Community Journalism

Since its inception, the Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellowship in Community Journalism has supported exceptional community journalists from small newsrooms with limited resources. In granting the Reynolds Nieman Fellowships in Community Journalism at Harvard, the Nieman Foundation has enabled community journalists to pursue a course of study at Harvard, network with their peers from papers around the globe and receive specialized training designed to help them excel in their jobs and serve their communities.

These journalists share their own unique skills and perspectives with their colleagues in the Nieman program and return to their newsrooms prepared to take on or continue in leadership roles that benefit both their staffs and readers.

David Joyner, vice president for content at Community Newspaper Holdings
David Joyner
in Birmingham, Alabama, was the 2012 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow in Community Journalism. At Harvard, David participated in a full range of classes, seminars, lectures, events and training sessions. He was an active participant in all Nieman fellowship activities and frequently led the class in thinking through difficult subjects about journalism. David consistently brought the community journalism perspective into these discussions.

He was deeply engaged in classes that expanded his understanding of how journalism can best serve local communities and studied community dynamics, the online economy and the digital revolution in journalism. He focused on immigration patterns in the areas where his company publishes newspapers and he looked at social networks as a predictor of health.

Writing to the Reynolds Foundation after his Nieman year, David said, “Over the past 10 months, I’ve deepened m understanding of how news changes communities. I’ve sharpened my thinking about the digital paths news organizations must follow to find and serve readers online. I’ve reflected on the kind of editor and journalist I should be. And I’ve met many amazing, brilliant people….The year was busy, enriching and invigorating. The people I’ve met, ideas I’ve been introduced to and friendships I’ve made will enormously influence my career and my life.”

The 2013 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow in Community Journalism is Betsy
Betsy O'Donovan
O’Donovan. In 2010, Betsy became the first female editorial page editor for The (Durham) Herald-Sun and she serves as a mentor-editor for The Op-Ed Project, a nonprofit effort to increase the diversity of voices in public commentary. Betsy’s is learning about the business of journalism and how it can sustain community journalism going forward. She is studying entrepreneurial models for community newsrooms, with a particular interest in establishing and protecting the value of original reporting.

Reflecting on her fellowship, Betsy poses a question:

"Why isn’t Union Pacific the leading provider of Internet service? Why doesn’t it offer coast-to-coast airline service, or have a fleet of trucks to provide point-to-point package delivery?

The answer, provided by a
Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia,” by Theodore Levitt: “The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because the need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business.”

During the first half of my Nieman Fellowship, I’ve taken a full slate of classes, participated in weekly seminars and master classes at the Nieman Foundation, and sought out bright people with provocative ideas to help me answer one question: What business are community journalists really in?

I love news and newspapers, but I came to Harvard to consider whether and how community newsrooms could sustain themselves -- and I’m coming to believe that, as Clay Christensen and David Skok argued in the last edition of
Nieman Reports, the solution will come from creative destruction -- an adaptation of our industry’s DNA, a redefinition not just of what we are, but a recreation in direct response to what our communities need.

It’s been a provocative semester, and next spring bids to be even more challenging, as I look at the question of the assumptions we -- reporters, editors, publishers -- have made about how communities use information, and which of those assumptions we must discard to make way for new opportunities. If you have thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear them."
Betsy O'Donovan

Learn more about the Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellowship in Community Journalism »