Kansas City Star business columnist Jerry Heaster was named winner Tuesday of the Society of American Business Editors & Writers’ President’s Award.
Heaster is retiring this month after 27 years as a columnist and editor at the Star and is a former president and board member for the business journalism organization, based in Columbia, MO.
The award, of which only four have been given in the society’s history, is meant to honor Heaster’s long career and his efforts in the 1980s to build SABEW and business journalism in general, said current SABEW President Jonathan Lansner of The Orange County Register.
Heaster said that when he became president in 1980, the organization had around 50 dues-paying members. He and others on the board made SABEW a resource for business journalists at a time when that sector of the media was still in its infancy.
SABEW today has more than 3,500 members.
“SABEW owes him – and our other early leaders – a great debt for their vision to see the need of educating workers of our craft,” Lansner said. “And I cannot fathom the hard work it must have been to be SABEW president in an era without our modern communication conveniences.”
Heaster, who spent nine years at The Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, before joining the Star in 1979, said he liked that SABEW helped make business journalism a more professional area of coverage.
“I have just loved doing this job, and working with the people in this business,” Heaster said.
The three previous recipients of the service award were: Gene Mills, one of the groupâ€™s founders in the early 1960s; Doris Barnhart, who worked for SABEW in the early years when the organizationâ€™s membership records were kept on 3×5 index cards; and Chicago Tribune financial columnist and former SABEW president Bill Barnhart (no relation to Doris) who served as editor of The Business Journalist for most of a 15-year stretch on the board of governors.