The Nieman Fellowship program brings accomplished journalists from around the world together to learn, share ideas, innovate and collaborate. With common interests but different skill sets and experiences, the fellows gain new perspectives on their work and discover new ways to approach journalism. The fellows also interact with the Knight Nieman Visiting Fellows, who come to Harvard to work on a range of projects to advance journalism.
The fellows have busy schedules filled with classes at Harvard and MIT; Nieman seminars and shop talks; campus events; and writing and public speaking classes designed exclusively for them. In 2017, author Steve Almond taught narrative nonfiction writing; novelist Anne Bernays taught fiction writing; and public speaking was led by Holly Weeks, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
On campus and in the community, the fellows shared their expertise in talks on a wide range of topics, in sessions with aspiring journalists at The Harvard Crimson, with participants at the annual Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism and with students at Harvard’s Signet Society, a group of artists who celebrate the arts and letters.
The fellows also moderate many of the official talks at Lippmann House and organize sessions on their own to share information about their work, teach their Nieman classmates new skills, or host informal conversations with visiting journalists and scholars.
Beginning in 2017, a number of fellows took over the Nieman Foundation’s Instagram account for a week at a time to show others what the fellowship looks like through their eyes, on campus and beyond.
Nieman Fellows were involved in a variety of projects this past year that enriched both the Harvard and journalism communities in various ways. Included here is a broad sampling of the fellows’ activities.
The Nieman class of 2017
Chicago Tribune reporter Lolly Bowean delivered a moving speech about the power of the press and the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless during “The Future of News: Journalism in a Post-Truth Era,” a special event organized by Harvard President Drew Faust’s office together with the Nieman Foundation and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
Felicia Fonseca, the northern Arizona correspondent for The Associated Press, presented “Reporting on American Indian Tribes: Knowledge Isn’t Always for Sharing,” a talk at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. She also moderated a panel examining “The Future of Native News,” an event sponsored by the Harvard University Native American Program, Native Americans at Harvard College and other groups on campus.
Jason Rezaian a staff writer for The Washington Post, who was featured in the Harvard Gazette story “From captivity to classroom,” spoke about his lengthy imprisonment in Tehran’s Evin Prison during a talk at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The event was presented with his wife Yeganeh Rezaian, an Iranian journalist and Shorenstein Center Fellow who was also unjustly imprisoned in Iran.
Swedish journalist Karin Pettersson, the 2017 Nieman Berkman-Klein Fellow in Journalism Innovation and the political editor-in-chief at Aftonbladet, led a discussion with 2009 Nieman Fellow Peter Wolodarski, publisher and editor-in-chief of Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter, about lessons that can be learned from Scandinavia for journalism and politics during a time of growing populism and propaganda.
Pettersson also wrote “Sweden, Trump, and Reality—Examining what lies beneath the misinformation implicit in the president’s remark” for Nieman Reports. And she moderated a Nieman talk with Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, who spoke about free speech and the First Amendment in the Trump era.
Christian Feld, a correspondent for the German public TV network ARD, organized and moderated the panel discussion “Disrupted Discourse” at the student-led “Europe: New Directions” conference at Harvard Kennedy School. Nieman classmate Karin Pettersson participated in the panel discussion and fellow fellow Mary Louise Schumacher, art and architecture critic for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, moderated a panel that examined “Design Solutions for the Migration Crisis.”
Ukrainian producer and reporter Alisa Sopova delivered the lecture “Separatist Wonderland – An Eyewitness Account of Life in Occupied Donetsk” at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. She also wrote the Nieman Reports article “How Independent Russian Newsrooms Keep Reporting,” which examines how Russia is cracking down on the independent press at home as it promotes disinformation abroad.
Mexican investigative journalist Marcela Turati began writing “Mexico Journal,” a new opinion column for Nieman Reports that chronicles the many challenges, threats and attacks that Mexican journalists face on the job. Her articles are published in both English and Spanish.
Digital journalist Katherine Goldstein contributed several important stories to Nieman Reports, building on her Nieman research into digital journalism strategies for hiring and retaining a diverse workforce and the challenges facing working mothers in the industry.
- The News Industry Has a Sexual Harassment Problem. #NowWhat?
How newsroom leaders can create workplaces that truly support women
- Where Are the Mothers?
If news organizations want to attract and retain millennial journalists, newsrooms must better meet the needs of parents with young children—and create better work-life balance for everyone
- What It’s Like To Be a Breastfeeding Journalist
So what happens when mothers who are fresh off their maternity leaves and want to keep breastfeeding their babies come head-to-head with the realities of working in journalism? Results may vary.
- Want Better Family Leave and Flexibility at Your Company?
Follow These 5 Steps
Jeneé Osterheldt lifestyle and culture columnist at The Kansas City Star, taught feature writing at Harvard Extension School’s summer school. Classmate Katherine Goldstein also taught “Developing a Career in Journalism: Essential Skills and Insider Knowledge”; Felicia Fonseca taught “News Reporting Across Platforms”; and Lolly Bowean taught “Basic Journalism in the Digital Age.”
Warsaw-based documentary photographer Maciek Nabrdalik taught a photography skills to his classmates during a workshop at the Nieman Foundation. His work was also featured in Harvard Magazine: “In Flight: Documenting the refugees fleeing war to seek safety in Europe”
Chisomo Ngulube, a chief editor for television news at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, contributed the Nieman Reports article “For African Journalists, Trump’s Treatment of the Press Is All Too Familiar.” The piece explains why many journalists in Africa fear that President Trump’s rhetorical attacks on the U.S. press will embolden African leaders to roll back press freedoms. On campus, she spoke to students interested in a career in Africa at an event sponsored by Harvard’s Office of Career Services.
Robert Socha, deputy executive producer for two television programs at Poland’s TVN, wrote “What Traditional TV Documentarians Need to Know About VR” for Nieman Reports, an article that explains why virtual reality is a totally different way of thinking, producing, and storytelling. He also organized a trip for Nieman classmates to the Frontline studio at WGBH to learn about new VR storytelling projects.
Georg Diez, a reporter and columnist for the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, wrote an opinion piece for Nieman Reports “A Time for Press Solidarity, Not Finger-Pointing,” which looks at the questions raised by the response of correspondents at two German newspapers to a journalist’s detention in Turkey about newsroom diversity and solidarity.
Roland Kelts, an author and journalist based in Japan and contributing editor of the annual literary journal “Monkey Business—New Writing from Japan,” moderated a discussion at Boston University with contemporary Japanese and American authors Hiromi Ito, Jamaica Kincaid, Hiroko Oyamada, and Brian Evenson—along with the co-founders and editors of Monkey Business, Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen.
Three fellows participated in the “Explaining Asia” event hosted by the Asia Center and co-sponsored by the Nieman Foundation, the Korea Institute and the Reischauer Institute. They spoke about reporting and telling stories about their home countries. Nieman panelists were Roland Kelts; Kyoungtae Kim, editor of a primetime news program for the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation in Seoul, South Korea and Subina Shrestha, a filmmaker and correspondent based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kyoungate Kim also moderated a wide-ranging conversation at the Nieman Foundation with former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Michelle Boorstein, who covers religion for The Washington Post, took part in the panel discussion “Donald Trump and Evangelicals” at Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy and Journalism symposium, organized by the Religious Literacy Project at HDS in collaboration with Boston University.
Several international fellows—Subina Shresta, Alisa Sopova, Karin Pettersson, Marcela Turati and Robert Socha—participated in the Nieman seminar “An International Perspective on Covering the Trump Administration.” They offered different perspectives on threats to press freedom abroad as concern grows about restrictions to press freedom and civil liberties in the United States.
The Nieman class of 2018
Associated Press national political writer Lisa Lerer moderated a conversation with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates” at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and another talk with Fox News journalist Melissa Francis at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public leadership. At the Nieman Foundation, Lerer also moderated the panel discussion “After 2016, Politics and Parties in the Trump Era and Beyond” with author and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. and Dan Balz, a chief correspondent for the Post.
Frederik Obermaier, an investigative reporter for the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s leading daily, met with classmates to discuss his leading role in reporting two large global investigations, the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. Nieman classmate Sebastián Escalón moderated the talk. Obermaier also organized a talk with German journalist and journalism professor Tanjev Schultz about the Ku Klux Klan in Germany.
Edward Wong an international correspondent for The New York Times who was based in China for eight years, participated in a panel discussion on “China’s Future Leadership: An Instant Analysis of China’s 19th Party Congress” at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Wong also invited Michael Pollan, author, journalist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and at Harvard, to speak to the Nieman Fellows about his writing and recent work.
Emily Dreyfuss, a senior staff writer at Wired, moderated a panel on cybersecurity and privacy at Boston’s HUBweek.
In Nieman Reports, Indian journalist Shalini Singh reported on how the Peoples’ Archive of Rural India (PARI), is documenting the lives and labors of some of the country’s poorest, most marginalized populations. She also wrote a sidebar to explain how professional journalists from PARI, including herself, mentor local writers with no background in reporting so they can help tell new stories. Singh screened a documentary about her colleague Palagummi Sainath, founding editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India, ahead of his Nieman seminar.
Matthew Karolian, director of audience engagement at The Boston Globe, led a session at Harvard’s Content Strategy Academy, hosted by Harvard Public Affairs & Communications. In “Getting More Done with Less,” he explained how editorial teams can cope as budgets shrink by using technologies including bots, internal communication systems, and smart publishing tools to identify, develop and deploy content.
Karolian also led a session titled “How to run Facebook ads like the Russians,” an overview of how social media platforms gather and use personal information and how to use Facebook and Twitter’s ad tools to hyper target specific people on social platforms.
Canadian author and journalist Michael Petrou, the 2018 Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellow gave a talk “‘For this they fight’ – Canadians in the Spanish Civil War,” at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He discussed his book “Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War.”
At the Nieman Foundation, Petrou hosted a conversation with David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times. He also led a conversation with Egyptian technologist and internet activist Wael Ghonim, a senior fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Ghonim discussed his role as one of the architects of the January 2011 Egyptian revolution and his work as a pioneer in the use of social media for dissent.
Petrou, Karolian and Nieman classmate Sipho Kings, an environment reporter for South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, volunteered to serve as “Student Connections” mentors to students in Harvard’s Kirkland House.
Nneka Nwosu Faison, a Boston-based television news reporter and producer for WCVB-TV, launched a new podcast for and about millennial women in which she interviews women leaders in technology, science, business, commerce and media, and women who are working to make their communities better.
Portuguese photojournalist João Pina invited Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first chief prosecutor of the permanent International Criminal Court in The Hague, for a conversation with Nieman Fellows.
Jamieson Lesko led a conversation with Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer, who spoke about her mindfulness research.
Also in Nieman Reports, Maryclaire Dale, legal affairs reporter for The Associated Press, was one of eight reporters who described what it’s like to cover sexual harassment.
And Christine Mungai, the Nairobi-based editor of Africapedia, wrote an opinion column “What Journalists Can Learn from the Blues,” in which she makes the case that to get beyond bewilderment and despair, journalism needs to learn to embrace suffering and struggle. Mungai also spoke about her work at Hebrew College in Newton, Mass. in November.
In Telling Indigenous Stories Tristan Ahtone, a New Mexico-based journalist who served as vice president of the Native American Journalists Association and is a contributing editor at High Country News, explains that neglecting to cover indigenous communities not only represents a missed opportunity, but a significant failure for an industry hoping to find voice and relevance in the 21st century.
The 2017 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows
Trushar Barot, London-based mobile editor for the BBC World Service, researched the rise of audio AI assistants and their role in helping news audiences—especially those new to the internet—find quality, relevant and timely content.
- Read Barot’s Nieman Lab article “The future of news is humans talking to machines” in which he argues that voice AI is the biggest technology revolution that the news industry is missing — and that it’s not too late to do something about it.
Sandra Barrón Ramírez, product designer at Borde Político and Transparencia Mexicana, worked on creating a central data index for disappeared and missing people in Mexico. The platform will be a tool for journalists, NGOs and families to verify cases and access information.
Malin Dahlberg, digital editor for SVT, Sweden’s largest TV network and public service company, worked on developing a strategy for fact-checking services to better connect with their intended audiences. Her goal is to test the strategy during the Swedish national parliamentary election in 2018.
Lewis W. Diuguid, most recently a columnist and editorial board member at The Kansas City Star, examined diversity and equity in journalism. He also explored ways to encourage children to become lifelong news readers, thereby helping them to engage more deeply with their communities. Fellows in the Nieman class of 2017 selected Diuguid as winner of the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.
Jane Elizabeth, a senior manager at the American Press Institute, studied the characteristics of newsroom social media teams. She examined how they might evolve to become an integral part of accountability journalism by focusing their efforts on battling misinformation on social platforms and helping newsrooms to become a more valued source of reliable information.
Nikki Finke, senior editorial contributor for Penske Business Media, will come to campus in 2018 to explore best practices in the reporting of breaking news and analysis in a 24/7 media environment, a field she influenced as founder and editor-in-chief of Deadline.com.
Raheel Khursheed, head of news partnerships for India and Southeast Asia at Twitter, examined the feasibility and scalability of a micropayments news product/platform for premium and mass content.
Nina Lassam, director of ad product at The New York Times, surveyed how news organizations can foster equal participation in comments and distributed news content, specifically looking for ways to encourage greater female engagement.
Nicholas Quah, founder of Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts that appears on Nieman Lab and a consultant to the Democracy Fund, explored how podcasts can help strengthen the position of public radio stations in their local communities. He has developed a guide to create audience-focused and financially sustainable local podcast strategies.
- Read Quah’s Nieman Lab articles including his Hot Pod newsletter about podcasts
Stephanie Reuter, managing director of the Rudolf Augstein Foundation in Germany, researched how foundations can support quality journalism most effectively. She worked on creating a blueprint that helps foundations reform their funding practices to facilitate maximum impact.
Carlin Romano, critic-at-large for The Chronicle of Higher Education, organized clinics for citizens who want to bring stories to the media’s attention. The project’s goal is to create a pro bono model, similar to that of the legal profession, that can be emulated in other communities.
Throughout the academic year, Nieman Fellows take turns talking about why they do what they do. Some highlights from 2017:
Finding inspiration, journalistic purpose in works by black artists
By Lolly Bowean, NF ’17
The very first time I viewed a William H. Johnson painting, the work moved me so deeply, I immediately declared him my favorite artist. I was barely a teenager. I didn’t have a sophisticated, refined eye and … Read more
A foreign correspondent returns to the States and takes on a translation job of a different sort
By Heidi Vogt, NF ’17
While on assignment in Somalia a few years back, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the Mogadishu mayor’s office alongside a dozen Somali men—some in white robes, some in baggy suits. One of them—an old man with a … Read more
What journalists can learn from the courage and creativity of Islam’s mythological creatures
By Jassim Ahmad, NF ’17
My grandmother was well known for telling extraordinary tales. One in particular has stuck with me since the summer I was dispatched alone to her in Delhi. At the time, I was living in Kuwait where my father had found … Read more
Empathetically covering sports may be the best way to bring together divided people
By J. Brady McCollough, NF ’17
Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gave me the reporting opportunity of a lifetime—go to the Dominican Republic and Cuba to write about the dynamics of the baseball culture on each island… Read more
In Ukraine, journalists who remain neutral face formidable challenges
By Alisa Sopova, NF ’17
Three years ago, I worked as a news editor at Donbass, the largest newspaper and news website in my native city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. I was responsible for a dozen reporters covering local news, three pages of the … Read more
And on Medium, Spanish reporter and entrepreneur María Ramírez shared excerpts from her Sounding:
On October 3, I turned 40. That day it was also my “sounding” at Harvard. That’s the name of the speech each Nieman fellow gives answering this apparently easy, really tricky, deep question. This text is a shorter, edited version of what I said… Read more
The fellows also participated in a series of master classes and training sessions throughout the year:
- Brian Mandell, senior lecturer in public policy and director of the Harvard Kennedy School Negotiation Project taught a negotiation workshop
- Marshall Ganz, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School taught a workshop on public narrative
- Gabe Bullard a senior producer for WAMU’s 1A program and a 2015 Nieman Fellow, taught a podcasting workshop
- Regina McCombs, senior editor for visual news at Minnesota Public Radio, led a four-day video training class
- David Bergeland, an award-winning multimedia producer who teaches at Rutgers University, taught a workshop on how to use smartphones for news photography and video
- Nieman Lab staff shared their recommendations for tips and tools to help journalists on the job