The Nieman fellowship year includes a dynamic schedule filled with seminars, shop talks, workshops, master classes and soundings—the weekly presentations in which fellows trace their professional career paths in journalism. In addition to taking classes at Harvard and MIT and participating in events at the Nieman Foundation, fellows have the opportunity to take several classes designed exclusively for them: narrative nonfiction writing taught by author were Steve Almond; fiction writing taught by novelist Anne Bernays; and public speaking led by Holly Weeks, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
Throughout the year, fellows give back on campus, speaking in classes, participating in public panel discussions and mentoring young student journalists at The Harvard Crimson and at the annual Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism. During the 2018 Georges Conference, Nieman Fellows Tristan Ahtone, Matthew Karolian, Sipho Kings and Christine Mungai led breakout sessions on topics ranging from audience engagement techniques to reporting on the environment and climate change.
The fellows moderate many of the official talks at Nieman’s Lippmann House and organize “DIYs,” more causal events during which they share their professional expertise with their classmates, collaborate on projects or invite speakers, often visiting journalists or researchers, for informal discussions on a wide variety of subjects. The 2019 fellows also organized small working groups to discuss podcasting and to screen documentaries.
As noted in the Year in Review section of this report, Nieman welcomed three inaugural Abrams Nieman Fellows for Local Investigative Journalism—Nathan Payne, Benny Becker and Laura N. Pérez Sánchez—as well as our first Robert L. Long Nieman Fellow, Turkish journalist Afsin Yurdakul, as members of the class of 2019.
In September 2018, Nieman announced the Harry M. Davis Nieman Fellowship in Science Journalism, established on behalf of Ella Mazel in memory of her brother, a science journalist and a Nieman Fellow in the class of 1941. Science journalists from both the United States and abroad are eligible for this fellowship, which will be offered during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Engagement on Campus and Beyond
Nieman Fellows connect with the Harvard community in various ways each year, offering presentations and talks on campus and in the local area for students, journalists and the general public. Included below is a cross section of the fellows’ many activities.
The Nieman class of 2018
Tristan Ahtone, associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News and a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe, was profiled in a March 2018 Harvard Gazette article “Battling stereotypes of Native Americans.” Ahtone also taught feature writing at Harvard Summer School and soon after his fellowship, was elected president of the Native American Journalists Association Board.
Maryclaire Dale, a legal affairs reporter for The Associated Press who has covered the sexual assault trials of Catholic priests, a Penn State football coach, and the comedian Bill Cosby, spoke about Covering Sexual Violence During the #MeToo Era at Harvard’s Kirkland House. She also taught a course on news reporting for print, mobile, broadcast and the web at Harvard Summer School and wrote about covering sexual abuse for Nieman Reports.
Emily Dreyfuss, the 2018 Nieman-Berkman Klein Fellow in Journalism Innovation and a senior writer at Wired, hosted the public radio program “On Point” in April and was a guest on the program in March discussing Facebook under fire. Dreyfuss and classmate Matt Karolian taught a social media workshop at Nieman, offering tips and sharing best practices.
Dustin Dwyer, a reporter for Michigan Radio, shared his Sounding comments in the Nieman Reports article “The Requesting of Good Things,” in which he writes that journalism, like religion, is an act of faith.
In April, four Nieman Fellows participated in Reporting on Asia, organized by the Asia Center and co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute. Participants were Glenda M. Gloria, managing editor and co-founder of Rappler, a leading social news network in the Philippines; Shalini Singh, features reporter based in New Delhi, India and founding trustee at the People’s Archive of Rural India; Bonny Symons-Brown from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and former TV news anchor based in Jakarta, Indonesia; and Edward Wong, international correspondent for The New York Times and former Times Beijing bureau chief.
Gloria additionally was a speaker at Architects of Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News in the Philippines, presented by the Pan-Harvard Filipino Network, together with the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the Nieman Foundation and the Harvard Kennedy School Southeast Asia Caucus. The panel discussion organized around a new report by Jonathan Ong, associate professor in global digital media at UMass Amherst. The talk was moderated by Tini Tran, a former international correspondent for The Associated Press and a 2007 Nieman Fellow.
Gloria also spoke about the ethical dimensions of journalism at a panel discussion in the “Professional Practice,” ethical leadership course at MIT Sloan School of Management taught by senior lecturer Leigh Hafrey.
Matthew Karolian, former director of audience engagement and now in charge of new initiatives at The Boston Globe, moderated Digital Democracy: How Social Data is Transforming Politics, a panel discussion at the Swiss consulate in Boston that included Nieman classmate María Ramírez, a Spanish reporter who co-founded two news startups: Politibot and El Español. Karolian also taught a cybersecurity workshop with Nieman classmate Frederik Obermeier and in the fall, returned to Harvard to teach Audience Engagement: Journalism In the Age of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple at Harvard Extension School.
Karolian and classmates Sipho Kings and Michael Petrou, along with 2019 Nieman Fellows Christina Andreasen and Juan Arredondo, served as Kirkland House senior common room members, who volunteer to connect with undergraduate residents of the house.
Lisa Lerer, formerly a national political writer at The Associated Press and now a political reporter for The New York Times and CNN political analyst, spoke at Women in Washington: A Panel on the Status of Female Leadership in the Capital in March, organized by Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, together with HKS’s Women and Public Policy Program.
Lerer also moderated Sleep When You’re Dead: Getting Things Done as a Governor, a talk at the Institute of Politics with Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. She additionally shared tips with students at The Harvard Crimson in January and, in March, spoke to students interested in pursuing a career in political journalism at Harvard’s Office of Career Services.
Jamieson Lesko, formerly a producer for NBC News, spoke about Harnessing the Power of Your Gut Instincts and Curiosity at Harvard’s Kirkland House. She also has been teaching courses on news reporting and foreign correspondence at Harvard Extension School.
Nneka Nwosu Faison, a Boston-based producer for WCVB-TV’s “Chronicle” program moderated Nieman talks with Adam Serwer a senior editor at The Atlantic, and Joe Blatt, director of the Technology, Innovation, and Education program at Harvard. She taught Video Storytelling for Social Media at Harvard Extension School. Faison and classmate Matthew Karolian also participated in a Nieman-hosted brainstorming session with BBC News executives about how to better engage young news consumers.
Frederik Obermaier, an investigative reporter for the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, participated in the Harvard Kennedy School Forum panel Exposing Global Corruption: The Inside Story of The Panama/Paradise Papers Investigations, moderated by Nieman’s assistant director for programming and special projects, Samantha Henry. Other panelists were Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and P. Vaidyanathan Iyer of The Indian Express. Obermaier also teamed up with Nieman classmate Matt Karolian to teach a cybersecurity workshop for their classmates.
João Pina, a Portuguese photographer, taught a workshop for his classmates on visual thinking, providing an overview of how to think visually and deconstruct clichés on how to tell a story visually.
María Ramírez a Spanish reporter and entrepreneur who has written about U.S. politics for Univision and co-founded Politibot, spoke at the MIT Starr Forum: “Is Democracy Dying?” event, a panel discussion on the current state of democracy, presented by the MIT Center for International Studies. During a Nieman seminar, Ramírez and classmate Lenka Kabrhelova, former U.S. correspondent for Czech Radio, shared their perspectives on international reporting and talked about new forms of storytelling in their countries and how journalistic resilience emerges in tough political, social and economic situations.
Emily Rueb a reporter for The New York Times who writes and produces New York 101, a multimedia column explaining infrastructure, presented The City Talks: Storytelling at the New York Times’s Metro Desk at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies department. In April, she joined Professor Stephen Goldsmith, the innovations in government director at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation to discuss his book about a new governance model to unleash innovation throughout local government.
During the spring Arts First event in Harvard Yard, members of the Nieman class of 2018 performed and read passages from their work at the Plug-In House, built by Harvard’s Loeb Fellows. Participants were Emily Rueb, Shalini Singh, Christine Mungai, María Ramírez, Glenda Gloria, Dustin Dwyer, Emily Dreyfuss, Lisa Lerer, Jamieson Lesko, Sebastián Escalón, Bonny Symons-Brown, Lenka Kabrhelova, Edward Wong and Nieman affiliates Anzet du Plessis and Metta Dwyer.
The Nieman class of 2019
2019 Nieman Fellows Myroslava Gongadze, Voice of America’s Ukrainian service chief in Washington, D.C., and photographer Samantha Appleton led a discussion about activism in journalism with Timothy Patrick McCarthy, author and lecturer on history and literature, public policy and education at Harvard and director of Culture Change & Social Justice Initiatives and the Emerging Human Rights Leaders Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
Mary Ellen Klas, the capital bureau chief for The Miami Herald in Tallahassee, Fla., spoke with Harvard junior Andrew Zucker for his podcast on WHRB about the gubernatorial and senate races in Florida.
Steve Myers, editor of The Lens, a public-interest newsroom in New Orleans, moderated the Kennedy School Student Government election debate.
2019 fellows Yoshiaki Nohara, a Tokyo-based economics reporter for Bloomberg News; Mattia Ferraresi, the U.S. correspondent for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio; and Esther Htusan, a correspondent for The Associated Press and the first Nieman Fellow from Myanmar, spoke about their work in Professor Fred Bayles’s journalism class on foreign reporting at Boston University’s College of Communication.
Francesca Panetta, executive editor for virtual reality at The Guardian, organized a series of workshops for her classmates, teaching tips and techniques for virtual reality storytelling and podcasting.
Nathan Payne, one of three 2019 Abrams Nieman Fellows for Local Investigative Journalism, was joined in conversation by Laura Carpenter, an engineer and Harvard Business School student and co-founder of Abridge News, a news startup that aims to present readers with multiple viewpoints from across the political spectrum on each topic its editorial team selects.
Afsin Yurdakul, an anchor and correspondent for the Habertürk News Network and the first Turkish journalist selected for a Robert L. Long Nieman Fellowship, moderated a discussion at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center with Susan Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker.
Five 2019 fellows presented a shop talk on how to work with digital interdisciplinary teams in newsrooms and discussed what they have learned as part of those teams. Participants were Shaul Amsterdamski, the economics editor and a commentator at Kan, Israel’s public broadcasting corporation; Kaeti Hinck, an editor at The Washington Post, where she leads a team of visual journalists and developers; Jonathan Jackson, the 2019 Nieman Berkman Klein Fellow and a co-founder and former head of corporate brand at Blavity Inc.; Uli Köppen, head of data journalism at the German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk (ARD); and Francesca Panetta, executive editor of virtual reality at The Guardian.
Jonathan Jackson also participated in Diversity: Facing our differences. Building shared futures, a panel at the German American Conference at Harvard Kennedy School in October. Classmate Mea Dols de Jong, a Dutch documentary filmmaker, also spoke at the conference, participating in the Friend or troll? Solving the internet’s information dilemma discussion.
Fellows Write for Nieman Reports
Five Tools to Rebuild Trust in Media
Helping readers slow down, ask questions, and find reasoned opposing views may foster civil discourse online
By María Ramírez, NF ’18, a reporter and entrepreneur from Spain who co-founded Politibot
Also by María Ramírez, (a 2018 Ruth Cowan Nash Nieman Fellow)
“… Go to War I Did, and at Considerable Trouble”
Associated Press correspondent Ruth Cowan fought generals and editors to become one of the first women credentialed to cover World War II
Re-examining Lippmann’s Legacy
Journalists are still grappling with many of the issues that defined Walter Lippmann’s extraordinary career
By Michael Petrou, historian, journalist and the 2018 Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellow
“The present crisis of Western democracy is a crisis of journalism”
What Walter Lippmann’s early writings say about some of journalism’s most urgent contemporary challenges
By Eduardo Suárez, a Spanish reporter and entrepreneur and a 2018 Nieman affiliate
Also by Eduardo Suárez:
How Newsrooms are Rethinking Midterms Coverage
To meet the challenges of the midterms, news outlets are taking a more collaborative approach, changing how they report on polls, and covering the voting process itself as well as its results
Four News Startups Trying To Improve Civic Discourse
At a time of polarization, journalists, entrepreneurs, and technologists are building platforms aimed at fostering understanding of opposing viewpoints
The Great Disconnect: How Journalists at Local and National Outlets Are Evolving Different Skill Sets
Journalists who start their careers at national outlets on the East Coast learn different skills from those working in local news—and each can learn from the other
By Steve Myers, NF ’19, editor of The Lens, a nonprofit investigative newsroom in New Orleans
Why We Need More Journalism Courses Taught in Prison
For those incarcerated, the study of journalism can aid rehabilitation by providing tangible skills and a chance to increase understanding of prisoners’ experiences
By Shaheen Pasha, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a 2018 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow
People Want to Know About People
By Sipho Kings, NF ’18
It’s odd that we forget people in our reporting. We’re people. Everyone around us is a person, however annoying their habits might be. People want to know about people; gossip and curiosity are some of our default settings. Read more
“The Requesting of Good Things”
By Dustin Dwyer, NF ’18
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a reporter. I came at it sideways, in college, after deciding to major in creative writing. There’s no career path for writing majors, so I did what a lot of aspiring writers. Read more
The Science of Journalism
By Christine Mungai, NF ’18
I came into journalism in a roundabout way. I was a voracious reader as a child, growing up in middle-class Nairobi, partly as a retreat from a difficult home situation as my parents’ marriage broke down. I spent hours poring over world maps, absorbing obscure facts from encyclopedias, and reading all manner of novels from Dickens classics to Sweet Valley High. Read more
Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows
The Nieman Foundation welcomed eight journalists and media executives as Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows in 2018. Each came to Harvard University to work on an innovative project designed to advance journalism. The Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowship program is open to journalists but also to publishers, technologists, entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, media analysts, academics and others whose work can make a positive impact on the news ecosystem.
The 2018 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellows:
Soutik Biswas, India correspondent and features and analysis editor for BBC News, examined digital and non-digital methods and tools to counteract fake news in India.
Erik Borenstein, director of strategy and development at The New York Times, explored the relationships between media companies and “stars” of the profession to identify approaches to growing audiences, deepening engagement, and meeting business objectives. His goal was to develop best practices for news organizations and their employees.
Azad Essa, a journalist with Al Jazeera and co-founder of the South African news portal The Daily Vox, investigated innovative and cost-effective ways in which online news sites can reach rural audiences in South Africa.
Mark Frankel, social media editor for BBC News in London, researched how journalists can best uncover and report on stories sourced from audiences on “dark social” apps, message boards and other private, invitation-only platforms.
Cynthia Hua, a San Francisco-based freelance journalist who previously worked at Facebook and BuzzFeed, explored new approaches to measuring success for online video news, including using nuanced metrics that focus on intentional and repeated consumption patterns.
Shaheen Pasha, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will researched prison education programs across the country. Her goal was to create an immersive teaching and reporting model for university journalism programs to partner with prisons in creating journalism curriculum for inmates.
Alexandra Smith, growth editor for WhereBy.Us, a platform that helps people connect and engage in their cities, surveyed if and how events—used as a local news organization strategy—are successful as a tool for audience growth, brand engagement and increased revenue. Her goal was to develop a guide for newsrooms to help inform their efforts around events.
Ashley Catherine Woods, founder and CEO of Detour, a Detroit-based local news startup, will examine financial models for local journalism based on the psychology and practices of influencer and relationship marketing.