“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.
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.