I have great news! I learned last month that an article from Pool & Spa News was named a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award.

The “Neal” is widely thought of as the Pulitzer Prize of trade journalism and even though we haven’t won (yet!), just becoming a finalist is an enormous honor.

Our feature is up for Best Single Article, and I’m proud to say that the category is one of the most competitive. Here’s an overview of how Neal judging works: First, every entry is read by a group of journalists, most of whom are editors of trade magazines. They “grade” each article, and those scoring in the top 10 percent progress to the next round.

The second stage is even tougher. Those judges are high-level publishing executives who scrutinize the remaining entries and whittle them down to three finalists in each category. (That’s where Pool & Spa News is now.)

Then, in a third round, editors from highly respected publications such as The Washington Post determine the winners.

The Neal awards are handed out at a luncheon on March 22, and that’s when we’ll find out if Pool & Spa News is among the winners.

Being named a finalist in such a difficult competition is enough to make any editor proud. But what added to my sense of accomplishment was knowing that such an important article was chosen to receive the honor. “In the Minority” was written by Shabnam Mogharabi and ran in our Nov. 6, 2006, issue. It examines the disproportionately large drowning rate among minorities in the United States, and discusses why the aquatics industry has been unable to stop this tragic cycle.

In researching the piece, Shabnam spoke with dozens of individuals and combed numerous databases to create a groundbreaking feature written with insight, authority and compassion.

Please join me in congratulating Shabnam for a job well done!