Year in Review
The Nieman Year
The Nieman Foundation reached out in both new and familiar ways to help support the global free press in 2019. Special emphasis was put on providing journalists new tools and resources to do their work better, more creatively and more collaboratively. We did that through our fellowship programming, intensive training workshops, public seminars and shop talks and in our three publications—Nieman Lab, Nieman Reports and Nieman Storyboard.
In February, at the presentation of this year’s Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, winner Marisa Kwiatkowski shared how she and her colleagues at The Indianapolis Star obtained and used extensive public records and interviews with young victims to uncover one of the largest scandals in the history of sports. Her reporting brought down sexual predator Larry Nassar, along with many at USA Gymnastics, and the coverage marked an important milestone in the #MeToo movement.
A notable bookend to her talk came in October when Nieman curator Ann Marie Lipinski welcomed New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for a comprehensive discussion about their investigative reporting, which revealed multiple allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by film mogul Harvey Weinstein and helped to propel #MeToo stories in public discussions and in the press. Their work earned the Times a Pulitzer Prize and resulted in their bestseller “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.”
In March, at this year’s annual Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism, Nieman invited Marisa Kwiatkowski back to Lippmann House to address the student journalists from 21 school newsrooms attending the two-day event. She shared valuable advice about data gathering and how to conduct sensitive interviews as well as story ideas for campus newspapers.
The students heard from Taylor Blatchford, news producer at The Seattle Times and founder of The Lead, a resource newsletter for student journalists. They also learned about the laws protecting student-run media outlets and the rights of student journalists from Frank D. LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. Nieman Fellows taught sessions on podcasting, finding stories in public records and how to get started in journalism. The students themselves shared projects they produced for their own newsrooms and discussed how they managed major challenges along the way. Videos of the Georges sessions are a useful resource for j-school professors, students and aspiring journalists.
In April, Nieman co-hosted the 2020 Campaign Journalism Conference with the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. More than 200 journalists gathered in Chicago to hear from many of the nation’s top political correspondents, pundits and pollsters about how they can best report on the next U.S. presidential election, avoid the mistakes of the 2016 election cycle and provide insightful, in-depth coverage.
Speakers included David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics who served as senior advisor to President Barack Obama; Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox; Athena Jones, a CNN national correspondent based in New York; Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post; and Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, among many others. Videos of the sessions, on topics ranging from life on the campaign trail to polling and data in campaigns, are available to all wishing to learn about political and presidential campaign coverage.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow made his first official visit to Lippmann House in May, presenting the Nieman class of 2019 with their certificates and addressing the shared goal and responsibility of journalists and academics to search for truth. In July, Bacow met with a group of Washington, D.C.-area Nieman alumni and joined Washington Post correspondent and 1990 Nieman Fellow Mary Jordan in conversation to discuss his aspirations for the future of the university.
In August, Nieman hosted an in-depth journalism training workshop for local journalists in Michigan in partnership with 2019 Abrams Fellow Nathan Payne and his Traverse City Record-Eagle newsroom and the CNHI newspaper group. Focused on writing, data reporting and audience engagement, the three-day event included intensive narrative reporting sessions with Nieman Storyboard editor Jacqui Banaszynski. Payne described the training as “water in the desert” for the local reporters who attended.
In November, Nieman hosted “Covering Climate Change” an intensive training workshop for journalists covering climate change and related issues. The event brought together a diverse group of reporters, academics, researchers and practitioners in order to help journalists deepen their reporting skills and expand their thinking around climate-related issues—and how those topics intersect with all beats.
The workshop was made possible with the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and in partnership with the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard C-CHANGE). Videos of all the sessions can be viewed online along with a useful resources page for all wishing to learn more about how to report more accurately and effectively about the climate changes affecting us all.
On the international front in 2019, Nieman curator Ann Marie Lipinski spoke at several events overseas. In May, she delivered a speech called “The future of journalism is the future of democracy” at an event in Zurich, Switzerland, sponsored by the Progress Foundation honoring World Press Freedom Day.
In October, she traveled to Bucharest, Romania, to speak at the annual Power of Storytelling conference where she explained the tradition of Nieman soundings (talks in which Nieman Fellows share the story of their careers in journalism) and the importance of all journalists taking time to ask the question “Why do I do what I do?”
In October, Nieman deputy curator James Geary moderated a panel at the SBS D Forum in Seoul, South Korea, that discussed how journalists are using new formats and technologies to engage citizens in ways that will foster civil discourse and understanding. Chong ae Lee, a 2013 Nieman Fellow, was one of the event’s organizers and her classmate Karim Ben Khelifa, a photojournalist, was one of the panelists along with Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, Spaceship Media co-founder Eve Pearlman and Young Min, a journalism professor at Korea University.
Using information presented in Seoul and incorporating articles published by the Nieman Foundation as well as other research, Nieman Reports published the white paper “Covering and Reducing Political Polarization and Conflict. The document offers solutions based on the current work of journalists in the field.
Geary also spoke about political polarization and the press in a talk delivered to the Samsung Press Foundation in Seoul in June.
In the fall, we announced that the Abrams Foundation, run by Nieman Board member Amy Abrams, pledged to fund a third year of our Abrams Nieman Fellowships for Local Investigative Journalism. As 2019 winds down, the three inaugural Abrams Fellows continue to work on the field projects they started at Harvard and the three second-year Abrams Fellows are deep into their studies on campus.
Also this year, Nieman offered the Harry M. Davis Fellowship in Science Journalism to Robert Chaney, a staff writer and photographer who covers natural resources and science at the Missoulian in Montana. Harry Davis was a science journalist in the Nieman class of 1941. We additionally awarded the second Robert L. Long Fellowship, created to support Turkish journalists, to Gülsin Harman. And we welcomed our first Nieman Fellows from Syria (Nour Malas) and Niger (Hannane Ferdjani) as members of the class of 2020, raising the total number of countries represented in Nieman’s global community to 99.
Awarding Journalistic Excellence
During Nieman’s journalism awards ceremony in May, winners of the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence, Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein and editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery spoke with moderator and Nieman Fellow Steve Myers about the key factors that have led to the their success, growing revenues and engaging their audience. Videos from the event are available online.
In addition to the I.F. Stone Medal and the Lyons Award, mentioned above, other Nieman journalism awards presented in 2019 were:
- The Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, presented to The Dallas Morning News for “Pain and Profit”
- The Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism, presented to Bloomberg News for “Sign Here to Lose Everything” (Finalists: ProPublica for “Unprotected” and the Tampa Bay Times for “Heartbroken”)
- The Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards, presented together with Columbia Journalism School
- The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Winner: Shane Bauer for “American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment” (Finalist: Lauren Hilgers for “Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown”)
- The Mark Lynton History Prize (two awards). Winners: Andrew Delbanco for “The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War” and Jeffrey C. Stewart for “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” (Finalist: David W. Blight for “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom”)
- The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award (two awards): Winners: Maurice Chammah for “Let the Lord Sort Them: Texas and the Death Penalty’s Rise and Fall in America” and Steven Dudley for “Mara: The Making of the MS13”
Nieman publications in 2019 covered the biggest developments in media news, the many ongoing challenges facing journalism and new ways journalists are innovating and collaborating to report stories, even as budgets and resources in many newsrooms shrink.
Nieman Reports focused on a number of larger issues affecting the news industry in cover stories ranging from “Journalism Under Pressure” and “Why Newsrooms Are Unionizing Now,” to an in-depth look at coverage of domestic violence in the U.S. and abroad and “Journalism Under Fire in Hong Kong.” Reporter Toufiq Rashid also looked at how journalists in Kashmir have struggled to report despite communication restrictions and a crackdown on the free press in in the region.
Nieman Journalism Lab continued to provide some of the best media coverage in the business, serving a global audience with daily reporting about the future of news and innovation. Lab reporting focused on ways to help journalists and newsrooms better understand changes in the industry and not only survive, but thrive in a constantly changing environment. The weekly “Real News About Fake News” column was a must-read for many and the year ended with the annual predictions for journalism, this year looking ahead to a new decade.
Nieman Storyboard celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing news, tips and features to a loyal audience of nonfiction storytellers hungry for ways to improve their craft and produce better longform reporting. Under editor Jacqui Banaszynski’s stewardship, Storyboard highlights included coverage of a greater range of publications, the addition of new and younger contributors, new publishing partnerships and deep coverage of four major narrative conferences.
Learn more about Nieman publications and the many journalism stories we covered in 2019
Throughout 2019, Nieman welcomed a diverse group of speakers for seminars, shop talks, master classes and informal chats and brainstorming. The group included Harvard professors, newsroom leaders, journalism innovators and many others who shared their insights, research, resources and advice in talks about audience engagement, investigative and multimedia reporting, newsroom collaborations, longform storytelling and much more.
2019 Nieman Fellows Afsin Yurdakul, an anchor and correspondent for Turkey’s Habertürk news channel who has reported extensively about the Syrian refugee crisis, and Esther Htusan, a journalist from Myanmar who covered human rights, ethnic and conflicts and humanitarian crises as a correspondent for The Associated Press, discussed the intricacies of covering conflict and ways journalists can deal with trauma.
Nieman Fellow Steve Myers, former editor of the nonprofit investigative newsroom The Lens in New Orleans, joined Elizabeth Hansen and Mark Fuerst in a session about nonprofit business models for local newsrooms. Hansen directs the Single Subject News study at the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy, which examines the potential for revenue sustainability in single topic-focused nonprofit digital newsrooms. Fuerst is director of Public Media Futures Forums and founder of Innovation4Media (I4M).
Nieman curator Ann Marie Lipinski led a discussion with Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris at a screening at the Harvard Film Archive of “American Dharma,” his documentary about Steve Bannon. Lipinski addressed the film’s lack of distribution in her curator’s column in Nieman Reports and discussed the issue during a seminar with Morris and the 2019 Nieman Fellows.
Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder and faculty director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and professor of international law and computer science at Harvard, spoke with both the 2019 and 2020 Nieman Fellows about his latest work.
Srikant Datar, Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School led a workshop on design thinking and how journalists might use related concepts to innovate and create new projects on the job.
Mina Cikara, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard spoke with Nieman Fellow Kaeti Hinck about her research into intergroup neuroscience, with a focus on polarization in society and how journalists can better understand divisions in society and avoid harmful patterns of “us vs. them” thinking in their work.
Cornel West, philosopher, political activist, author, public intellectual and Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, led a wide-ranging discussion about current events and the role of—and attacks on—the press.
Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard’s astronomy department joined Abrams Fellow Benny Becker to discuss his work and the global media attention he received for suggesting in 2018 that there may be an alien probe in our solar system.
Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow Heather Hendershot, a professor of comparative media studies at MIT, spoke about her research into press coverage of the 1968 Democratic Convention.
Other Nieman seminar speakers in 2019 included Juliette Kayyem the Belfer Lecturer in International Security at Harvard Kennedy School and an on-air security analyst for CNN; Danielle Allen, director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and a James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard; Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and a professor of political science at MIT; and Anthony Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Poor Students.”
At Harvard Kennedy School, fellows heard about behavioral science, the sway of fake news and decision making from Todd Rogers, a professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Student Social Support R&D Lab, and Dave Rand, associate professor of management science and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.
2020 Nieman Fellow Oliver Roeder led a talk about artificial intelligence and its implications for journalism with David Weinberger, a senior researcher at the Berkman Klein Center, and Jenn Halen, a postdoctoral college fellow in Harvard’s Department of Government where she teaches “American Cyber Politics.”
Laura Kreidberg, a Clay Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian, welcomed the 2020 fellows to Harvard Observatory to talk about her work studying the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.
The fellows toured two exhibits at Harvard’s Fogg Museum, Winslow Homer: Eyewitness and Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement and Belonging in Contemporary Art, and attended the related lecture “Louisiana Medley: The Social Justice Photography of Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun” with the photographers themselves.
2020 Niemans Selymar Colón, Alex Dickinson and Johnny Kauffman shared ways to navigate a dysfunctional newsroom, think positively and critically about ways to overcome challenges and improve their work.
Samantha Power, the Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the William D. Zabel ’61 Professor of Practice in Human Rights at Harvard Law School discussed her career and latest book, “The Education of an Idealist” with 2020 Nieman Fellow Nour Malas, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Power served as the 28th U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as well as a member of President Obama’s cabinet.
Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, discussed his research with a focus on how propaganda, manipulation and disinformation spread online.
Shop Talk Speakers
During the Nieman Foundation’s Advisory Board meeting in February, Washington Post global opinions writer Jason Rezaian, a 2017 Nieman Fellow, joined board member and VOA director Amanda Bennett to discuss his book “Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out” and the importance of supporting and protecting journalists on the job.
Jim Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Harvard’s CTO spoke about how journalists can protect themselves online, connect securely with sources and observe cybersecurity best practices.
2019 Nieman Fellows Jonathan Jackson and Gabriella Schwarz teamed up with Sara Fischer, the media reporter at Axios, and Jake Horowitz the co-founder of Mic.com to examine the future of startups.
Podcasting pioneers Julie Shapiro, executive producer of Radiotopia from PRX and executive producer of “Ear Hustle,” and Jake Shapiro, co-founder and CEO of RadioPublic and former CEO of PRX, joined Nieman Fellow Francesca Panetta for a shop talk on the state of podcasting today, the importance of audience engagement, and brand building.
Fellows visited Rus Gant, the director of the Visualization Research and Teaching Laboratory at Harvard, to learn about his work in the future of real-time 3D computer graphics and virtual reality.
Teju Cole, critic, photographer, novelist and Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard spoke about What Needs to Change to Better Cover Stories in “Foreign” Countries.
Visiting New York Times editors Joe Kahn, Matt Purdy, Marc Lacey and Chicago bureau chief, Monica Davey discussed plans for coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Tanzina Vega, host of “The Takeaway” on WNYC, spoke with Nieman Fellow Ana Campoy about how she covers issues of race, media, and inequality in the United States.
Joan Donovan, project director of the Technology and Social Change Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, shared her groundbreaking research into media manipulation, the effects of disinformation campaigns and adversarial media movements.
Walé Oyéjidé, a Nigerian-American creative director, designer, writer, speaker, filmmaker, musician and lawyer whose work focuses on “combatting bias through creative storytelling” joined Nieman Fellow Jasmine Brown to discuss his work.
Visiting Knight Nieman Fellow Taylor Lorenz explained her Nieman project and discussed the ways she follows and covers trends and developments on social media as a technology reporter for The New York Times.
Talks Hosted by Fellows
2019 Nieman Fellow Yoshiaki Nohara, an economics reporter for Bloomberg News in Tokyo, invited American Repertory Theater executive producer Diane Borger and Ryan McKittrick, A.R.T.’s director of artistic programs/dramaturg, to speak about what journalists can learn from theater production, such as how to build a team and how to cultivate a new audience.
Mary Ellen Klas, a 2019 Nieman Fellow and capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald in Tallahassee, spoke with Charles Sennott, founder of the Ground Truth Project, co-founder of Report for America, and a 2006 Nieman Fellow about the challenges, risks, and joys of being an entrepreneur and the roles he sees for organizations like his in the future of journalism.
Nieman Fellow Juan Arredondo and Nieman affiliate Tanja Pröbstl hosted Luis Ocampo Moreno, the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, for a wide-ranging discussion about the relationship between journalists and the ICC.
Juan Arredondo, Afsin Yurdakul, Brent Renaud and Mea Dols de Jong discussed their spring break trip to the Colombian-Venezuelan border to chronicle the local humanitarian crisis there, resulting in the Foreign Policy article “Venezuela’s Exile Economy.” Nieman classmate Laura Pérez Sánchez contributed to the reporting.
Affiliate Steve Wilmsen, a narrative editor at The Boston Globe taught a session on narrative journalism; affiliate Raphael Majma, a public interest tech fellow at New America, led a cybersecurity workshop.
Jill Leovy, author of “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” was invited by Nieman Peter Nickeas to discuss her work.
Nieman Fellow Anica Butler, deputy editor for News at The Boston Globe, hosted Walter Robinson, Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, former members of the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning Spotlight team who uncovered widespread abuse in the Catholic Church. Butler also arranged for a tour of the Globe newsroom for her Nieman classmates.
Photographers and 2019 Nieman Fellows Juan Arredondo and Samantha Appleton hosted a crash course for their classmates on how to take high-quality pictures on the job.
Boston Globe data/investigative reporter and 2020 Nieman-Berkman Klein Fellow Todd Wallack led a three-part course on using data and spreadsheets for reporting.
2020 Niemans Rob Chaney and Tennessee Watson hosted Sara Catania and Leah Todd from the Solutions Journalism Network to discuss their work and the growing trend to report more extensively on the measures people are taking to combat problems in their communities.
2020 Nieman Jasmine Brown, a producer for Nightline, invited her ABC News colleague Dan Harris to lead a session on the benefits of meditation for journalists. He is the author of “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story.”
Nieman Rania Abouzeid led a discussion with Chris Leonard, author of NYT bestseller “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.”
Nieman Fellow Lucy Hornby, most recently deputy bureau chief in Beijing for the Financial Times, hosted Jane Perlez, longtime Beijing bureau chief for The New York Times and a Shorenstein Center Fellow, to screen rare footage from a 1967 trip she made to Shanghai and cities around China at the peak of China’s Cultural Revolution.