Fleet Management

Commentary: Cutting to the Chase

“In many ways, Tom was both the conscience and subconscious of the trucking press corps."

January 2017, TruckingInfo.com - Editorial

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

“How much will it cost?”

At any press conference Tom Berg attends, you can count on that question being asked. If not that one, then another equally likely to make the OE or supplier representatives squirm.

“He has forever focused on digging for details he feels his readers need. He’s a master at asking questions — sometimes prickly ones — that don’t occur to most reporters,” says Doug Condra, former president of Newport Communications, at that time publishers of HDT, who hired Tom.

But it will soon be up to others to carry on that legacy. After nearly 40 years covering the trucking industry, Tom will retire as a full-time senior editor of HDT at the end of this month.

Tom worked in television news and public relations before becoming a trucking reporter and was editor of Road King and American Trucker before coming to work for HDT. He got his introduction to trucks working his way through Marquette University’s College of Journalism by driving newspaper delivery trucks, graduating in 1965. He served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, and remains an active member of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Westerville, Ohio. A founder of the Truck Writers of North America, he has been awarded 10 Jesse H. Neal honors for business journalism.

“Years ago, Tom brought our publications a strong background in both journalism and trucking,” Condra says. “His inquisitive nature, a penchant for accurate reporting and crisp, concise writing style quickly became his trademark.”

One of the people who was on the receiving end of some of those questions was Don Alles, a longtime PR professional for a major component manufacturer. “In many ways, Tom was both the conscience and subconscious of the trucking press corps,” he says. “He would ask the tough questions, like ‘how much does it cost?’ – over and over again, until we could give him some kind of answer… I learned a lot from Tom and other truck journalists about how to present news, how NOT to present news... but most especially, how not to present stuff that isn’t news as news.”

Alles’ counterpart at a competitor, the late Mike Pennington, said of Tom upon the occasion of Tom earning the Truck Writers of North America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009: “Tom is a tough, fair and thorough reporter who knows his market, his industry, and his audience. He writes factually and calls them like he sees them (‘Will you just cut to the chase, please?’). He’s earned the respect of industry leaders and his fellow journalists.”

But as Condra says, “To know Tom is to know there’s much more to him than his probing journalist image.”

Tom’s “old-fashioned Midwestern work ethic … elfish wit and inherent kindness, rubbed off on many editors who passed through our doors,” he says.

Tom Berg
Tom Berg

One former staffer told Condra, “What I remember most about Tom is that he entertained us, but while he was doing it he was teaching us…you could walk away laughing after one of his witticisms, then realize he’d just stuck a barb in you for something you messed up. We learned from that.”

Condra sums it up well: “Tom Berg’s legacy will be that of a trusted messenger who brought useful realism to the industry he loved so much and served so long. He has already succeeded in that. And all with a twinkle in his eye.”

P.S. – Tom’s not the only one who has decided it’s time to slow down. Sven-Erik Lindstrand, a European freelance trucking reporter who has helped HDT cover international trucking events for a number of years, is stepping down as a regular contributor.

Comments

  1. 1. John Baxter [ January 17, 2017 @ 06:01AM ]

    I'm sad to see Tom go and hope I will still see him as one of the usual suspects at an occasional press event, if only to swap Vietnam stories. I'm kidding. He will be the guy to try and force them to talk price, along with asking important and relevant technical questions. I'm really glad to know you, Tom, and have you as a good friend. You have had a great career and I hope you will continue with an occasional contribution.

  2. 2. Al Cohn [ January 17, 2017 @ 06:13AM ]

    It has been wonderful to interact with Tom for some many years. He is a true gentlemen and we always had the most entertaining conversations. Tom is a wealth of knowledge. I always learned something new from reading his articles. Hopefully we will still be seeing Tom during the many industry events. All the best in your well deserved retirement.

  3. 3. John Martin Martin Eng [ January 17, 2017 @ 08:21AM ]

    I agree. I had the pleasure to meet Tom Berg when I was heavily involved in the TMC. He drills down to the facts in a way which doesn't make enemies. He is the conscience for a lot of suppliers.
    He will be missed..

  4. 4. Don Alles [ January 21, 2017 @ 08:42AM ]

    Brother Tom, good luck in your next chapter. If I'd known my comments about you would wind up in print, I would have been more eloquent and less gushing. Seriously, you are a journalistic hero of mine. Thanks for making us toe the line!

 

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