The Nieman Fellowships for journalists at Harvard evolve each year, reflecting changes in the journalism community at large. But while programming is adjusted to suit the needs of each new Nieman class, the transformative experience of the Nieman remains constant. Some two dozen talented, resourceful journalists from around the globe come together annually and build lasting personal and professional relationships as they study together, collaborate on projects, reflect on why they do what they do, and discover innovative ways to tell their stories well in all media.
Nieman seminars, shops talks and master classes keep fellows up to date with the latest ideas, trends and skills they need to do their jobs effectively. As the year progresses, the fellows give back to Harvard and to the wider Cambridge community. Many teach sessions at the annual Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism, others mentor students at The Harvard Crimson or in their classes. They deliver talks, participate in panel discussions, affiliate with Harvard Houses and share their expertise with one another in a number of DIY sessions at Lippmann House. They also moderate many Nieman talks, tapping into their reporting skills.
In addition to the classes they take at Harvard and MIT, the fellows also take advantage of classes designed exclusively for them, including nonfiction writing taught by Steve Almond; fiction writing taught by Anne Bernays; and public speaking, led by Holly Weeks, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
A vital new addition to the Nieman experience in recent years has been the Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows, who are selected to develop projects to advance journalism. The visiting fellows share their research with their Nieman classmates and often publish their findings in Nieman Lab and Nieman Reports. The visiting fellowship program received a big boost in 2015 with a generous grant from the Knight Foundation designed to support journalism innovation.
In 2015, the news innovators included:
Amy Webb, founder and CEO of Webbmedia Group and co-founder of Spark Camp, who developed a program to reform journalism education by researching and publishing a blueprint that can be adapted within universities. The end result of her project is the Nieman ebook How to Make J-Schools Matter (Again), which identifies six hidden challenges facing journalism educators today and offers a new approach to curriculum and classroom education.
Melody Joy Kramer was selected when she was an editor and digital strategist at NPR. She now works for 18F, a civic consultancy for the U.S. government, and as a columnist for Poynter. At Harvard, she developed a new model for public media membership to include non-financial forms of contributions and use of local stations’ physical space for community building. The goal of the project is to instill a sense of ownership and identity among listeners, allowing them to feel more connected to and invested in public media’s content, work and mission. The result of her work is Media Public, which has received a grant from the Knight Prototype Fund.
Jack Riley, the London-based head of audience development for The Huffington Post UK, who researched the impact of smartwatches and wearable devices on journalism and content. He also worked on a prototype of a smartwatch publishing app.
Freek Staps, the head of the business news start-up NRC Q in the Netherlands, who used his time on campus to research a set of issues related to journalism’s digital transformation, including leadership skills, newsroom buy-in and how content producers can work hand-in-hand with reader-oriented departments on the business side of media companies. His goal was to identify best practices in the United States in order to introduce them to European markets and provide a roadmap for news organizations wishing to host a startup within their own walls.
Dean Haddock, director of web and information technology for StoryCorps, designed a system for recording, editing and accessing user-generated interviews online that will extend StoryCorps’ proven interview methodology to the Internet and mobile devices. The project will offer new ways to produce high-quality, well-organized audio content that journalists, communities, families and the public at large can freely use and share.
Donna Pierce, a contributing editor at Upscale Magazine who writes about food in a syndicated column for the Chicago Defender, researched papers at the Harvard University Archives and elsewhere for a publishing project on the migration of African-American cooks and recipes from the South to the Midwest, West and Northeast. She also made plans for a companion project to teach journalistic skills to young people through interviews with senior citizens about their food traditions.
Peer-to Peer Training
Fellows shared their skills and expertise with classmates throughout the year, including these sessions:
- Column-writing series in February taught by 2015 Niemans Farnaz Fassihi, Laurie Penny, a columnist, author and blogger, currently a Berkman Fellow at Harvard, and Dawn Turner, columnist and specialist reporter for the Chicago Tribune
- Screenwriting with Dawn Turner
- Audio editing, hosted by Gabe Bullard, director of news and editorial strategy at the public radio station WFPL News in Louisville, Kentucky (now a senior producer at National Geographic)
- Investigative reporting and computer assisted reporting with Jason Grotto, NF ’15, investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune
- “How to be interviewed on TV,” led by former CNN.com editor Alicia Stewart, NF ’15
- Freelance journalism with 2015 Niemans Maggie Koerth-Baker and Celeste LeCompte
- 2015 Nieman David Jiménez discussed his new position as editor-in-chief of Spain’s El Mundo
- TV workshop for fellows interested in learning how to prepare to appear on television as a guest or panelist with 2016 Nieman Fellows Hamish Macdonald and Wonbo Woo
- Audio storytelling with Chris Arnold, NF ’13, from NPR, and Gabe Bullard, a senior producer with National Geographic