Arts and Culture Reporting

The Nieman Foundation is committed to supporting journalists who cover the arts and has a long history of inviting artists of all stripes to discuss their work and share ideas at Lippmann House. In 2007, the foundation established the Nieman Arts and Culture Fellowship with financial support for two years from Harvard’s Office of the Provost. The fellowship was created to support arts and culture coverage at a time when budget cuts had forced deep staff reductions in news organizations across the country. The Arts & Culture Fellowship continued in following years with funding from the Nieman Foundation.

Megan O’Grady, a contributing editor at Vogue who writes the magazine’s Books column, was the  Megan O'Grady2012 Arts and Culture Nieman Fellow. At Harvard, she examined the relationship between women novelists, literary criticism and the canon, focusing on postwar American literature and the persistence of gender myths in cultural discourse.

Megan had a rich and eventful year on campus. She moderated an enlightening Nieman seminar with Sebastian Smee, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for The Boston Globe; she spoke to undergrads in English and writing classes; and she moderated a reading for novelist Tom Perrotta as part of the Nieman/Harvard Writers at Work lecture series. At Lippmann House, she was quick to recommend special arts events on campus to her Nieman classmates and she took advantage of Harvard’s Norton Lectures, presented in the spring by William Kentridge, which she described as "life-changing."

Speaking at the end of her fellowship, she said, “Book critics, we tend to be kind of lone wolves. We're not team players. And so for me, a huge part of being here has been about being in this community of journalists, who are grappling with the issues of our time, and feeling, for the first time, that I am a journalist, too, and that I have similar concerns, even though my corner of the field is a bit different. I think that was actually huge for me. And then the Harvard part of it. I mean, it's just being part of this intellectual community that's just world-class.

“Every day, there's something to inspire… There's something about being surrounded by journalists from all over the world, who do everything from conflict reporting to very local investigative journalism, writers and editors, people who have very different concerns – having my own world view broadened and, at the same time, refining my own point of view and what I'm doing.”

Megan additionally inaugurated the new “Sounding” section in the summer issue of Nieman Reports with “Cover Stories: A book critic in praise of the counter-narrative.”

Megan returned to campus in November 2012 to participate in a panel discussion on book reviewing sponsored by Harvard Writers at Work and moderated by Christina Thompson of the Harvard Review. She spoke with 2013 Nieman Fellow Jennifer B. McDonald, editor at The New York Times Book Review, and Nicole Lamy, editor of The Boston Globe's books section.

Exploring the Arts with the Class of 2013

In the class of 2013, several fellows cover the arts including Jennifer McDonald; Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic and a features writer for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic and a contributing editor for Architectural Record magazine.

In addition to discussing book reviewing with Megan, Jennifer participated in an A.R.T. panel discussion on the David Adjmi play “Marie Antoinette” after a performance attended by her Nieman classmates. She also was the guest of honor at a Cabot House Literary Salon, an evening of readings, with classmates Betsy O’Donovan and Souad Mekhennet attending. Elsewhere on campus, she shared ideas at a career fair hosted by The Harvard Crimson; had dinner with students at Kirkland House and spoke about the Nieman fellowship, her career in journalism and The New York Times Book Review. And she was a speaker guest in Amanda Claybaugh's seminar “The Contemporary Novel and the Art of the Book Review.”

Blair started his Nieman year by leading an architectural tour of Harvard Yard for Nieman Fellows and staff, which he repeated for students at Adams House, where he is an affiliate. He kept busy in the fall semester discussing journalism with Harvard's student journalism association; meeting with the executive board of a Boston architectural firm; and conversing with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, including one pursuing a career in architectural journalism. Blair plans to co-teach a January intensives course on the gates of Harvard Yard with fellow Nieman Finbarr O'Reilly. Additionally, he will be one of a group of teachers for a spring-term Harvard undergraduate course on world architectural landmarks and he’ll moderate a panel at a public space conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in March.

Beginning this year, the Nieman Foundation is no longer offering a named Arts and Culture Nieman Fellowship but strongly encourages all journalists covering the arts to apply in the general application pool.