Nieman News

The time has come to hand my responsibilities over to new leadership. As I think you know this is a very difficult decision and a very difficult letter to write. The job as Curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard has given me an opportunity over the past decade to engage in some of the most meaningful work of my life. It has given me a chance to get to know some of the most talented and accomplished journalists I have ever met. It has allowed me the chance to work with you all to instill a sense of responsibility and a dedication to ethical standards in a new generation of journalists. It has given me the platform from which to promote and argue for a journalism in the public interest. It has, in short, afforded me the opportunity to put the experiences of my life to high purpose.

Now, for both personal and practical reasons I think it makes sense to make next year my last in this job.

The practical reasons first. The new communications technology and the economic organization of the media it has spawned radically alter the work of journalism. I have struggled to keep abreast of this change and what it means to the fellows who come to the Nieman experience. But I grow distant from direct experience. While that in no way interferes with my efforts to strengthen standards and ethical values it makes me less able to anticipate or appreciate their practical needs. The university and future fellows are, as we say these days, ready for an upgrade.

Now the personal reasons. Through forty-four years of marriage, Lynne has deferred many of her personal desires and ambitions for the needs of family and my career. The time is long passed to redress that and to follow her prescription: enjoy family, savor life, write a few books. That means we should move back to Washington near three of our four children and four of our six grandchildren.

You have all been a source of pride and inspiration to me in my time here — even as you pushed, prodded and goaded me to keep up with a changing world. More than that, you have been friends to Lynne and me. We will never forget that. Your support has made our time here a delight. I think you know, but I’ll say it anyway — I am in your and Harvard’s debt. Without reservation I will always stand ready to help you and the Nieman Foundation and Harvard in any way I can.

With respect and affection,

Bill Kovach

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