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    Credit: PHOTO COURTESY HOME ESCAPES

An in-depth feature article on the design, standards and controversy surrounding pool suction-outlet covers has won the 2012 Jesse H. Neal Award, widely considered the Pulitzer Prize of business media.

“Covering the Drain,” which first appeared in the Oct, 28, 2011, issue of Pool & Spa News, received the nod for Best Technical Content during an awards ceremony March 16 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York.

The article was written by Rebecca Robledo and edited by Erika Taylor. Graphic artists Denise Baker and Tim Bobko also were honored for their layout and design work.

“We’re still ecstatic over the win,” said Taylor, editor of Pool & Spa News. “To be granted the ultimate recognition from some of today’s leading journalists is both gratifying and humbling.”

In fact, this is the second straight year Robledo and Taylor have taken top prize in the Best Technical Content category. The article “SVRS,” which offered a comprehensive report on safety vacuum release systems, won in 2011.

Marking their 58th year, the Neal Awards are sponsored by American Business Media, an association serving the business-to-business media model. In 2012, the group’s prestigious awards program drew approximately 725 entries in 18 categories.

Judging, which was conducted by editors and publishers from some of the nation’s top newspapers and magazines, involved multiple rounds over the course of several months.

“Just being nominated once in a journalist’s lifetime is a high recognition,” said Dick Coleman, publisher of Pool & Spa News. “But actually winning a Neal Award is, indeed, a very high honor for a very talented and professional journalist who has made us all very proud.”

Inspired by the massive drain-cover recall that took place in late spring 2011, “Covering the Drain” provided groundbreaking information and acute analysis of this critical product. The article expertly deconstructed the science behind the equipment, the criteria that govern them, and the various testing procedures that are utilized to ensure their integrity.

The editorial package was accompanied by a number of striking visual elements, including time-lapse video captures of a body-entrapment study, diagrams illustrating how the products function, and a timeline of key events leading up to the recall.

“It’s startling to look at all the considerations involved in designing and testing drain covers for safety,” Robledo said. “We’re so grateful to the sources who gave us an insider’s look at this complicated issue. They truly helped us fill a need, which we know existed based on the feedback we’ve received from both inside and outside the industry.”

The magazine captured its first Neal Award in 2007 with the feature story “In the Minority,” a winner in the Best Single Article category.

Pool & Spa News, based in Los Angeles, is a publication of Hanley Wood Business Media.