nick was my editor, I always knew I had his full attention," says Loomis. "If my story had holes in the first draft-lacked an air-tight argument, say, as to why we were spending 6,000 words on this subject at this precise time-he had a viewpoint and a plan for attacking the problem. Then he would leave me alone to think about it. And when I produced another draft, he was ready to give it a meticulous, close edit." Says Loomis, "It always improved the story."
Arlyn Gajilan, deputy editor for professional news at Reuters, notes that "Editors are usually one of three things. Some are wordsmiths capable of recasting sentences and weaving together paragraphs into compelling narratives. Some are skilled strategists with the ability to deploy reporting teams just where news is about to break. Others are mentors whose news judgment, depth of experience and wise guidance shape a generation of journalists. Amy is all three. She's a rarity in our profession."
After studying literature at Yale University, Stevens earned a law degree from Berkeley. Rather than practice, though, she joined The Wall Street Journal initially as a legal reporter, quickly impressing editors with her razor-sharp legal mind, her reporting skills and her refreshingly witty writing style. Stevens' first post for the Journal was in Los Angeles as a legal affairs reporter. Her colleague at the time, David Jefferson, recalls, "When Amy first arrived in the L.A. bureau of the Journal in the early 1990s, we were all impressed and a bit intimidated by her credentials. Not only did she come with great national news experience, she was a Yale grad and had earned a law degree! So we asked ourselves, 'What kind of crazy person spends all that time training to be a lawyer, only to become a lowly paid reporter?!' Soon, Amy filed a front-page article for the Journal and we all knew the answer: Amy was indeed insane - an insanely talented journalist!" A few years later, Stevens moved to New York to launch a weekly column for the Journal on the business of law. But her skill set stretched well beyond legal reporting. She became an editor on Page One, overseeing long-form, narrative projects, including an investigation into why sub- Saharan African women who were HIV positive were being urged by UNICEF to breastfeed their babies - the opposite of the advice given to women in developed countries. The story was included in the book, "The Best Business Stories of the Year: 2002 Edition," among other honors.
In January 2004, she was named editor of Weekend Journal, where she brought the rigorous reporting standards and lively writing of Page One and infused it into stories on topics from travel to tennis. She encouraged her writers and editors to treat the newspaper's main feature as a magazine cover - and relentlessly pored over drafts to make sure that readers would become irreversibly drawn in. She left the Journal after 16 years to become a deputy editor at Condé Nast Portfolio. At that magazine, in addition to editing long-form articles, Stevens edited and oversaw the front-of-the-book section, which won a National Magazine Award in 2008. "Her oeuvre spanned complex investigative pieces, sparkling features and gripping narratives. Quite a few of the articles she edited led to book contracts, including Helene Cooper's harrowing tale about her family's exile from Liberia and Lucette Lagnado's account of her Jewish family's life in Egypt," said former Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman. When the magazine folded in 2009, she took a brief detour into another medium, serving as supervising editor of the NPR program "Planet Money," before joining Reuters in 2010. Stevens joined Reuters to create a team charged with providing news for the company's legal clients and to ramp up legal coverage for financial and media clients. Her effort has blossomed into a thriving, 25-person operation that provides groundbreaking legal news for the Reuters wire and targeted news for Thomson Reuters' legal customers across several specialized areas.
Stevens is a born teacher - and it's not just the greener reporters who benefit from her guidance. "I had many years of editing experience when I went to work for Amy, with some very accomplished and demanding editors, but Amy has a special ability to impart wisdom while making the experience fun," said Eric Effron, Reuters' editor in charge of company news. "'You need to place the gem in the setting,' she told me about the first story I edited after I joined the Reuters legal team in 2010. I didn't know what she was talking about, but then she explained that while the story in question contained some excellent reporting ('the gem'), readers would fail to appreciate this unless it was clearly put in context. 'Think of the readers,' she said. They need to be oriented so the value of the precious information is apparent to them and not just sparkling in our own heads." It's an anecdote that exemplifies the special qualities Stevens brings to an editor - clever and demanding, but also humor and empathy. Former colleague Mike Miller recalls that lighter side of Stevens' personality when celebrating important milestones during their time in California: "I only wish NYC had a version of Farrell's which was the destination for every kid having a birthday party in San Diego. We would pack into the Country Squire (or some version thereof), fight over a spot in the way back, and then head for the restaurant in the Fashion Valley Mall. You had to order a 'zoo,' which was a giant silver bowl full of many different flavors of ice cream with little plastic animals stuck in it, amidst the candles. "We ended up eating sweet cold slop with broken purple giraffe legs and bits of wax and ash... but YUM," Miller laughs.
Rebecca Blumenstein, The Wall Street Journal
John Brecher, Bloomberg News
Michael Williams, Reuters
Winnie O'Kelley, The New York Times
Hank Gilman, Fortune
Alix Freedman, The Wall Street Journal
Lawrence Ingrassia, The New York Times
Dan Kelly, The Wall Street Journal
Frank Comes, BusinessWeek
Ronald Henkoff , Bloomberg
Timothy K. Smith, Fortune
Michael Siconolfi, The Wall Street Journal
Glenn Kramon, The New York Times
Lawrence Minard, Forbes