A Year in the Life of a Fellow
The Nieman Fellows each year participate in an eclectic mix of courses at Harvard and MIT along with classes and events designed exclusively for them, including seminars and workshops. They also prepare Soundings, weekly talks in which they explore and explain why they do what they do as journalists.
Many of them take the narrative nonfiction writing class taught by author Steve Almond and explore creative storytelling with the support of classmates, which they share in an end-of-fellowship reading night. They also learn about Op-Ed writing from Jeffrey Seglin, director of the Harvard Kennedy School Communications Program and a senior lecturer in public policy.
The fellows mentor student journalists at The Harvard Crimson; speak at Harvard Houses, on panels, in classes and at conferences; organize DIYs to share their journalistic expertise and teach their classmates new skills; and invite guests for informal discussions on a variety of subjects. They also moderate many of the seminars scheduled by Nieman during the year.
In the fall, they kick off the year with a lightning round of talks about their work and each spring, they learn about the book industry during a panel discussion with publishing executives and literary agents organized by author and 1994 Nieman Larry Tye.
And to round out the fellowship, they attend concerts, plays, lectures and other events and explore centers across campus and in Cambridge, Boston and New England.
The Abrams Nieman Fellowships
For three years, the Abrams Nieman Fellowships for Local Investigative Journalism offered reporters and editors from underserved areas an academic-year fellowship along with funding for fieldwork to develop investigative reporting projects in their communities. The Abrams Fellows in the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021 were supported by a grant from the Abrams Foundation.
Emily Corwin, a 2021 Abrams Nieman Fellow for Local Investigative Journalism, published an investigation with ProPublica that exposes how a tax credit that was meant to help marginalized workers get permanent jobs instead gives hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to temp agencies. The report is the result of the fieldwork she did after her Nieman year.
Scott Dance, another 2021 Abrams Nieman Fellow for Local Investigative Journalism, produced the Baltimore Sun series Climate Change: Ready or Not. The reporting covered responses to storms, flooding and heat, and the ways communities are preparing for extreme weather and was an offshoot of his fieldwork as an Abrams Fellow. In September, Dance joined The Washington Post as a climate and weather reporter covering news about extreme weather and the intersections between weather, climate, society and the environment.
Engagement on Campus
Throughout the year, fellows give back in a variety of ways, sharing their knowledge and skills with the Harvard community and beyond.
Pacinthe Mattar, a Canadian journalist based in Toronto, and Nieman classmate Felice León, a video producer and host, participated in the first Harvard-wide Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB) Forum, which brought the University community together to learn and engage with EDIB topics.
Mattar also spoke on a “Strategies for Equitable Storytelling” panel at the 2022 Arab Conference at Harvard in April. The theme of the event was “Arab Leadership in an Evolving World.”
Natalia Viana, co-founder and executive director of Agência Pública, Brazil’s first nonprofit investigative journalism outlet, participated in two events in conjunction with the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. In March, she was a speaker at “The World is Watching: Democracy and Human Rights in Brazil’s 2022 Elections” and in April, she co-moderated “The Battle Against Fake News in Brazil’s 2022 Elections.”
Jorge Caraballo Cordovez, a Colombian journalist and former growth editor at NPR’s “Radio Ambulante,” NPR’s Spanish podcast, presented “How to Use Audio Storytelling to Cultivate a Community and Keep it Engaged.” The event was part of the Colloquium Series organized by the MIT Graduate Program in Comparative Media Studies.
In April, a group of 2022 Nieman Fellows traveled to Austin at the invitation of Nieman Board member Rosental Alves, NF ’88, to speak at the annual International Symposium on Online Journalism he organizes. With Nieman curator Ann Marie Lipinski as moderator, they spoke about declining press freedoms in their countries.
- The Nieman panelists for the “Online Journalism and Press Freedom Latin America” conversation were Jorge Caraballo Cordovez, Natalia Viana and Patricia Laya, bureau chief for Bloomberg New in Venezuela. The three Nieman Fellows were joined by José Luis Sanz, Washington correspondent of the Salvadoran news outlet El Faro and editor of El Faro English, and María Lilly Delgado, an independent journalist from Nicaragua.
- The “Online Journalism and Press Freedom in Asia” panel featured Bao Choy, an independent investigative journalist and video producer in Hong Kong and Pranav Dixit, technology reporter for BuzzFeed News in India.
- Watch the video.
- Read the transcript.
In March, Bao Choy and King-wa Fu, a professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong and a visiting scholar at Boston University, spoke about “Media in the Age of Autocratization: A Hong Kong case study.” The event was hosted by BU’s Pardee School of Global Studies’ Center for the Study of Asia.
Gabrielle Schonder, a producer and reporter for “Frontline” and the Kirk Documentary Group, spoke to the Harvard Neighbors group about her experiences as a journalist and the role of the media in current conflicts.
Schonder and Nieman classmate Jim Urquhart, a photojournalist based in America’s Mountain West, spoke at the Youth Leadership Conference, a virtual opportunity for high school students from the Greater Boston area to attend a weekend of leadership workshops facilitated by students of Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jakob Moll, co-founder and former CEO of Zetland, a membership-based digital newspaper in Denmark, spoke on a panel examining “The Future of News Media” at Harvard Business School. Nieman staff writer Sarah Scire moderated.
Marisa Palmer, a senior video producer for Business Insider’s news and documentary team who covers business news and police reform, participated in a panel discussion in the class “Ethical Practice: Leading Through Professionalism, Social Responsibility and System Design” at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Organized by senior lecturer Leigh Hafrey, the annual discussion often features Niemans and helps midcareer Sloan Fellows and MBA students understand what it means to be a professional in various fields.
In May, Bill Barrow, a national politics reporter for The Associated Press presented “Covering American Democracy: It’s Not a Game (At Least It Shouldn’t Be),” the 2022 Bernard D. Nossiter ’47 Lecture at Dartmouth College.
Nieman Fellows Pacinthe Mattar, Jorge Caraballo Cordovez, Marisa Palmer and Caelainn Barr, an Irish journalist and former data projects editor at The Guardian in London, taught journalism courses at Harvard Extension School’s summer school. Mattar also taught at Boston University’s Summer Journalism Academy.
Tanya Kozyreva, an investigative reporter based in Kyiv, Ukraine, spoke with WBUR’s “On Point” program on August 24 — Independence Day in Ukraine and the six-month anniversary of the start of the war in her country — to discuss what has changed for Ukrainians and what the future might bring.
Several fellows participated in “Journalism Pathways,” a panel discussion organized by Harvard’s Office of Career Services, to talk about their careers, offer students advice and answer questions. The group included Elisabeth Goodridge, the deputy travel editor for The New York Times, Adefemi Akinsanya, an international correspondent and anchor for Arise News in Lagos, Nigeria; Darryl Fears, a reporter on The Washington Post’s climate team who covers environmental justice; and Deborah Berry, a Washington, D.C.-based national correspondent for USA Today, covering civil rights, voting rights and politics.
During another event organized by the Office of Career Services Nieman Fellows Danny Fenster, editor-at-large for Frontier Myanmar, and Angie Drobnic Holan, editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, along with Samantha Henry, Nieman’s assistant director for programming and special projects, reviewed clips and offered professional feedback to students planning to apply for summer internships and full-time jobs.
Drobnic Holan interviewed Jonathan Rauch, author of “The Constitution of Knowledge,” and CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan as part of a virtual festival of fact-checking hosted by PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute.
Adefemi Akinsanya was the guest speaker at Morning Prayers at Harvard Memorial Church in October, and reflected on the beauty of strength, and of truth and righteousness.
Olga Churakova, an independent Russian journalist and podcast host, spoke to Harvard students in Harvard’s Lowell House about her work. She also moderated a panel discussion connected to a screening of “Tango with Putin,” a documentary about Russian television station Dozhd (aka TV Rain).
Bopha Phorn, an independent journalist based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, spoke on a panel exploring “How Asian Countries See China and U.S.-China Competition,” part of the “Coexistence 2.0: U.S.-China Relations in a Changing World” conference co-presented by the Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Harvard Kennedy Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia, with support from the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and UC San Diego’s 21st Century China Center.
Several Niemans spoke at “Preserving and Promoting Freedom of the Press: An International Symposium,” a three-day event at Tufts University. Nieman participants in the “Freedom of the Press under Authoritarian Regimes” panel included Adefemi Akinsanya, Olga Churakova and Fahim Abed, a local reporter for The New York Times in Afghanistan before the Taliban takeover of his country. Magnum Photos photographer Moises Saman was one of the panelists for the “Chronicling War and Occupation” discussion.
Kristofer Ríos, a multimedia journalist and producer with Muck Media, spoke about “The Dangers Migrants Face: Exploring the Role of Local Communities” for a seminar hosted by the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Migration.
Ríos also taught a video course at the Harvard Extension School at the invitation of journalism instructor Alvin Powell.
In November, Nieman Fellows Kristofer Ríos, Adefemi Akinsanya and Pinar Ersoy, a BBC editor based in Istanbul who runs BBC Monitoring’s Turkey team, spoke about how to apply for a Nieman Fellowship. during a Twitter Spaces conversation moderated by Nieman curator Ann Marie Lipinski. They helped candidates understand the process and what to expect from a year at Harvard.
Contributions to Nieman Reports by recent Nieman Fellows and Affiliates
By Reuben Fischer-Baum, NF ’22, an assignment editor on the graphics team at The Washington Post
By Valeria Fernandez, a 2021 visiting fellow and managing editor of palabra., a digital news outlet created for NAHJ freelance members
Exiled reporters are finding it difficult to reach sources back home, who are increasingly afraid to talk
By Danny Fenster, NF ’23, editor-at-large for the investigative news magazine Frontier Myanmar
The murder of a veteran journalist covering the vulnerable in the Amazon has reverberated among reporters in Brazil
By Natalia Viana, NF ’22, co-founder and co-director of Brazilian investigative journalism Agência Pública
The news industry uses opinion pieces to drive traffic. They undermine the very reason journalism exists
By Jakob Moll, NF ’22, co-founder and former CEO of Danish digital media company Zetland
Through NPR’s “Where We Come From,” Anjuli Sastry Krbechek spotlights how immigrants and their families define identity for themselves
By Anjuli Sastry Krbechek, a 2021 Visiting Fellow and senior producer for LAist Studios and KPCC (formerly an audio producer for the NPR podcast “It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders”)
Photographing the devastation the coronavirus is bringing to Southern and rural Black communities
By Bethany Mollenkof, a photojournalist and 2021 Nieman Visiting Fellow
When reporting on life-or-death matters, community sources are just as important as police statements
By Gina Kaufmann, a Kansas City-based journalist and a 2023 Nieman Affiliate
Throughout the year, Nieman Fellows take turns explaining why they do what they do as journalists during talks called Soundings. Some highlights from 2022:
Going beyond surface level diversity talk requires changing how we educate young journalists
By Pacinthe Mattar, NF ’22, a Canadian journalist based in Toronto
How drawing maps — and a pitstop in urban planning — ultimately led to working on data visualization projects
By Reuben Fischer-Baum, NF ’22, an assignment editor on the graphics team at The Washington Post
Why opening up documentary filmmaking is important for both the storytellers and the communities we cover
By Dave Mayers, NF ’22, a documentary producer and cinematographer at Vice News
Finding meaning, agency, and purpose in reporting from my home country of Venezuela
By Patricia Laya, NF ’22, Venezuela bureau chief for Bloomberg News
The Nieman Visiting Fellowship
In addition to the 24 year-long fellows selected for the Nieman class of 2023, Rebecca Richman Cohen joined Nieman as a Visiting Fellow in the fall of 2022 to examine the crisis of mass incarceration. A documentary filmmaker and founder of Racing Horse Productions, a production company dedicated to illuminating vital stories about law and culture, she is a lecturer at Harvard Law School.