The Pulitzer-Nieman Collaboration

In September 2010, the Nieman Foundation announced an important new partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The collaboration grew out of the Nieman Foundation’s specialized fellowship in global health reporting and addresses the crucial need to provide greater support for international news coverage.

The joint venture has three major components: it provides financial support and distribution assistance for the Nieman Global Health Fellows’ fieldwork projects; it organizes campus events at Harvard that feature international reporters and spotlight underreported global stories; and it brings a new annual workshop to the Nieman Foundation to draw lessons from the Pulitzer Center’s experience as a new media start-up trying to sell and publish international news. The venture is underwritten by a Pulitzer Center grant.

Fieldwork Support

The Nieman Global Health Reporting Fellowship is unique in that it allows fellows to embark on a fieldwork project at the end of their year at Harvard. Since 2007, Nieman Global Health Fellows have provided comprehensive, insightful reporting on international health issues to their audiences and have produced a number of award-winning stories. Topics have ranged from mental health interventions in India to troubled health systems in Uganda to an analysis of AIDS treatment and prevention efforts in Malawi to the brain drain of health workers from the developing to the developed world.

Since an original, catalytic grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ran out in 2009, the Nieman Foundation has been seeking new support for its global health reporting fellowship, especially the travel component. At the same time, due to the many changes affecting journalism and international reporting in particular, placing fellow’s stories in mainstream media outlets in the United States has become increasingly difficult.

In its work with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the foundation has found an ideal partner to continue efforts to improve global health reporting. Pulitzer will provide travel grants to two global health fellows each year for the next three years and, in collaboration with Stefanie Friedhoff, in her role as global health fellowship manager, will support fellows in planning and disseminating their projects.

Campus Events

The Pulitzer-Nieman partnership will bring Pulitzer Center journalists and occasionally, Nieman alumni, to Harvard three times each year for presentations and discussions on underreported international stories.

The foundation hosted the first of these campus events, “International Journalism 2.0: Bringing Home the Global Water Crisis,” in October 2010. Dennis Dimick, executive editor for the environment at National Geographic, and Jon Sawyer founding director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, discussed their joint collaboration with PBS NewsHour to raise the visibility of water and population issues. John Briscoe, professor of environmental engineering at Harvard University and a former senior water advisor at The World Bank, delivered a spirited and at times combative response leading to an important discussion of what it takes to provide accurate, contextual reporting on such complex topics of global concern.

As their purpose is to engage larger audiences in a conversation on international issues, these campus events are free and open to the public. The initial panel discussion attracted more than 90 outside participants to the Nieman Foundation, leaving standing room only in Lippmann House.

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Fellows’ Workshop

Many U.S. fellows arrive at Harvard from posts overseas. Along with their international classmates and the Nieman Foundation staff, they recognize the vital importance of foreign reporting in a globalized world and are concerned about the decline of international reporting.

As one of a handful of nonprofit start-ups, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s mission is to strengthen “in-depth engagement with global affairs through its sponsorship of quality international journalism across all media platforms and an innovative program of outreach and education.”

In the featured collection of stories in the Fall 2010 issue of Nieman Reports titled “Reporting From Faraway Places,” Pulitzer Center director Jon Sawyer explained how the Center has become a model for nonprofit journalism initiatives in digital foreign correspondence.

Beginning in 2011, journalists who have received Pulitzer Center grants – including Nieman Fellows – will join Sawyer in a new annual workshop designed to engage Nieman class members in a conversation about international reporting. Sawyer will share his insights from years of trying to deliver global news to local audiences and discuss what it takes to produce and effectively market multi-platform foreign news reporting. As an American journalist who has reported from some five dozen countries around the world during his career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he will address such topics as: Where and how does the Pulitzer Center place international stories in this era of hyperlocal digital news? What strategies have worked (or not) for using traditional and new multimedia platforms effectively to interest audiences in stories about faraway struggles? How can journalists employ social media and use educational networks and other techniques to attract public attention to important global issues?

In recent years, several Nieman Fellows have done this kind of reporting with Pulitzer Center grants. 2011 Global Health Fellow Antigone Barton reported on AIDS in the Caribbean and 2008 Nieman Fellow Iason Athanasiadis has produced work from Turkey, Greece and Iran.

In the Spring 2010 issue of Nieman Reports, Athanasiadis wrote: “In these tough times, there are glimmers of hope. Jon Sawyer, a veteran foreign correspondent, directs the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C., which is one of several Web-based, foundation-supported efforts that now offer financial assistance for foreign reporting ...

“By receiving grants from the Pulitzer Center, I was able to spend time in Turkey chronicling its rise as an emerging power, to report on the social turmoil that preceded Greece's economic decline, and to document the crisis in Iran sparked by the presidential elections. For a struggling freelancer, these grants — combined with my ability to share this reporting with online news outlets such as GlobalPost — give me a lifeline to continue my work as a photojournalist.”

In another example, 2009 Nieman Fellow Fatima Tlisova relied on a Pulitzer Center grant to report on the extreme dangers of reporting in the North Caucasus. In partnership with the Pulitzer Center, Nieman Reports published her stories about the brutal targeting of Russian journalists in its Fall 2010 issue.

- Stefanie Friedhoff
Special Projects Manager