Nieman-Berkman Fellowship

Laura Amico

Borja Echevarría de la Gándara
At the beginning of 2012, the Nieman Foundation announced the creation of a new Nieman-Berkman Fellowship in Journalism Innovation in conjunction with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. This new joint fellowship was designed to attract journalism trendsetters who could take full advantage of both the Nieman and Berkman fellowship programs and share information with both groups on campus while working on a project relating to advancing journalism.

The first two Nieman-Berkman Fellows arrived on campus in August. Laura Norton Amico is founder and editor of HomicideWatch D.C., a Washington, D.C.-based website for data-driven coverage of violent crime that was won numerous awards and is now being adapted in other cities monitoring murder victims. Amico has received a New York Times Chairman’s Award, and held fellowships with the Online News Association and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America. On campus, she is studying criminal justice journalism in the digital age, focusing on best practices, useful tools and new models for crime and courts reporting.

Borja Echevarría de la Gándara is the deputy managing editor at El País, Spain’s largest daily. Since 2010, he has guided his newsroom toward a digital-first strategy, leading El País to become the most-visited Spanish-language news site. Previously, Echevarría founded, a news start-up that received numerous honors including two Online News Association awards. At Harvard, he is studying the structural evolution of newsrooms around the world and how disruptive innovation is altering traditional business and workflow models for news.

Amico and Echevarría presented a talk on journalism innovations at the Berkman Center in November and both have led shop talks for their Nieman classmates, sharing the secrets of their digital success: Amico and her husband Chris, an NPR application developer who also runs the technology side of HomicideWatch D.C., described the work involved in creating, maintaining and franchising their site, including the need to find continued financial support. Echevarría and Nieman classmate Ludovic Blecher, executive director and editor-in-chief at, led another shop talk to describe how they transformed their print-centric newsrooms into the digital age with a multi-platform approach to reporting.

Looking back at her first semester, Laura says, “The Nieman-Berkman fellowship has given me the opportunity to creatively explore the future of journalism. Grounded in the tradition of Nieman, but elevated by the multidisciplinary approach of Berkman, I’ve learned to explore applications of many different fields to my journalism. From discussions of creative commons, online anonymity, and virtual realities, just to name a few subjects, the Berkman Center has taught me to look beyond the traditional walls of journalism for potential solutions to what we know as the ‘Journalism Crisis.’

The lessons at Berkman will directly influence the development of a Nieman-based business-models working group for journalists which I am organizing for the spring semester with my Nieman colleague Borja Echevarría. I look forward this valuable and important conversation with my Nieman colleagues.”

That working group will bring people together for weekly discussions. Echevarría sees the value of that, stating “It’s important to build bridges.”

The Nieman Berkman Fellows have been active in other ways. Amico spoke on a panel on beat reporting at the Online News Association conference in September in San Francisco and was invited to talk to a journalism class at Emerson and a criminal justice class at Harvard. In December, she moderated the panel discussion at the I.F. Stone Medal presentation at the Nieman Foundation.