McKenna Selected As Finalist: 2010 Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism

They say be careful what you wish for….

Back in early January I received an email from Jonathan Daillak, Loeb Awards Program Manager at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  He was inviting me to submit an entry for the award’s Online Commentary/Blogging category.  Being a non-journalist, non-jaded SME who writes, I was thrilled. But I wasn’t sure if they really meant it.

I called Jonathan and asked if he really meant it.  He wrote back:

I would like to personally invite you to submit an entry for the Loeb Awards.  This is our first year taking the Awards online and the first year we have a category just for bloggers: Online Commentary & Blogging. Taking the Awards online and reaching out to the online community of writers has been a learning experience for us.  We realize the contribution that you and your community make to the understanding of business, finance, and the economy for the private investors and the general public.

I want you to be part of the Loeb Awards…which since 1957 it has been the highest honor in business journalism by recognized writers, editors and producers in the subjects of business, finance and the economy.

Jonathan also emphasized the importance of choosing examples of my writing that included comments and reader interaction.

I sent the following three pieces from 2009, including the text  of reader comments.  I think they are some of the best examples of original reporting and reader involvement from that year:

They Werenʼt There: Auditors And The Financial Crisis (12 comments)

KPMG Has A $1 Billion New Century Problem (23 comments)

Veteranʼs Day In PwC Advisory: Say Auf Wiedersehen (366 comments)

On Monday night I saw the press release naming me as a finalist for the 2010 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the Online Commentary/Blogging category.  This is a new category for the awards, just as it is new for traditional media to consider “bloggers” or independent investigative journalists equal to those who work for major dailies or magazines.  The proliferation of online content means that readers need an open mind and an increased level of discernment to find reliable content that informs, inflames and engages them.

When I started this blog or “specialized news site focusing on the business of the Big 4 audit firms,” I did so as a platform for a future book.  I planned to write about the accounting/audit industry – its unique business model and its failure to protect shareholders.

During the last three and a half years, the tools available to an independent subject matter expert who wants to write have matured considerably and the book has taken a back seat.  I started on Blogger – free, easy, no technical knowledge necessary – and migrated to WordPress a little more than a year ago.  I have been fortunate to have the help of Jason Moriber at Wise Elephant.  He has provided many, many hours of support both personal and professional during the past 18 months.

I say very emphatically in my Disclaimer that I am not a journalist.

I am not a journalist and this is not a newspaper or even a tabloid newsmagazine.

On the contrary.

In my dreams I’m a lawyer fighting for social justice and the right of anyone to cross the Rio Grande in an inner tube to earn $5 an hour replacing the Japanese guys at my neighborhood sushi place.

The views on this blog are mine alone (because it’s all about me), and not the views of any of the various plain vanilla white guys that I have worked for over the years.  I expressly abdicate responsibility for any liability of any kind or nature with respect to any act or omission based wholly or in part in reliance on anything contained on this blog or in any audit reports I have ever written.

But, in spite of my desire to not compete with the professionals, the world has changed.  I’m a girl with a MacBook, sitting in Chicago, with only her wits, her ego and twenty-five years of experience in an industry most find boring.  But I can now use these tools in a powerful way to gain attention to the government sponsored franchise the rest of you call public accounting.

The writing should make my case, prima facie, about why it’s important for you to read it.  Events have caught up to my rhetoric. My natural tendency to investigate, instigate and illuminate has resulted in a specialized news site offering opinion, analysis and, most importantly, original reporting about a critical component of our capital markets system.

My goal is always to produce content not found anywhere else. I’m writing about an industry I know well and one I feel more people should understand and appreciate. Some of my work has been newsworthy. Readers are finding it useful to make decisions, make policy and make up their minds.

Of course, every good thing in the media world – awards, Top Ten lists, riches and acclaim – comes with some detractors.  Felix Salmon was quick to dismiss the idea of a Loeb award for “bloggers”:

Reuters nominated me for the Online Commentary and Blogging category and I didn’t make the final four. And this is the point at which according to convention I should talk about how wonderful the nominees are and how any of them will make a worthy winner. But I won’t…The other two finalists are more familiar to the blogosphere: Francine McKenna’s single-minded blog on auditors and David Pogue’s chatty blog at the NYT, where he interacts with the readers of his technology-review column. Certainly it’s impossible to imagine either of them being nominated for any other prize at the Loebs, but that just underlines how weird this award is: it’s meant to recognize that great business journalism has moved online and into the blogosphere and should be awarded when it appears there just as when it appears in print or on TV — but in doing so it seems to be happy to give up some quite specific standards of what great business journalism should be.

Well…you can judge for yourself whether my work could ever compete in any other category or whether it’s “great business journalism.”  I’m ok with being referred to as “single-minded.”  In fact, writing about the same four firms and their foibles over and over is the secret of my success.  I’m biased but I’m independent and objective.  If you’re looking for a critique of the audit firms, you’ve come to the right place.  But I do not promise balance.

And I make no apologies.

I’ll be happy to have dinner on June 29th with some of the great business journalists. I’ve had the support and endorsement of many of them along the way. I’m also very grateful for the support of Ryan Chittum and Dean Starkman at the Columbia Journalism Review.

I’ve been linked to and quoted many times by some great finance/business blogs including FT Alphaville, Naked Capitalism and Zero Hedge.  I’ve also been quoted and sourced by some of those who are also finalists like Louise Story and Matthew Goldstein.  I’m happy to serve in either capacity since I’m a subject matter expert who writes and still have a lot to learn.

But, watch out.

I catch on quick.

21 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while. I am actually disappointed. You are too self congratulatory. There is not enough substance to this blog. I was expecting more suggestions on how to improve the profession and the rules.

  2. Mark O'Connor
    Mark O'Connor says:

    A close friend of mine often says, “It’s not easy being me.” I suspect you’ve mumbled similar sentiments in exasperation at various times over the past three years. After example number three above, perhaps? I first noticed your coverage of the industry in early 2007 and have been a dedicated follower ever since. I’m truly glad to see you get some of the recognition you deserve as an advocate for a cause that so many wish for, but too few are willing to openly support. Congratulations, and thank you…

  3. Kevin Funnell
    Kevin Funnell says:

    Congratulations, Francine. I, too, got a chuckle out of “single-minded” being used as a criticism. This might come as a shock to Salmon and his self-referential, self-reverential buddies within his daisy chain (watch them on Twitter blow air kisses to each other constantly, if you’ve got the stomach for it), but there are many people who don’t give a fig for his opinions about anything, much less his opinion of your blog. He sounds not only condescending, but petty and jealous.

  4. Shari Thompson
    Shari Thompson says:

    Congratulations Francine!

    I often forward your writings to friends of mine in the audit/accounting world, to answer their question of is there anyone out there brave enough to write the truth about the big auditors and their clients.

  5. Francine
    Francine says:

    @Rossana @Mark @Kevin @Shari

    Thanks! I appreciate your support in the past and hope to continue to earn it in the future.

    @Anonymous #2 If you are looking for technical there are many better sites, I agree. That’s not my focus. This is about the business of the firms, the industry. If you’re looking for solutions, or at least my opinion of how the firms can do better, I’ve written many times on that subject. But even better are the comments from the readers. I’d ask you to take a another look.


  6. Mary Anne
    Mary Anne says:

    Congrats to my sister, blog mentor, Big 4 High Priestess. Keep on doing what you do best and what you enjoy. It’s a winning formula. Good luck in the competition!

  7. Umair
    Umair says:

    Many Many Many Congrats Ms.Francine McKenna,Your articles are best & show the Dark/true side of Big 4 CA Firms( Member Firms Globally).The people who critique you are one sided,need to have a hard look at themselves & in the mirror…This is a fact Big 4 shed employees at every level like the trees shed leaves in Autumm. Now they are back on Hiring Spree as the Global Business world(Recover,though still shaky & cautious).Those people with SELF RESPECT will not work with them again.If they have any DIGNITY…I really LIKE your articles on the other side of Globe from US & usually it’s next day as for this article it’s 26 May here…

  8. Tenacious Truman
    Tenacious Truman says:

    Congratulations, Francine!
    Regardless of whether you feel you are truly a “journalist” it appears that others think you qualify! I’m so very happy for you to get the recognition for all of your dedication and efforts, most of which were made with no clear idea of any ROI.

    Anony @ 2 —

    Wow. You must be a big hit at parties. I suggest you change your User Name to “Inappropriate Timing” because it fits you so well.

    “I am actually disappointed.” Disappointed that other people recognized value that you missed? Really? Disappointed that people whose (part-time) jotb it is to recognize quality found some here? Is that really how you feel?

    “There is not enough substance to this blog.” Perhaps. And yet you and many others keep coming back, over and over. I wonder why that may be?

    Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t YOU start your own blog, focusing on “suggestions on how to improve the profession and the rules.” Then you will be recognized for the value you add, and perhaps even nominated for an award! You can show Francine how it’s really supposed to be done …

    Though I have to say, right now I have you in the running for a different kind of award.

    Jeezus. Some people …

    — Tenacious T.

  9. anon
    anon says:

    Congrats! You write about what most ethical public accountants see, experience, and want to shout about and share with from rooftops everywhere.

  10. Looking under the visor
    Looking under the visor says:

    Congratulations, Francine! Your passion & unhesitating strength of mind are rare indeed – in any profession. Although not part of your industry, I have been reading your posts since 2008 and find your writing both engaging & enlightening. Good luck with the award!

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