Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (April 18, 2006) — The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard has launched a new Web site to advance the practice of narrative journalism in the U.S. and the world; provide useful and inspiring resources for writers, editors, teachers and students of narrative; and offer a forum for the exchange of narrative-related ideas and resources.

The Nieman Narrative Digest, at, has hundreds of links to noteworthy narratives. Each link includes a brief analysis of the narrative by the staff of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism. Some stories are also supported by comments from the reporters and editors. The Digest is searchable by author, source and topic, so visitors can quickly find narrative articles that meet their needs and interests.

The Nieman Narrative Digest also includes noteworthy essays on narrative work and interviews with practitioners of the craft, covering such topics as the ethics of narrative reporting, sourcing, scene-writing, how to report for narrative content, and why and how narrative use in newspapers is growing. There are also links to other narrative-related sites; and the Digest will soon begin mediated discussions with expert guest hosts, providing opportunities for exploring and clarifying ideas.

“We’ve included writers so relevant and gripping that reporters across the nation know their bylines, as well as stories by unheralded writers whose work stands up in this distinguished company,” said Mark Kramer, director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism. “First reactions from our audience of professional journalists are that the Digest is a resource they’ll turn to often for specific answers.”

Since the early 1990’s, newspapers and news broadcasters have become increasingly interested in using narrative journalism to engage audiences while tackling stories about complex human situations. The thousand journalists who come to the Nieman Foundation’s narrative journalism conference every fall have understood that good narrative practices can broaden and deepen coverage while challenging reporters and editors to develop high-level craft skills.

“Narrative is a great form for probing difficult topics such as race, class, religious differences, uncertainties and the unfairness of everyday life, right along with the heartwarming stories of courage, triumph, success and elation that have been the more obvious targets for narrative coverage,” Kramer said.

“The increasing use of narrative in newspaper stories has been effective in engaging readers,” said Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation. “This in turn has inspired reporters and editors to use narrative techniques more often in short- and long-form stories. But narrative’s growth has also stirred some to question its value. We hope the Digest will further the discussion of what narrative brings to the news and improve narrative practices as well.”

While most reporters have become more aware of narrative and more interested in trying it, good examples can be hard to find. Nell Lake, the editor of the Digest, says she plans to refresh the site often — usually weekly — with featured narratives, essays and discussions. “We’re counting on our users to tell us when good new work appears and also how to make the site ever more useful.”

Lake has written and edited narrative nonfiction for more than a decade. She taught writing at Boston University’s College of Communication and has written and edited narrative for national publications including Walking, Harvard Magazine, Yankee and The Boston Globe.

Mark Kramer has directed the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism since 2001. His articles have been published in many newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, National Geographic and The Atlantic Monthly. He authored “Invasive Procedures: A Year in the World of Two Surgeons” and two other narrative nonfiction books and is a co-editor of the anthology “Literary Journalism” in the United States and similar anthologies in Denmark and Japan.

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the nation’s oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists. Since 1938, more than 1,100 men and women from the United States and 77 other nations have come to Harvard as part of the fellowship program. In addition to the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism, the Nieman Foundation publishes Nieman Reports, the nation’s oldest magazine devoted to a critical examination of the practice of journalism. The foundation also is the home of the Nieman Watchdog Project, which encourages reporters and editors to monitor and hold accountable those who exert power in all aspects of public life.

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