Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (July 25, 2000) — Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine announced today that Robert H. Giles has been selected as the next curator of the University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Giles, 67, is presently a senior vice president of The Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan, international foundation dedicated to freedom of speech and of the press. He serves as editor-in-chief of The Freedom Forum’s Media Studies Journal and is currently directing an in-depth study of fairness in the news media. He also is instrumental in a major Freedom Forum initiative to increase the number of persons of color working in newspaper newsrooms.

“With all the forces acting today on the field of journalism, a program such as the Nieman has more to contribute than ever,” Rudenstine said. “I am confident that Bob Giles is the right person to lead it at this stage of its work.”

“Bob is a wonderful choice,” said Geneva Overholser, professor of journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and former editor of the Des Moines Register. “He’s a devoted friend of the Nieman Foundation, as well as a fine editor, and he has a deep understanding of the challenges facing journalism today.”

Prior to assuming his post at The Freedom Forum in 1997, Giles served for 11 years as executive editor, and, later, editor and publisher of The Detroit News. From 1977 to 1986 he was executive editor, then editor, of the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat & Chronicle and Times-Union. His newspaper career began in 1958 at the Akron, Ohio, Beacon Journal, where he held several reporting and editing positions; he ended his tenure as the executive editor.

Two newspapers won Pulitzer Prizes under Giles’ editorship. The Beacon Journal received the award in 1971, when he was managing editor, for coverage of the shootings at Kent State University. The Detroit News won in 1994, when Giles was editor, for the newspaper’s disclosures of a scandal in the Michigan House Fiscal Agency. Giles won the Scripps-Howard Foundation’s Distinguished Journalism Citation in 1978 for “outstanding public service in the cause of the First Amendment” for columns that advocated more press coverage of courtroom proceedings. He is an eight-time Pulitzer Prize juror and is the author of Newsroom Management: A Guide to Theory and Practice.

Giles is a 1955 graduate of DePauw University and received his master’s degree in 1956 from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He was a Nieman Fellow in 1966 and a Gannett professional-in-residence at the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.

He has served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, president of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and chair of the Foundation for American Communications. He was president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and a trustee of the William Allen White Foundation of the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.

“Bob Giles has developed a solid record for institutional research in his work as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and as the director of The Freedom Forum Center in New York,” said Bill Kovach, whom Giles succeeds as Nieman curator. “He recognizes the issues of greatest interest to journalists today. More importantly, he has confirmed his commitment to the values that have guided the Nieman program since it accepted, in 1937, the mandate ‘to promote and elevate standards’ in journalism.”

“I look forward to assuming the job of curator of the Nieman Foundation with a sense of obligation to carry forward, in the very best way possible, the tradition of this remarkable program,” Giles said. “The potential to build on Bill Kovach’s leadership as the steward of the fellows’ experience and as a voice for journalism is, for me, an extraordinary opportunity.”

The Nieman Foundation was established at Harvard in 1937 with a bequest from Agnes Wahl Nieman in memory of her husband, Milwaukee Journal founder Lucius Nieman. Its mission is to promote and elevate the standards of journalism and educate persons deemed especially qualified for journalism. Each academic year, 12 American and 12 international journalists serve as Nieman Fellows, studying at Harvard and participating in a variety of Foundation-sponsored activities. There are now more than 1,000 former Nieman Fellows worldwide. Giles, who takes up his new duties in August, will be the Foundation’s seventh curator.

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