In its three publications – Nieman Reports, Nieman Lab and Nieman Storyboard – the Nieman Foundation covers journalism’s most important issues, from industry news and newsroom innovations to stories that explore social media trends, the craft of storytelling and collaborations across platforms.
The Nieman Foundation’s main website also provides important information regarding Nieman Fellowships, foundation news and Nieman events including journalism conferences, seminars, shop talks and journalism award presentations.
Nieman Lab in 2015 continued its daily coverage of all things digital, providing news and analysis about start-up successes and failures, innovative business models, collaborative media projects, journalism’s most creative pioneers and outliers, and much more. In the past 12 months alone, the Lab has published 590 articles by more than 100 writers, serving as a leading voice in media news reporting for audiences around the globe.
The shift from laptops and desktops to smartphones continues to challenge old paths to news discovery and monetization. Podcasts, though hardly new, saw a rapid increase in investment, talent acquisition, and audience. The threat of adblocking was a major thread through the summer and fall. And early on, the Lab identified 2015 as the Year of Distributed Content, as digital platforms flexed their muscles (Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat Discover) at the potential expense of publishers.
The annual predictions package last December brought together more than 60 people – drawing from journalists, technologists, academics, and publishers – to write about what the new year would bring. In the 2016 predictions package, more than 100 leading voices weigh in on topics from the botification of news and the growth of podcasts to fact-checking sites and push notifications and beyond.
In December, the Lab organized the foundation’s first “Nieman in New York” event, discussing the threat posed by adblocking to those publishing on mobile phones. Nieman Lab has also begun a content-sharing partnership with The Guardian’s new Knight-funded Mobile Innovation Lab, which will develop and create new approaches to delivering news and information using mobile technology.
The Lab’s daily and weekly email newsletters reach over 26,000 people. Across all these platforms, Lab readers are a highly international group: 45 percent of the website audience, 48 percent of Twitter followers, and 68 percent of Facebook fans live outside the United States.
Two prolific Lab staffers moved on to other news organizations this year: Caroline O’Donovan joined BuzzFeed as a senior technology reporter in San Francisco, and Justin Ellis became a senior editor at ESPN The Magazine. In their place, two talented new members have joined the team: Laura Hazard Owen, previously managing editor of Gigaom, came to Cambridge in the new position of Nieman Lab deputy editor and Shan Wang joined after stints at the Harvard University Press, Boston.com, and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. Her position is funded through a Knight Foundation grant to increase coverage of mobile.
Nieman Reports continued to dig deeply into issues of concern for journalists across the United States and around the globe in 2015.
In the Winter issue, Jonathan Guyer, a Cairo-based writer and student of Egyptian satire, examined the threats, challenges, and opportunities facing political cartoonists in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Digital strategist and 2015 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow Amy Webb also offered A Blueprint for How To Make J-School Matter (Again), with excerpts from her Nieman ebook that outlines steps to change journalism education and better prepare students for the future.
Race and reporting was the subject of the comprehensive Nieman Reports cover package in the spring. Myrtle Beach Sun News columnist Issac Bailey, NF ’14, led the reporting with his impassioned personal essay on facing a barrage of insults and racist comments following the election of President Obama in 2008. Susan Smith Richardson, NF ’03, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, argued for establishing a black beat and Eric Deggans, NPR’s TV critic, made the case for covering race, culture, and poverty like the weather, sports, and the stock market.
In the Summer issue, our cover story examined what the growing use of automation in the newsroom means for journalists. Celeste LeCompte, NF ’15, now director of business development at ProPublica, examined how newsrooms are using algorithms to expand coverage, engage audiences, and respond to breaking news. Journalist and computer scientist Jonathan Stray also suggested a number of bots that reporters can use to monitor the vast amount of data online.
To round out the year, Nieman Reports’s Fall issue looked at the growing number of opportunities for storytelling through social media. Photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a 2016 Nieman Fellow, contributed the cover story, War Is Personal, about her work capturing and sharing images of people and places in Ukraine using creative methods. Neil Shea wrote in Gathering the Shards about using the power of Instagram to tell stories.
Nieman Reports received several awards this year: two 2015 Mirror Awards, the first for best commentary (“Moral Hazard” by Yang Xiao, NF ’14) and the second for best single article in digital media (“Where are the Women? Why we need more female newsroom leaders” by Anna Griffin, NF’ 12); the 2014 Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism; and a 2015 EPPY Award for the best web redesign/relaunch (under 1 million unique monthly visitors category).The Society for News Design honored the Nieman Foundation’s web redesign with an Award of Excellence (small division) in its Best of Digital Design competition.
Storyboard in 2015 continued to showcase the very best in narrative journalism with regular features that look at craft and storytelling opportunities across all media and platforms.
In Sharing the Viewfinder: Instagram as a Medium for Documentary Photography, photographer and 2016 Nieman Fellow Anastasia Taylor-Lind described her unconventional efforts to communicate the human toll of war in Ukraine using social media, hand-written postcards and portraits she took in Kiev’s Independence Square. The article, which was also published as the cover story in the fall issue of Nieman Reports, underscores the power of engaging directly with audiences and how that interaction “allows consumers of images to influence the creator.”
In a related piece, long-form narrative writer Neil Shea wrote about How to Tell Powerful Narratives on Instagram using short posts to tell narrative stories of people, among them two hippo hunters and a spiritual healer he met on a reporting trip to Kenya.
Other stories published together with Nieman Reports focused on new and emerging forms of narrative including Olivia Koski’s look at new immersive storytelling techniques and technologies, Virtual Reality Lets the Audience Step into the Story; Laura Collins-Hughes examination of The Narrative Appeal of Documentary Theater and why journalists are turning to playwriting; and Exploring the Rise of Live Journalism, a piece on new ways to bring narrative reporting and writing from the page to the stage, including walking tours, workshops and other live events.
In May, Storyboard sponsored its first Annotation Live! event in Chicago during Nieman’s Covering Campaigns conference for political journalists. The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos talked with 2015 Nieman Fellow Dawn Turner of the Chicago Tribune about access, ledes and regret in his landmark profile of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.
We also published the first deep dive into a nonfiction syllabus in Annotation Tuesday! (Back-to-School Edition) Josh Roiland and His ‘Literary Journalism in America’ Syllabus, which is a treasure trove of information for those seeking a curated list of narrative must-reads.
Also in 2015, Cristian Lupsa, the founding editor of the Romanian narrative nonfiction quarterly Decât o Revista and a 2014 Nieman Fellow, contributed a series of five reports on craft from The Power of Storytelling conference, which he hosts annually in Bucharest: