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Visiting Fellow Paul Salopek discusses plans for his Out of Eden walk around the world

Fellowships

Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships

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The Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships are supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help news innovators develop projects to advance quality journalism.

Learn more about the Nieman-Knight collaboration

The Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships at Harvard offer short-term research opportunities to individuals interested in working on special projects designed to advance journalism. Since this initiative’s inception in 2012, the Nieman Foundation has awarded 42 visiting fellowships ranging between two and twelve weeks. Candidates need not be practicing journalists, but must demonstrate the ways in which their work at Harvard and the Nieman Foundation may improve the prospects for journalism’s future.

Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows utilize the extensive resources at Harvard and MIT, including local scholars, research centers and libraries, to achieve concrete results, either developing a project that can be completed during the time spent at Harvard or as part of a larger undertaking that continues after the fellowship period ends. Additionally, fellows are expected to share their progress and findings either through publication on one of Nieman’s in-house websites—Nieman Reports, Nieman Journalism Lab, and Nieman Storyboard—or in another medium or format better suited to the project.

Eligibility

  • The proposed project must have the potential to advance journalism. This may be related to research, programming, design, financial strategies or another topic.
  • Those who should consider applying include journalists, publishers, technologists, entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, media analysts, academics and others who want to make an impact. There is no age limit or academic prerequisites, and a college degree is not required. Both U.S. and international applicants are invited to apply.
  • Candidates must be available to be in residence in Cambridge, Mass., for the duration of the fellowship.
  • Prospective fellows must speak and read English fluently and have a command of written English.

Fellowship Duration

Visiting fellowships take place during the calendar rather than the academic year. Applicants list their preferred start date, the number of weeks requested (no more than 12), and any flexibility regarding dates in the online application. The Nieman Foundation will work with selected fellows to determine a start date. The duration of the fellowship awarded may be shorter than the number of weeks requested. Most fellowships are between four and eight weeks.

Financial Support

For fellows not supported by an employer during the fellowship, a stipend of $1,350 per week will be provided. If an employer keeps the fellow on salary during the fellowship because the project benefits the organization, a fellowship stipend will not be provided.

If a fellow does not reside in the Boston area or otherwise have accommodations, free use of a furnished one-bedroom apartment will be available for the length of the fellowship.

Advice to Candidates

  • A focused inquiry is better than a broad one. The time on campus speeds by, so having clear goals is essential.
  • The visiting fellowship is best suited to individuals who are able to work independently. The experience is akin to an independent reporting assignment. Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows set about their self-determined project work as a full-time job, with no constraints on their time. This is unlike our academic-year fellowship program, which is an experience structured around two semesters of course auditing and participation in Nieman programming.
  • Preparation is vital to a successful fellowship. Fellows are expected to start their project on day one, having already completed preliminary research, identified and contacted sources at Harvard and elsewhere, and scheduled appointments with those people.
  • Be sure to consider whether your needs are better met by our longer Nieman Fellowship, geared toward broader inquiry, leadership growth and professional development.

Apply

The application deadline for the 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships passed on Sept. 28, 2018. The online application for the 2020 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships will be posted in July 2019, and the deadline to submit will be announced at that time. The application will require biographical information, a résumé or curriculum vitae, contact information for three professional references, and a 600-word project proposal—an essay that describes the project you plan to pursue as a visiting fellow at Harvard.

The guiding questions to answer within the essay are: Which particular Harvard or local resources will be especially important and useful? How, specifically, will you use your fellowship time to advance the project? What will be the end product or result of your fellowship? How will your work benefit journalism?

Selection Timeline

All applicants will be notified of their status by Nov. 19, 2018, and Skype calls will be scheduled with those advancing to the interview stage. We expect to make our selection of fellows by Dec. 14, 2018. The press release announcing the 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows will be posted in January 2019.

Project Examples

We are interested in any project that has the potential to advance journalism. Previous projects have ranged from how podcasts can help strengthen the position of public radio stations to how machine learning can help news organizations organize archival material to the impact of smartwatches and wearable devices on journalism.

Read the following project snapshots for examples of how previous fellows have used their time on campus.

Mark Frankel, 2018

Project: To research how journalists can best uncover and report on stories sourced from audiences on “dark social” apps, message boards and other private, invitation-only platforms.

Result: Read Mark’s full report of his findings “Journalists have an ‘open invitation’ to an interesting and under-used beat. How should they use it?” or this abridged version, “The promises and pitfalls of reporting within chat apps and other semi-open platforms: A journalist’s guide,” in Nieman Lab.

Shaheen Pasha, 2018

Project: To research prison education programs, with the goal of creating an immersive teaching and reporting model for university journalism programs to partner with prisons in creating journalism curriculum for inmates.

Result: Progress toward the creation of a guidebook to help other programs and individuals interested in doing immersive journalism education in prisons. Learn more about the pilot program co-led by Shaheen: “Journalism students take mass incarceration course in Hampshire County Jail.”

Trushar Barot, 2017

Project: To research the rise of audio AI assistants and their role in helping news audiences—especially those new to the internet—find quality, relevant and timely content.

Result: Convening of an industry forum of key individuals working in voice AI across news organizations and tech companies to share best practices and foster a collaborative industry conversation. Read Trushar’s report “The future of news is humans talking to machines” in Nieman Lab.

Paul McNally, 2016

Project: To develop an online tool to organize citizen journalism in South Africa into a network for investigative reporting.

Result: Development of training methods and approaches to fundraising that Paul oversaw as founding director of The Citizen Justice Network, a nonprofit in South Africa that develops and promotes citizen journalism in radio. In 2017, Paul co-founded Volume, a platform that enables community radio stations in Africa to produce better local news and increase advertising revenue through a suite of products aimed at those services. Read more about Volume News, one of the Volume suite of products, in “Do we even need local news?” Also see “In South Africa, community radio stations — lifelines for local news in rural areas — can get a boost with Volume” in Nieman Lab and “Paul McNally, a 2016 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow, is working to bring community radio in South Africa to a wider audience” in Nieman Reports.

Tara Pixley, 2016

Project: To identify structural challenges to finding and accessing images from photojournalists outside the Western media network. To create a platform to showcase quality global photojournalism and provide news photo editors with diverse, fresh perspectives that depict non-Western people and places.

Result: In 2017, Tara co-founded Reclaim Photo, an alliance of organizations working to promote diversity in photojournalism. Learn more about Reclaim Photo and its efforts to survey photojournalists worldwide to examine issues of class, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation in photography in “Seeking action – not just talk – about diversity in photojournalism” and in “Why we need more visual journalists and editors of color” in Nieman Reports.

Paul Salopek, 2012

Project: To plan the epic Out of Eden reporting walk around the globe to trace the path of human migration and use storytelling and technology to test a new form of “slow journalism.”

Result: In January 2013, Paul embarked on his narrative trek, building ongoing collaborations with several centers across Harvard and MIT to facilitate audience engagement with the walk, such as developing educational materials for classrooms. Learn more about Paul’s insights on the impact of his fellowship experience, his preparations for the journey, and how the work of Out of Eden continues to grow and evolve. Also read “30 million footsteps” in The Harvard Gazette.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many fellowships will be awarded?

At least five Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows will be selected each calendar year. As many as 11 fellows have been selected in a given calendar year.

Are travel expenses included in the financial support, or will they be reimbursed?

Fellows are responsible for booking and paying for travel arrangements to and from Cambridge, Mass. Although fellows may use stipend funds to cover those expenses, there is no separate allowance for travel and those expenses will not be reimbursed.

May I reapply if I was not awarded a fellowship previously?

Yes, of course! You will need to resubmit a complete application.

If I miss the application deadline, may I submit a late application?

The Nieman Foundation does not accept late applications.

May I apply for both the short-term fellowship and an academic-year fellowship in the same year?

Yes, but:

  1. Please carefully review the eligibility requirements for each fellowship.
  2. Understand that the Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowship is not a shortened version of a full academic-year fellowship. The focus of the visiting fellowship is the project; the academic-year fellowship is a structured experience including exploration of an individualized study plan through two semesters of course auditing at Harvard and participation in Nieman programming and events. We recommend deciding which program is best suited to your goals and applying for that one only.
  3. Nieman alumni of one fellowship category are not eligible to apply for a different one.

I still have a question. Who should I contact?

Send any questions to fellowship program administrator Nicole Arias at nicole_arias@harvard.edu or call her at (617) 495-2238.