The Society of American Business Editors and Writers will honor the nation’s top young business journalist with a new award named after one of its past presidents.
The Larry Birger Young Business Journalist Award will be presented March 29 at SABEW’s annual spring conference at the Cronkite School in Phoenix.
Made possible by a $5,000 gift from rbb Public Relations of Miami, Fla., the award will commemorate Birger, the former Miami Herald business editor who led SABEW as president in 1977. Birger was later a principal in rbb until his death in 1998.
“Larry was a business-minded person who explored business solutions and communications,” said Christine Barney, CEO of rbb. “We want this to a be a reminder of the importance of good journalism.”
The award is defined for professional journalists up to age 30.
“We’re pleased to do this in Larry’s honor,” said Kevin G. Hall, SABEW president. “This supports the next generation of great business journalists. More than ever, we are committed to spotlighting the best in business journalism.”
The initial award will be decided by a panel of four judges – a SABEW officer and three others — and presented at the 2014 SABEW conference. SABEW will award a cash prize of $500 to the winner and pay for that journalist’s expenses to pick up the award. Consideration will be for an individual’s body of work.
Applicants will be asked to write a letter detailing their work. They would also be asked to include a letter of recommendation from a supervising editor.
Jurors would consider applicants during January and determine the winner the first week of February.
“Besides this being a fitting tribute to Larry Birger, this is a recognition of the essential role that journalists (and journalism) play in our business, in our society and in our everyday life,” said Lisa Ross, president at rbb.
Respected by his peers and revered by younger journalists who worked with him, the cigar-chomping Birger was a pioneer in business journalism, recalled Gail DeGeorge, a later SABEW president who also was business editor at the Herald.
Passionate about the importance of covering the local business community, Birger launched Business Monday at the Herald in July 1980, creating a publication whose format was copied by dozens of newspapers across the country.
“He was a guy who wasn’t afraid to pound his fist on the table with the higher-ups to devote more resources to local business coverage,’’ said David Satterfield, who worked as a reporter at the business section for Birger and later became business editor. “He was a very strong proponent of local business coverage.”
He also mentored many. That aspect of his personality surprised Bruce Rubin after Birger became a partner in Rubin Barney & Birger the precursor to rbb in 1994. Rubin remembers young associates at the firm, many of whom had never worked at newspapers, spending sessions with Birger on Friday mornings in the conference room. “You could have blown me over with a feather how the young kids and Larry liked each other,” said Rubin.
Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Birger died Dec. 18, 1998, at age 71. The conference room at rbb still bears his name and a scholarship at the School of Business at the University of Miami was established in his honor.