CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (May 21, 2008) — The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard has appointed Joshua Benton editor of its new Digital Journalism Project. A 2008 Nieman Fellow and former staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News, Benton will oversee the initiative designed to help journalists excel in the digital media age.
In his new role, Benton will manage a new Web site for journalists, news leaders, and academics who seek to navigate the rapidly changing news business. At a time when newspapers are struggling to ensure long-term sustainability, the site will highlight best practices in the industry and feature case studies, commentaries, research reports and successful business models.
As a reporter and blogger with long experience online, Benton will help identify ways journalists can improve their work, newsrooms can change their cultures, and news organizations can find ways to prosper.
“Josh brings to this position a special talent for living in the digital world and an understanding of where journalism might be heading in this transformative time,” said Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation.
“Good journalism is absolutely critical to a civilized society,” Benton said. “I hope we can help find ways to preserve it, improve it, and even make it profitable.”
Benton will collaborate with academic partners at Harvard University, including the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Business School and the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, on original research related to the project’s mission. Eventually, the Nieman Digital Journalism Project will organize conferences and presentations to report findings of the research and present other information produced by the Nieman project.
Before starting his Nieman Fellowship, Benton covered education for The Dallas Morning News. Over a two-year period, he wrote a series of investigative reports on a school district outside of Dallas, which exposed widespread cheating, corruption and mismanagement. His work prompted the state of Texas to shut down the district. Later stories about cheating on state tests in Texas led to a number of disciplinary actions and changes in state policy.
Benton has received a number of national awards for his work, including most recently the Philip Meyer Journalism Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. During his years covering education, he won five first-place National Awards for Education Reporting, presented by the Education Writers Association, along with that group’s Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting in 2005. He also has reported from 10 foreign countries and been a three-time finalist for the Livingston Award for International Reporting.
Along with his Nieman Fellowship, Benton was earlier a Pew Fellow in International Journalism at Johns Hopkins University and a Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center. He has lectured at a number of universities, news organizations, and conferences, most recently the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in March.
Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise who come to Harvard University for a year of study, seminars and special events. More than 1,200 journalists from 90 countries have received Nieman Fellowships.
The Nieman Foundation also publishes the quarterly magazine Nieman Reports and is home to the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism and the Nieman Watchdog Journalism Project, which encourages reporters and editors to monitor and hold accountable those who exert power in all aspects of public life.