When you work for a municipality or waterpark, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re part of a much larger industry, one that touches millions of people every day and contributes billions to the economy. Sometimes the same can be said for magazine editors.

So it’s nice to be reminded on occasion that what we do matters to others.

I got that reminder in a big way last month when I learned that an article from Aquatics International had been named a finalist in the 2007 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards, which have been called the Pulitzer Prize of the business press.

The category is “Best Single Article,” which is worth noting because this also happens to be one of the most competitive groups. To become a finalist, the article had to pass the scrutiny of a screening board, which whittles the competition by 90 percent. Then a select group of prominent business editors narrows the group down to just three. Finally, editors from august publications such as The Washington Post will determine the winner, which will be announced March 22 in New York.

Being named a finalist in such a difficult competition is enough to make any editor proud. But what made me equally pleased was the article receiving the honors: “Who’s Watching the Children?” from our November/December 2006 issue.

For those of you who may have missed it (or are still waiting to read it), this was a special investigation into the issue of child sex predators at aquatics facilities.

The writer, Joshua Keim, took on this difficult subject as if one of his own children were being threatened. He spent nearly a year investigating cases, speaking with experts from law enforcement and risk management and piecing it all together into a compelling story.

If you haven’t already done so, I hope you’ll take the time to read it. Not just because it’s a finalist for a prestigious award, but also because it’s one of the most important stories we’ve done at Aquatics International since I became editor.

I knew that when the article was originally published. My conviction was only reinforced by Neal judges. The reason I think it’s so important and, conversely the judges found it worthy, is because it deals with a subject that for too long has been ignored or swept under the rug. Whether it’s because sex abuse is too difficult to discuss or facility operators are uncomfortable with the enforcement role it puts on lifeguards, the result is the same: Every year, the most innocent pay the price.

So while accolades from editorial peers are always appreciated, it’s my hope that any honors the story receives will make it more likely to be read and acted upon by industry professionals.

Because even if you don’t get recognized, or recognize it yourself, you are part of a much larger industry, and what you do touches so many others.

Gary Thill

Aquatics International welcomes feedback from readers. All correspondence may be edited for clarity and space considerations. Please include your complete name and contact information.Letters may be sent by mail to Aquatics International, Attn: Editor, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90048; by fax to 323.801.4986; or via e-mail to gthill@hanleywood.com

Credit: Gary Thill