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Nieman’s 80th Anniversary Reunion Weekend

Transcript: Ann Marie Lipinski

Ann Marie Lipinski:  Good evening Nieman nation, welcome home.

I want to give you all the answer to the question I was most asked at the reception: yes, yours was the best class.

It is eighty years since Harvard president James Bryant Conant christened the Nieman Foundation for Journalism or as he called it, “This dubious experiment.” Years later, reflecting on his presidency, he would count the fellowship as one of his proudest accomplishments.

While it is surely bad form to boast in the Lord’s house, I hope I will be forgiven for echoing Conant’s pride and saying that tonight, here in Memorial Church, you have assembled the finest newsroom on the planet.

Some of you come from across the globe, others from down the block. A tribute to an institution to which we are all indebted and a true show of fellowship. We are honored to meet in this very special space and grateful to Reverend Jonathan Walton for the many ways in which he has supported so many of us at Nieman.

Being with you all tonight is more than a privilege. It is a balm in difficult times. During the five years since our last reunion, the active reporting has carried increased risks for many in this room and throughout our industry that was underscored in the most horrific way this past week with the murder of colleagues in Bulgaria, Mexico and presumably inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

This is not the grime collateral of cross fire and conventional war zones, but the targeted assassination of men and women for the very fact of their journalism. These deaths and the ranks of imprisoned journalist in Myanmar, Turkey and elsewhere are but the most shocking evidence of the war on journalism.

Several colleagues in this room tonight have endured abuse and imprisonment. This is a battle waged in daylight and fueled by hateful rhetoric from world leaders that, make no mistake, imperil and independent press everywhere from Damascus to Annapolis, Maryland.

Washington Post editor Marty Baron has said, “We are not at war, we are at work.” A footing that may feel difficult to maintain during a week like this, but we hope our weekend together serves as a reminder of that shared purpose and of the renewable source of energy that is Nieman.

I think often of my own Nieman classmate, the great Indonesian journalist and poet, Goenawan Mohamad, whose Tempo magazine was repeatedly vilified and shuttered by the Suharto government, and whose father was executed for political activism.

“Courage is contagious,” he used to say. I, all of us, stand on Goenawan shoulders and those of the generations of journalist who have come together tonight in Cambridge. May we be that for future journalists.

The next time you hear the phrase “Enemy of the people,” think of John Brigham Terry. The last name of Harvard World War II dead engraved on this church’s south wall and lit up tonight. Terry was a Chicago Daily News correspondent and a 1944 Nieman fellow, killed during his first major war assignment in the Philippines.

The 2019 class of Nieman fellows, otherwise known as the current occupants, have a slack channel called “Good Journalism.” There, they exchange work they find inventive, provocative or inspiring. The repository has become a beacon of the power of shared story.

Tonight, we hope to fortify you with story, the shared stories of 10 journalist spanning fifty years of Nieman history. Also, words from Reverend Walton.

Nieman live has no introductions. The names of each presenter will show on the screen and you will find their bios in your program. This is a big reunion weekend at Harvard and at colleges around the country. Somewhere alumni are celebrating to their schools fight song or alma mater. Let tonight’s stories form our anthem.

Please welcome Jeneé.