A foreign affairs correspondent for The Sunday Times, Lamb was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the U.K.'s 2013 New Year's Honours List for "services to journalism"
It’s fair to say my Nieman year didn’t go at all as I imagined it. I arrived there aged 28 from a posting in Rio de Janeiro, my head full of Carnival and the Amazon, engaged to a Brazilian banker and signed up for all sorts of worthy classes on environmental policy-making.
Then I entered the white clapboard House of Wonders that is Lippmann House. My heroes were Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, and Ryszard Kapuscinski for their writing style and foreign adventures—I’d never really thought about the point of journalism until then. After all, I come from Britain where we see our job as simply to inform and entertain, even titillate, and many would say the main function of newspapers is for wrapping up fish and chips (or worse since the phone hacking scandal). I’d never heard anyone mention public interest. But our Nieman curator was the wonderful Bill Kovach who revered journalism and at Lippmann House a parade of interesting people like David Halberstam were brought in front of us. I was introduced to books like James Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” I saw that journalism could actually make a difference.
I also saw that narrative journalism had not died out with my heroes. There was nothing better than buying bundles of magazines like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Harper’s at the Harvard Square newsstand, then sitting in Au Bon Pain drinking them in over a large cappuccino. In England the closest we have to that is a weekly rather than daily newspaper so at the end of my Nieman I moved from the Financial Times to The Sunday Times where I could write longer pieces.
There was another development that changed my life but I didn’t realize how much at the time. That was discovering something called the Internet. In March 1994, halfway through my Nieman I wrote an awestruck weekend front for the FT entitled “Yes I was a cybervirgin!” that today sounds ludicrously dated explaining its uses and the wonders of e-mail and discovering online groups such as alt.fan.british.accent. This was long before Google.
I knew this was something important but had no idea it would transform my job as a foreign correspondent where sometimes 90 percent of my work had been trying to find a way to send the story back.
But if there was a specific moment that changed my life, it was actually personal.
At the very first get-together with my fellow Nieman Fellows I thought the dark-eyed olive-skinned man from Portugal in white shirt and suede waistcoat was dashing and arrogant—reader, of course we fell in love. Environmental policy-making classes soon made way for bike rides and cinnamon buns along the Charles River; swan boats in the Boston Public Garden; tobogganing down the steps of the Widener Library; and perusing the dusty shelves of Victor Hugo bookstore.