From the Curator
In ways both obvious and subtle, my Nieman fellowship year worked a special magic on me, challenging the conventions I had about journalism and my place in its ecosystem. Harvard, the curator, the other fellows, and my own independent studies served up a challenge to do more and do better.
As curator of the Nieman Foundation, I now have the privilege of offering others the same transformative experience. I have witnessed many times over the power of a Nieman fellowship to coax and inspire journalists toward a greater ambition for their industry and their craft.
I have watched new leaders emerge and return to their newsrooms with expanded vision. I have seen innovations in storytelling, news reporting, technology and organization emerge from our fellows’ singular and collective labors. I have seen journalism made stronger.
For more than 75 years, Nieman has welcomed some of the world’s most accomplished and promising journalists, giving them the gift of time and intellectual resources to fortify their work. As journalism has changed, so too have many of the qualities of our program and of our fellows. Having recently added a short-term visiting fellowship to our traditional yearlong program, we now embrace an expanded cohort of developers, entrepreneurs, academics and others who are increasingly influential in how we create and receive news.
The Nieman Foundation is privileged to be part of this extraordinary university. If time at Harvard would expand your vision and help you help journalism, we invite you to apply.
What is a Nieman Fellowship?
A Nieman Fellowship is an extraordinary, transformative learning opportunity open to journalists working in all media in every country around the world. Those selected for the program spend two full semesters at Harvard auditing classes with some of the university’s greatest thinkers, participating in Nieman events and collaborating with peers. Nieman Fellows are also able to audit classes at other local universities including MIT and Tufts.
Each year, the Nieman Foundation awards paid fellowships to up to 24 journalists working in print, broadcast, digital and audiovisual media. Journalists and other professionals working in positions that support journalism, such as the business or technology departments of news companies, are welcome to apply for one of the foundation’s short-term Visiting Fellowships.
During their time at Harvard, Nieman Fellows attend seminars, shop talks, master classes and journalism conferences designed to strengthen their professional skills and leadership capabilities, thereby helping to fortify the news industry itself. With the knowledge they gain on campus and the relationships they build, fellows often return to work as journalism entrepreneurs, industry innovators and top managers in their newsrooms.
Am I eligible?
All applicants for Nieman Fellowships, including freelancers, must be working journalists with at least five years of full-time media experience. Journalism-related work completed as a university student does not count as professional experience. People who work in public relations or at organizations whose primary business is not the media are not eligible to apply.
When appropriate, the applicant’s employer should approve a leave of absence for the academic year (mid-August through May).
During the two years prior to applying, an applicant should not have participated in a fellowship or taken a leave of absence from work that lasted for four months or longer.
Candidates nominate themselves for Nieman Fellowships by submitting an application and supplementary materials. There are no age limits or academic prerequisites, and a college degree is not required.
After candidates have been chosen, they must agree in writing to honor all leave stipulations made with their employers; to refrain from professional work during the fellowship year, except as approved by the Nieman curator; and to complete work in a minimum of one course per semester and honor commitments made to faculty as a condition of auditing a class. Fellows also must remain in residence in the Cambridge area while classes are in session and participate in all Nieman Foundation programs.
What types of fellowships are available?
Each year, the Nieman Foundation selects up to 12 U.S. citizens and 12 international journalists for full academic-year Nieman Fellowships. All prospective fellows must speak, read and write English fluently.
U.S. and international candidates may also apply for the Nieman-Berkman Fellowship in Journalism Innovation and the short-term Nieman Visiting Fellowship.
Citizens of Canada, the Philippines and South Korea should follow specific instructions when applying in order to take advantage of special funding.
Candidates with dual citizenship should contact the foundation for advice about whether to apply for a U.S. or international Nieman Fellowship: John Breen.
How much financial support will I receive as a fellow?
Most Nieman Fellows receive a stipend of $65,000 paid over a nine-month period to cover living costs. The Nieman Foundation also provides housing, childcare, and health insurance allowances based on the number and ages of family members. Nieman additionally covers the cost of attending Harvard classes for fellows and their affiliates. Affiliates are the partners and spouses of fellows. They enjoy many of the same privileges as fellows and may attend classes, use Harvard libraries and other facilities, and are welcome to participate in almost all Nieman activities.
Because funds from the original Nieman bequest are restricted to U.S. citizens, International Nieman Fellows are encouraged to work with Nieman staff to find financial support from sources outside the Nieman Foundation. However, obtaining outside funding is not a condition of being selected for a fellowship. Funds typically come from foundations and journalism organizations in the fellows’ home countries. The Nieman Foundation works with several international foundations that provide stipendiary support to citizens of certain nations or regions of the world.
Recipients of short-term Visiting Fellowships receive a stipend prorated for the length of their fellowships as well as free housing for the length of their stay at Harvard.
Through generous gifts made to the foundation, Nieman is able to support a number of fellowships with endowed funds. Learn more about our named fellowships
In addition to a monthly stipend, fellows receive modest housing, childcare and health insurance allowances, depending on the size of their families.
What courses can I take?
Fellows choose their own course of study at Harvard. Some use the year to deepen their knowledge in a field of interest while others seek to broaden their knowledge in several areas or prepare for a new assignment. Fellows are required to complete course work in one class each semester. They audit other courses at Harvard College and in graduate school classrooms throughout the university as well as classes at the MIT Center for Civic Media, the MIT Media Lab and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Each school maintains its own course catalog. View a list of course catalogs
What’s a typical week like as a Nieman Fellow?
In addition to taking advantage of all the university has to offer, Nieman Fellows participate in a series of weekly activities organized by the Nieman Foundation. These events bring the fellows together with members of the Harvard faculty, leading journalists and many other accomplished guests.
Soundings are talks given by the fellows for the fellows that address the question, “Why do I do what I do?” Each Tuesday evening, a member of the class shares the story of his or her journalistic life and hosts an informal meal for invited guests.
Wednesday afternoon seminars bring leading teachers, writers and scholars from the Harvard faculty to Lippmann House for presentations and lively discussions with fellows and other members of the Harvard community. The topics are diverse and thought provoking, and typically reflect the special interests fellows have developed in classes and lectures. Recent seminar speakers have discussed the making of Witness Uganda, a musical about Ugandan orphans produced by the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, the promise of stem cell research, and the science of happiness, just to name a few topics.
On Fridays, fellows gather to discuss issues in journalism during shop talks with leading journalists. As part of the shop talk schedule throughout the year, special training sessions and master classes are organized around the fellows’ needs and interests. Guest speakers have included Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzzfeed, describing the reasons behind the popularity of the site and the role social media plays in news distribution; filmmaker Errol Morris discussing the challenges of profiling complex public figures like Donald Rumsfeld and the pursuit of truth; and journalists Miriam Elder and Julia Ioffe talking about what it takes to report on Russia under Vladimir Putin.
Each semester, the Nieman Foundation also offers writing courses in fiction and narrative nonfiction for fellows and their affiliates.
The Nieman Foundation also convenes workshops and conferences that bring journalists together with leaders in a variety of fields, academics, and other experts to explore issues important to the press and the public good. The foundation regularly co-sponsors talks and events in partnership with other centers and schools at Harvard and in the greater Boston community. Recent examples include Timing, Trust, and Credibility in the Age of Twitter, a town-hall style meeting in which the foundation assembled key media players in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and Covering Immigration: The Story behind the Politics, Economics and U.S. Law, an intensive three-day workshop sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.
What is family life like in and around Cambridge?
Nieman staff helps fellows and their families find housing and acclimate to their new surroundings by providing information about apartments for rent, local schools, shops and restaurants, and other practical information about living in Cambridge and the greater Boston area. Fellows, affiliates and children are encouraged to take advantage of Harvard’s museums, cultural events, athletic facilities and libraries and to explore all the cultural and recreational activities that Harvard Square and the New England region have to offer.
Fellows also have access to Walter Lippmann House, the Nieman Foundation’s offices, located just a few blocks from Harvard Yard. In addition to the main seminar room where most Nieman events are held, the house has a working kitchen, a large library and a computer lab where fellows and their families can work and socialize. The house is named after journalist and Harvard graduate Walter Lippmann, whose counsel helped create the Nieman Foundation at Harvard. To learn about the history of the house, see Lippmann House: “Room just to hang out” from the 75th anniversary edition of Nieman Reports.
What is the deadline for applications?
- International Fellowships for the Nieman class of 2016: Dec. 1, 2014
- Nieman-Berkman Fellowships in Journalism Innovation for the class of 2016: Dec. 1, 2014
- U.S. Fellowships for the Nieman class of 2016: Jan. 31, 2015.
- The deadline for 2015 Visiting Fellowship applications has passed. Candidates for the 2016 calendar year may apply starting in the summer of 2015.
Finalists who are citizens of countries other than the United States are interviewed via teleconferencing in February and notified in March. U.S. finalists come to Cambridge for interviews in late April and are notified immediately after the selection weekend.