Nieman Publications

The Nieman Foundation produces three distinct and dynamic publications that explore the many challenges and opportunities facing journalists and news organizations around the globe today. In print, online and through social media, they offer practical news, information and guidance to journalists working in all media. They are important resources that advance Nieman’s mission to “elevate the standards of journalism and educate persons deemed specially qualified for journalism.”

The Nieman Foundation is grateful to the many contributors who donate their time, ideas and creativity to our work throughout the year.
  • Nieman Reports — an influential quarterly magazine and website that explores contemporary challenges and opportunities in journalism
  • Nieman Journalism Lab — a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age
  • Nieman Storyboard — a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism in every medium and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling
The Nieman Foundation’s main website — — also provides important information regarding Nieman Fellowships, foundation news, public programs and Nieman events including journalism conferences, seminars, shop talks and journalism award ceremonies.

Nieman Reports

In 2013, Nieman Reports continued to refresh and revamp the design and content of the print magazine and also launched several new digital publishing initiatives.

In “Critical Condition: Why Professional Criticism Matters,” the Winter 2013 issue, John Lahr, former theater critic for The New Yorker; Consumer Reports editor in chief Kimberly D. Kleman; former literary critic Julia Keller, NF ’98, and rock critic Robert Christgau addressed the vitality of criticism in the age of Yelp. Also in that issue, “It Can’t Happen Here” by Dan Froomkin examined the paucity of reporting on poverty in America. The article, part of the Nieman Watchdog Project funded by the late Murrey Marder, NF ’50, attracted the attention of New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who highlighted Froomkin’s findings in her own examination of the Times’s coverage.

In April, as the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was in full swing, Nieman Visiting Fellow Hong Qu wrote two pieces for the Nieman Reports website analyzing the role social media played in breaking news of the attacks. Qu came to Lippmann House to develop Keepr, a social media monitoring software tool that extracts credible real-time information from raw Twitter feeds. Qu’s experience using Keepr during the coverage formed the basis for the cover story in the Spring issue of Nieman Reports, “The Signal and the Noise.” The issue also featured pieces by 2013 Fellows Ludovic Blecher on curating social media streams, Borja Echevarría de la Gándara on the importance of professional journalists in an age of crowdsourced reporting, Souad Mekhennet on the need for more Muslim voices in the media, and Betsy O’Donovan on standards and training for citizen journalists. Ten days after the bombings, the Nieman Foundation convened a livestreamed public forum—featuring Boston Police public information officer Cheryl Fiandaca, Washington Post digital content director David Beard, Boston Globe reporter David Abel, NF ’13, and Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for local news—about social media, breaking news and participatory journalism.

In celebration of the foundation’s 75th anniversary, Nieman Reports produced a special double issue, our first in color, devoted to the history and legacy of the Nieman Fellowship. To prepare the issue, we examined the contents of more than one hundred boxes retrieved from the Nieman archives, and a researcher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reviewed historical documents and microfilmed newspapers for information about Agnes Wahl Nieman, the foundation’s benefactor. There was only one known photo of her until a librarian found a second, published in a Milwaukee newspaper in connection with Mrs. Nieman’s charity work.

Drawing on these two images, as well as portraits of her parents and the physical description in Mrs. Nieman’s passport application, two artists—Jamie Poole in England and Alexandra Garcia, NF ’13—produced original artworks depicting her. They both hang at Lippmann House and are reproduced in the 75th anniversary issue. Maggie Jones, a 2012 Nieman Fellow and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, produced a profile of Agnes Wahl Nieman, who days before she died decided to will a large portion of her estate to Harvard University to “promote and elevate the standards of journalism.” An essay by Julia Keller, NF ’98, chronicled the Nieman Fellowship’s evolution from a “dubious experiment” to a transformative experience. In addition, 75 fellows from around the world addressed the impact of their fellowship year on their journalism.

In 2013, Nieman staff published the foundation’s first interactive iBook, “The Gates of Harvard Yard,” in collaboration with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, NF ’13. The book grew out of a Wintersession course Kamin taught about the history of Harvard Yard’s 25 wrought-iron gates. It is lushly illustrated with panoramic and close-up photographs and features student essays incorporating archival research as well as architectural drawings of the gates. Nieman Reports also published two e-books about investigative journalism, one of which was translated into Spanish. They included previously published articles and newly commissioned pieces. Organizers of the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Rio de Janeiro assisted in distributing the e-books. In addition, the “Writing the Book” issue of Nieman Reports was published as an e-book. In it, authors share what they have learned about book publishing.

In addition to the quarterly magazine, Nieman Reports posts articles and videos on a wide range of journalistic topics, including videos of talks at Lippmann House by speakers such as filmmaker Errol Morris and Evan Osnos, former China correspondent for The New Yorker. After Nelson Mandela’s death, Nieman Fellows from South Africa contributed reflections on their encounters with Mandela, dating back to his release from prison decades ago. This increased online activity contributed to the growth of @NiemanReports Twitter followers from fewer than 7,000 at the beginning of the year to more than 11,000 in December.

James Geary, NF ’12
Deputy Curator of the Nieman Foundation
Editor of
Nieman Reports Nieman Journalism Lab

The pace of change in journalism guaranteed another busy year for the Nieman Journalism Lab. October marked our fifth birthday — and while much has changed in journalism since 2008, our basic role has remained constant: Through original reporting, research and commentary, we help journalists, technologists and entrepreneurs figure out a path forward for the news in a digital age. We write about innovations in traditional media, digital media, tech companies, social networks and cover the places where the creation, distribution, discovery and consumption of news is changing.

Nieman Lab continues to publish one of the most popular websites about journalism, having now served up more than 11 million pages to our readers. Since the Lab’s start, we’ve written over 4,000 articles, podcasts, interviews, blog posts and other work around the future of news. Many of this year’s articles have driven discussions across the Web and beyond. Our mix — daily news, presented with perspective; a focus on understanding modern multiplatformed news diets; a pinch of academia; and input from international experiences — fills a real need in journalism.

Our Twitter feed, @NiemanLab, now has over 142,000 followers, up 32 percent over last year, with a Twitter presence larger than that of all but a handful of American newspapers. The Lab has over 23,000 Facebook fans (up 77 percent from a year ago) and 13,000 subscribers to our daily and weekly emails (up 52 percent). Our iPhone app has been downloaded over 15,000 times and been launched 125,000 times.

We also work with other parts of the university community. Each month, we now co-publish a review of the latest in academic media research with Journalists’ Resource at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. We worked with the Digital Media Law Project and other partners to gather survey data on the state of credentialing for online and other media. We also partnered with Google to host two members of the first class of Google Journalism Fellows, Linda Kinstler and Sarah Darville, for the summer.

Also this summer, we released our first open source project, OpenFuego, a version of our popular Twitter aggregation engine Fuego. OpenFuego has been adopted by a number of news organizations and even integrated into an Atlantic Media iPhone app. Not long after, we released Tweetable Text, a WordPress plugin that makes it easy for news organizations to preselect sentences for sharing; it too is in use at professional news sites.

Our staff was regularly called upon to provide expertise to other media outlets. The Lab additionally hosted 10 groups of non-U.S. media executives searching for help navigating today’s digital world, and our staff spoke at a number of important conferences, discussing the future of journalism and promoting the foundation as a whole.

In 2013, we held numerous events for the Boston journalism innovation community. And we continued to update Encyclo, our database of news innovators, adding or updating information more than 800 times and preparing a significant expansion of its content.

We are ending 2013 as we’ve ended the previous three years, by asking some of the smartest minds in journalism to predict what the future will hold for media and journalism in 2014. The dozens of people who participated are a fine proxy for the kinds of people Nieman Lab seeks to serve: top editors and publishers, young coders and reporters, strategists and academics, entrepreneurs and executives.

For a field in as much flux and experiencing as much growth as journalism today, it’s important to have a common hub where the community of innovators can talk amongst themselves. We believe — and our readers tell us — that we’re that place.

We have big ideas in mind for 2014, and I hope to report back to you in a year with more tales of new projects, bigger audiences and high-quality work.

Joshua Benton, NF ’08
Director, Nieman Journalism Lab
Nieman Storyboard

When Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism recently asked about Nieman Storyboard’ mission for a profile piece about our work, the answer was clear: “To help journalists tell better true stories; to help them think like storytellers at the idea stage, and in the field, and at the editing table; to show them, via example and comparative analysis, that narrative journalism may come in many voices, sizes, and mediums but the best of it turns, fundamentally, on reporting; to weight ethics at least as heavily as we do the elements of craft; to explore the everyday storyteller’s expanding toolset.” The soul answer: to immerse ourselves, and our readers, in true stories well told.

At Storyboard, we pursued that mission aggressively in 2013. Our overall traffic grew by 22 percent (and we're up more than 300 percent since 2010, our first full year online), and our Twitter (@niemanstory) readership expanded to nearly 8,000. In October, we broke our own traffic records—by far—with the publication of our Gay Talese-annotated version of his classic “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” and The Big Book of Narrative, a compendium of annotations, essays and tips on storytelling across media. We published Big Book, along with a curated history of Nieman storytellers, to honor the Nieman Foundation’s 75th anniversary.

We also began hosting live chats and added features such as “How’d you find that story?” to spread a bit of tradecraft on idea mining, one of the trickiest facets of narrative. Our “Why’s this so good?” series neared an important milestone—the 100th installment will come in 2014—and our popular Annotation Tuesday! series enjoyed coverage from the New York Times magazine’s 6th Floor blog. “Annotation Tuesday! serves up the answers in the body of the story itself,” wrote Jillian Dunham, “kind of like the obsessive highlights and notes I tend to make with my Kindle, but in this case with actual answers.”

Elon Green’s Talese annotation was covered by Slate and NPR, among others. (We Storified the reactions, for those interested.) The Open Notebook, a National Association of Science Writers blog, was among those that covered our Big Book of Narrative release; and Deadspin kindly noted our Peter Richmond essay on studying under the legendary John Hersey, at Yale.

We started a Pinterest page that we update daily: a collection of must-reads, narrative news and gear for the ambitious storyteller, which we round up in a post for weekend reading. We adjusted our publishing schedule to allow for authoritative responses to trending storytelling-related topics. For example, when Texas Monthly’s Pam Colloff (who was recently selected by 2014 Nieman Fellows for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism) tweeted for recommendations on crime writing and empathy, we organized the incoming answers into a quick-hit reading list, with recommendations of our own; and when the Washington Post’s Dave Beard admired a Politico oral history, we contributed to the dialogue by curating a collection from that genre.

We’re happy to say that Storyboard continues to be the foremost publication dedicated exclusively to narrative journalism and the future of storytelling.

Paige Williams, NF ’97
Editor, Nieman Storyboard