Curator’s Column

In a year punctuated by disruptive events in the economy and the field of journalism, the Nieman Foundation tightened its institutional belt and focused its energies on innovation as a strategy to move ahead in uncertain times.

Bob Giles, Curator
Along with the rest of Harvard, the foundation absorbed the decline in payout from our endowment in fiscal year 2009 and acted prudently to cut costs. By suspending the annual Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism and reducing the class size to 24, we were able to plan a full program for the fellows as well as creative enhancements for many of the foundation’s outreach projects.

Innovation in the Digital Age

The composition of the Class of 2010 reflects the decline in newspaper employment, no longer dominated by print reporters but journalists from broadcasting, wire services and the freelance world. They share a desire to master new skills and they meet each Friday morning at Lippmann House to learn about the news-gathering tools of the digital age. Innovation for them and for us isn’t just a smart business strategy, it’s a survival mechanism.

Three years ago, with encouragement from our Advisory Board, the foundation resolved to find its voice in the discussion about the dramatic transformation of journalism. During the past year, the foundation developed several novel ideas in response, beginning with the launch of the Nieman Journalism Lab in October 2008. Its purpose is to chronicle how journalism is changing, to figure out where both the business and the craft are headed and to track the people and institutions leading the way. During its first year, the Lab built a loyal and influential following that placed the Nieman Foundation in the center of the global discussion about efforts to sustain quality journalism in the digital age.

Nieman Reports in turn spread word about the Fall 2009 issue, “Let’s Talk: Journalism and Social Media,” through Facebook and Twitter. The magazine staff also launched a redesigned Professor’s Corner page with resources for j-school classrooms, including the Teaching Tools feature that offers Nieman Reports content arranged by topic.

Nieman Storyboard, a companion to the Narrative Digest, went online this fall as a resource that invites daily contributions and conversations about exceptional storytelling in every medium.

Elsewhere on the Web, Nieman Watchdog initiated an examination of critical economic issues, drawing on authoritative voices to provide journalists with basic background information and the best thinking on the topic.

And in October, just one day before President Obama declared the H1N1 swine flu outbreak a national emergency, the Nieman Foundation introduced a comprehensive online guide to covering pandemic flu, It's a one-stop resource for reporters, editors, producers and other media professionals seeking to understand the complexities of the flu story and looking for guidance and best practices for reporting on the topic.

We also introduced the Fellows’ Forum, an online alumni community that enables fellows to stay in touch with the foundation and its global family of Nieman friends through blogs, comments, requests for information, job postings, updated personal profiles and more.

Finally, in an effort to digitize as many of our programs and activities as possible, we completed the online application for Nieman Fellowships, which gives candidates around the globe a more efficient way to submit resumes, essays, work samples and letters of recommendation for the annual selection process.

Throughout the year, our dedicated staff worked diligently to ensure the success of all these efforts. They are the glue that holds the foundation together.

PHOTO CREDITS: Our thanks to: Harro Albrecht, Carla Broyles, Robert Burgess, Tsar Fedorsky, Anita Hofschneider, Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick, Kane Hsieh, Kim Komenich, Meghan Purdy, James Reynolds, George Rizer, Kris Snibbe, Martha Stewart, Ernie Suggs, Winston Yan and all the 2009 and 2010 Nieman Fellows.The interest drawn to each of our new projects reaffirms the relevance of the Nieman Foundation and its service to journalism through our fellowships and outreach programs. As we recognized a year ago when celebrating 70 years of Nieman Fellowships, our role in the life of the university and, increasingly, in the world of journalism, offers both challenges and rich opportunities in the times ahead.

Bob Giles
Nieman Foundation Curator
1966 Nieman Fellow

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise who attend Harvard University for a year of study, seminars and special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 89 countries have received Nieman Fellowships.