AP’s Lisa Gibbs is 2016 Business Journalist of the Year
When Associated Press health reporter Matthew Perrone discovered documents from a secret health care lobbying group created to thwart efforts to limit prescription painkillers, global business editor Lisa Gibbs encouraged him to dig deeper.
“It took a long time to get those documents, to sort them,” said Perrone. “This was months and months before it congealed into a multi-part series. I think other editors under the circumstances would have said, ‘You’ve been working on this for three, four, five months, where is the story?’ Lisa was patient for the entire time. She realized the value of what we were finding.”
The result was a two-part series with the Center for Public Integrity — the first cooperative project of its kind between the AP and an outside news organization.
Other AP reporters and editors recount similar stories. Food reporter Candice Choi was let loose to investigate the many ways the food industry tried to manipulate public opinion to embrace products as being healthy when they were not. Retail reporter Anne D’Innocenzio was sent to China to tell the story of how the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, was struggling to build its empire overseas.
Economics reporter Paul Wiseman, as part of a series looking at economic divisions in America, was assigned to report on how Chinese competition in the aluminum industry had decimated Midwest towns. Another economics reporter, Chris Rugaber, dug into how national economic statistics weren’t capturing what typical people were experiencing economically.
The harder-hitting business news coverage from the wire service is one of the reasons why Talking Biz News has selected Gibbs as its 2016 Business Journalist of the Year.
“She has a way of connecting with reporters and editors that helps us to succeed,” said AP deputy business editor Brad Foss. “The strength of ideas and reporting that has come out of her leadership shows what kind of business news entity the AP wants to be — business news for a general audience.”
Past winners of the Talking Biz News Business Journalist of the Year include The Wall Street Journal’s David Benoit, David Riley of Bloomberg News, Quartz’s Kevin Delaney, Joe Weisenthal when he was at Business Insider and Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times. Gibbs is the first woman to win the award, and only the second editor beside Delaney.
Amy Resnick, the editor of Pensions & Investments, says Gibbs is a role model for other female business journalists.
“Having a woman like Lisa Gibbs at the table when coverage planning and resource allocation decisions are made for one of the world’s largest news organizations is critical both for coverage today and for modeling women leaders of the future,” said Resnick. “Men and women communicate and problem solve differently. It benefits both the AP and its readers and customers to have a diverse group making decisions.”
There’s a reason why some of AP’s 60 business news staffers have been able to break away from covering daily news stories to dig into their beats. Under Gibbs, the AP has begun publishing more than 3,000 earnings stories every quarter using software from Automated Insights. While that project had begun before Gibbs arrived at the wire in August 2014, she oversaw its launch, which has allowed reporters this year to dig into meatier stories instead of spending time looking up whether a company’s earnings beat or missed Wall Street expectations and listening to earnings conference calls.
In addition, Gibbs has overseen other advances at the AP this year. She tapped transportation reporter Scott Mayerowitz to lead an initiative to produce more business news stories in a digital format. She created a partnership with personal finance site NerdWallet to provide its content to AP’s clients. She’s working with others in the AP to see how it can automate more stories. And she beefed up the AP’s coverage of municipal bonds.
All of those efforts are aimed at one goal — providing better business journalism for a general audience that spans the globe.
“We are not Reuters or Bloomberg, but we have a massive audience interested in business news for real people,” said Brian Carovillano, vice president for U.S. news at the AP and Gibbs’ immediate supervisor. “It’s not for institutional investors. She has done a great job retooling the department to accomplish that.”
Gibbs joined the AP from Money magazine, where she was a three-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award and shared the honor with her colleagues in 2012 for a series on protecting an aging parent’s money. Before that, she was executive business editor of the Miami Herald and South Florida editor of Florida Trend magazine. She’s a former Society of American Business Editors and Writers board member and is one of the co-organizers of its 2017 conference in Seattle.
It’s her ability to organize and get the most out of the AP staff that drew praise from those within and outside the Associated Press.
For example, for the “Divided America” series, the AP teamed economic reporters with those in bureaus across the country to tell the stories of how the economy was affecting small-town America and influencing the 2016 presidential election. “She can envision great stories and pull the people together to make them happen,” said Carovillano. “She figured that out in record time.”
The series produced more than two dozen stories.
Jon Fahey, former AP global markets editor under Gibbs and now its global health editor, marveled at how she was able to get editors and reporters to look at overlooked stories about what people do every day — work, shop, eat, invest and plan.
One example is Choi’s coverage of the food industry and its efforts to fund research and scientists at universities to produce studies that downplay the harmful effects of what they eat. Choi has written a number of stories, using public records requests to universities, exposing those relationships.
“She talks not in terms of stories about health care or the economy or banking,” said Fahey. “Instead she pushes people to think about stories about how people experience the health care system of the economy, or how people interact with their bank. The stories that emerge as a result are almost by definition more relevant to people because they are about people.
“I know it sounds simple,” said Fahey. “But when it comes to business journalism it doesn’t happen enough.”