Every year for the past 75 years, classes of Nieman Fellows have come together to study, learn, explore and experiment at Harvard. They have crossed boundaries of nationality, gender, age, race and creed – not to mention media platforms – to find common ground as journalists. They have been united in their shared desire to tell true stories well, deepen their understanding of the world, speak truth to power, and to improve their storytelling skills to better inform, enlighten and engage their audiences.

At the end of the fellowship year, they leave with a lifelong connection to their classmates and to the university, equipped to lead and innovate and to share what they’ve gained with their peers and colleagues at home. Sometimes they return to newsrooms reinvigorated and full of ideas. In other cases, they change course and start new enterprises, investigations and books. They even lead countries as we were reminded in September when Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, NF ’88, visited Harvard as president of Colombia to deliver a public address sponsored the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. But they forever remain Niemans.

1988 Nieman Fellow Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, president of Colombia, with 1990 Nieman Fellow Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation

Just what is the fellowship experience? Though different for every individual, it is most frequently described as eye-opening and often transformative. In 75 years, the common fellowship threads connect classes have been courses at Harvard, seminars and master classes with Harvard’s greatest thinkers, intimate discussions with leading journalists and of course fellowship – the sharing of hearts and minds with classmates in the Nieman family.

In recent years, as the mechanisms of journalism have changed, the fellowship too has expanded to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, experimentation with digital and social media, crowdsourcing, Kickstarting and many other collaborative ventures.
The Fellowship in 2013

Throughout the 2012-2013 academic year, fellows came together to share ideas in a variety of ways. Eager to share their expertise with classmates, they offered a series of training sessions including a master class in audio storytelling taught by Paula Molina, a radio anchor at Radio Cooperativa in Chile, and NPR reporter Chris Arnold. Another master class in smartphone photography was taught by photojournalists Karim Ben Khelifa, Finbarr O’Reilly and Nieman Affiliate Tina Ahrens. In February, multimedia journalist Alexandra Garcia joined Poynter’s Regina McCombs to help teach a three-day video workshop. And in the fall, Nieman-Berkman Fellow Hasit Shah teamed up with the Nieman Lab’s Justin Ellis for a session on Tweeting for journalists, exploring both the benefits and pitfalls of using the tool for reporting.

2013 Nieman Fellows Paula Molina, left, and Chris Arnold teaching a workshop on audio storytelling

On campus and in the community, the 2013 and 2014 fellows gave back and shared their expertise in a variety of ways. Some examples:

  • Jazz and Journalism: Reporting with Improvisation, a talk at Harvard Law School by 2013 Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation Laura Amico, in which she explained why journalism should take a cue from jazz. Laura, together with fellow Nieman-Berkman Fellow Borja Echevarría de la Gándara, also created a working group to explore money and business models issues, collectively reviewing the latest findings and inviting speakers to share ideas.

  • 2013 Nieman Fellow Ludovic Blecher and Nieman Affiliate Tina Ahrens during a session on innovation with Beth Altringer organized by the Fellows' business models working group. The notes are the fellows' definitions of "innovation." Click to view larger.

  • Congo on the Wire a photo exhibit by Finbarr O’Reilly, presented at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Finbarr participated in Congo’s Invisible War, a panel discussion in March with Dr. Jennifer Leaning, director of Harvard's François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and Roger-Claude Liwanga, a Congolese human rights lawyer. He also arranged an evening conversation – Shooting Ghosts – with retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Thomas James Brennan, with whom he was embedded in Afghanistan. The two men discussed the combat experience they shared, its aftermath and the new book they are writing together.
  • In May, 2013 Nieman Fellows Jane Spencer, Katrin Bennhold and Yaakov Katz, together with leading thinkers at Harvard, participated in the 2nd annual conference hosted by the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching. Sessions at the event this year focused on the framing question: “In this time of disruption and innovation for universities, what are the essentials of good teaching and learning?”
  • Presentation of !nstant – a mobile app for breaking news designed to combine the best of all platforms, separating signal from noise and adding curated social feeds, context and visuals for live stories. Fellows Borja Echevarría de la Gándara, Ludovic Blecher, Alexandra Garcia and Paula Molina developed the idea in Ethan Zuckerman's “News and Participatory Media” class at MIT. Their user experience prototype showed what live reporting would have looked like during the sinking of the Titanic. Alexandra developed other inventions in her “Design for Desirability” class at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, designing two mobile apps and creating “Bob,” a bottle that wobbles but won’t spill drinks.

  • Old Traumas, New Dilemmas: Four Asian Media Perspectives, a forum presented by the Harvard University Asia Center and the Nieman Foundation with Yang Xiao, NF ’14, from Southern People Weekly (China); Sayuri Daimon, NF ’01, from The Japan Times; Chong-ae Lee, NF ’13, from the Seoul Broadcasting System; and John Nery, NF ’12, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer

  • Impact of Digital and Social Media in Latin America, India and China, a Hacks/Hackers event at The Boston Globe with 2014 Nieman Fellows Leslie Hook, Hasit Shah and Daniel Eilemberg. The three discussed the growth and impact of digital and social media in Latin America, India and China.

  • “Thinking About Modern Terrorism,” the kickoff lecture for the Pforzheimer House Forum, given by Dina Temple Raston, NPR’s counterterrorism correspondent and the first Murrey Marder Nieman Fellow in Watchdog Journalism. Dina also moderated a fall shoptalk with ProPublica’s managing editor Stephen Engelberg.

  • An overview of redesign plans for the Animal Politico website by founder and Visiting Fellow Daniel Eilemberg, who presented plans for expanding, rebuilding and relaunching the site, a leading online news source for Mexican and U.S.-Mexican news. Daniel credits the four Harvard Business School classes he took in the fall with helping him refine and expand his plans.

  • Keepr presentation: 2013 Visiting fellow Hong Qu also presented research for his Keepr app, which extracts credible information from raw Twitter feeds. At Harvard, he worked to design an algorithm that can filter thousands of tweets to automatically distill meaningful signals out of noisy chatter. Keepr was put to the test in April during the Boston Marathon bombings when Hong used his algorithm identifying reliable information as events unfolded.
  • 2014 Nieman-Berkman Fellow Hasit Shah, left, in conversation with Twitter's Andrew Fitzgerald
  • Twitter seminar with Andrew Fitzgerald, the head of news partnerships at Twitter, moderated by 2014 Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation Hasit Shah, a senior producer at BBC News in London. Hasit also led a workshop about openness in India at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society: co-organized a Berkman storytelling hackathon; and led a discussion on an India-related project for Berkman’s Digital Problem-Solving Initiative.

  • “Lightning talks” at the Berkman Center’s Festival of Ideas in September with Hasit Shah and fellow Nieman-Berkman Jeff Young, an editor and writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Jeff spoke about managing technological distraction and also led a separate Berkman session about forming groups online, which stemmed from his research on online education. His goal is to help build a MOOC (free online course) to teach journalism techniques to aid citizen journalists. He worked with Charles Nesson, the founder of the Berkman Center, to write a case study on MOOCs and online education for his Internet and Society course. He additionally moderated a panel at a recent summit on MOOCs held by edX, and in October, moderated two sessions about the future of education at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul.

  • Issac J. Bailey a metro columnist and senior writer for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism, wrote a paper based on his reporting for a class in early brain development that will be used in future iterations of the course. Issac also worked with students at The Harvard Crimson, providing feedback to three writers, and is scheduled to speak to a class of journalism students at Emerson College in the spring. He additionally plans to lead his Nieman class in a short seminar on how to better think through and report on the complexity of race and race relations.
During the course of the year, the 2013 and 2014 fellows also gave generously of their time, as moderators for seminars, as mentors to student journalists at The Harvard Crimson and the Georges Conference,  as guests speakers at the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School Media Arts Studio, and at numerous other campus events. 2013 Nieman Fellows Laura Wides-Muñoz, David Abel, Betsy O’Donovan, Brett Anderson and Yaakov Katz also extended their stay on campus, teaching summer school journalism classes at Harvard Extension School.

2013 Nieman Fellow Souad Mekhennet speaks with student journalists during lunch at the Georges Conference
The fellows also supported and encouraged each other in other ways: The 2013 class organized a project night to showcase many of innovative projects they had worked on during the fellowship year as well as a reading night to share work from their Nieman writing classes and affiliate Soundings to learn more about the lives and work of Nieman partners.
Looking forward

In the new year, Rachel Emma Silverman, the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Business Journalism and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who covers management and workplace issues, will speak at the “Exploring the Intersection of Writing and Business” program, sponsored by Harvard’s Office of Career Services. Rachel, like her predecessor Chris Arnold, will also attend the “Strictly Financials” seminar run by the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism in Phoenix in January.

2014 Nieman Fellow Flavia Krause-Jackson, a diplomatic correspondent for Bloomberg News, has also been invited to speak at the FDR Global Citizenship Conference at Adams House during Harvard’s Wintersession.

From left: 2014 Nieman Fellows Jeffrey R. Young, Sangar Rahimi, Flavia Krause-Jackson, and Susie Banikarim