It was a proud moment last week when for the second straight year, SI won the National Magazine Award for magazines with a circulation of one million or more. Since the American Society of Magazine Editors began regularly awarding the general excellence Ellie in 1981 (an Ellie being a reproduction of Alexander Calder's stabile "Elephant," ASME's version of an Oscar), only two other publications, New England Monthly (under 100,000 circulation category) and Science81 and Science82 (400,000 to one million), have won for general excellence in successive years. SI is the first magazine to do so in the largest-circulation category, and we were bowled over. As managing editor Mark Mulvoy noted in accepting the award, "We in sports know how hard it is to repeat."
Entrants in the general excellence competition were required to submit three issues published in 1989. The three we chose: the Feb. 27 issue, which featured thuggery involving football players at the University of Oklahoma and athletes at other colleges; March 13, a typically eclectic edition of SI, with Michael Jordan on the cover and stories on subjects ranging from the spoiled ways of tennis star Andre Agassi to the environmental effects of drought on American wildlife; and April 3, with a cover story providing early evidence that Pete Rose had bet on baseball.
In announcing the award to 1,200 magazine editors, writers and publishers in Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Osborn Elliott, former dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which administers the awards, read this citation about SI: "Week by week, the magazine merely offers excellent photography, clean design and a collection of distinctive writerly voices as varied as any in American magazines."
Equally kind were the words of John A. Limpert, editor of The Washingtonian magazine and a member of the panel of judges who recommended SI to ASME as this year's winner. He said, "What really stands out at SI is that it is doing real journalism. There is good reporting that reflects a moral vision and the courage to take strong stands. We felt that the magazine is willing to be confrontational and tough, but it does this with an obvious and well-developed sense of fairness."
Naturally, we deeply appreciate these compliments to our weekly efforts. But we think such testimonials also make a broader comment. From the beginning SI's editors have acted on the belief that sports is a subject worthy of serious journalistic enterprise. We interpret the back-to-back general excellence awards as an indication that our colleagues in the magazine industry agree.
The back-to-back Ellies make a broad statement.