The Many Faces of Fellowship

In addition to attending classes and participating in the many events planned during the spring semester, fellows in the class of 2011 took full advantage of one of the greatest resources on campus — one another. Authors Joshua Prager and Darcy Frey hosted a master class in narrative journalism that was so popular, it was followed by a similar panel on audio visual storytelling taught by NPR reporter Gwen Thompkins, filmmaker Florence Martin Kessler and photojournalist Pablo Corral Vega.

Just as the fellows came together to share ideas and teach skills, they also united to work through adversities. For instance, three members of the class were studying at Harvard as journalists in exile:
  • Nazila Fathi, a New York Times reporter from Iran, was forced to leave her country after pro-democracy protests in June 2009 led to a government crackdown on journalists and she was targeted for surveillance.

  • J.S Tissainayagam, had left his native Sri Lanka after serving jail time as part of a 20-year “rigorous imprisonment” sentence for writing columns critical of the government.

  • Television producer Hollman Morris left Colombia after years of death threats and illegal wire tapping of his phone and computer. The U.S. State Department initially denied his visa request to travel to Cambridge to study at Harvard under a provision of the Patriot Act.

Another classmate, BBC journalist Philippa Thomas, spent her year digging deep into the journalistic possibilities of social media. On campus, she studied with leading thinkers like Clay Shirky and Harvard Kennedy School’s Nicco Mele and she advanced her blogging and tweeting skills to prepare for a new way of reporting. She reported on a controversial comment made at MIT by State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley about the treatment of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking classified cables to WikiLeaks. After confirming that the remark was on the record, Thomas blogged about the event, turning in reporting that ultimately led to Crowley’s resignation.

Nieman Alumni Provide Global Support

Journalists worldwide lobbied to win 2009 Nieman Felllow Dorothy Parvaz's freedom from detention in Syria and Iran.
In the spring, the foundation rallied around Dorothy Parvaz, NF ’09, an Al Jazeera journalist who went missing in Syria after entering Damascus on a reporting assignment in April. Friends in her Nieman class joined forces with staff and alumni to mobilize a global network to publicize her plight and appeal for her release. Parvaz had been detained and held in one of Syria’s secret prisons for three days before being sent to Iran, where she was born. She then spent 16 days being interrogated on spying charges in Evin Prison before she was released, due in part to the international pressure put on the Iranian government to win her freedom.

Overseas, fellows marked a special milestone — the 50th anniversary of the South African Nieman Fellowship. Held in Cape Town, the event looked at the state of the press in South Africa and the contributions the Nieman Foundation has made in that regard. South Africa is the only country that has consistently sent a Nieman Fellow to Harvard each year since the first fellows from the country, Lewis Nkosi and Aubrey Sussens, were selected as members of the class of 1961.