Nieman Notes

  • A Correspondent Returns Home
    After 15 years abroad as a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star, Bill Schiller, NF ’06 is back home in Canada. In an e-mail to Nieman Reports, he writes that even though the paper has closed all its bureaus outside North America, “management remains dedicated to covering the world and we've been sending people here, there and everywhere continuously over the past year. At one point during the Arab Awakening, we had eight reporters in the zone.” In the immediate future, he’ll be covering the 2012 presidential race in the United States. January 17, 2012
  • Leaving Baghdad, Heading to Washington, D.C.
    In March Matthew Schofield, NF ’02, a longtime staffer at The Kansas City Star, will move to McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau to join the national security reporting team. In December, he reflected on his time covering the war in Iraq following the news that McClatchy would close its Baghdad bureau now that the U.S. military has formally ended its combat operation. “Baghdad memories all eventually take on a melancholy tinge,” he wrote. He expressed gratitude to the Iraqis who had helped him, including a fixer named Yasser who was mistaken for a threat and killed by a U.S. soldier. January 17, 2012
  • 2012 Nieman Books Preview
    As the Winter issue of Nieman Reports directs our focus to journalists turned authors, it’s worth noting a few Nieman Fellows whose books are scheduled to be published in 2012:
      •  Masha Gessen, NF’ 04, is the author of “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin,” coming in March. The biography has already generated buzz for its revelations about how a little-known KGB man became the secretive, absolute leader of Russia.
      •  Robert A. Caro, NF ’66, has completed “The Passage of Power,” the fourth volume of his biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, due out in May. It focuses on Johnson’s vice presidency and what it was like to become president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
      •  Audra Ang, NF ’10, will release “To the People, Food Is Heaven: Stories of Food and Life in a Changing China” in September. Ang uses food as a lens for exploring life in modern China, where the rich eat well but the majority struggle. December 19, 2011
  • Dog Walks Man Across Great Britain for a Good Cause
    In October Peter Almond, NF ’81, and his springer spaniel Henry finished walking across Great Britain. Almond chronicled the trip with blog posts, photos and videos. It took them five months to cover 1,237 miles, though Henry figures his mileage at 7,621 due to all his running back and forth. The pair raised more than $15,000 for Hounds for Heroes, a charity that trains assistance dogs for injured British soldiers. December 12, 2011
  • New York Times Journalist Tom Wicker, 1926-2011
    Tom Wicker, NF ’58, a political columnist for The New York Times for 25 years, died November 25th at the age of 85 at his home near Rochester, Vermont. Wicker sometimes became a participant in the news he was covering, most famously as a mediator during the uprising at the Attica prison in upstate New York in 1971. The only Times reporter riding in the presidential motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Wicker covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When he phoned the story in to the Washington bureau, Alvin Shuster, NF ’67, was on the other end of the line. In a remembrance of the newsman, Shuster expresses gratitude for the instrumental role that Wicker played in his career. November 26, 2011
  • Winning By the Numbers
    October is National Statistics Month in the Philippines, and top honors in the Statistics Media Awards went to Malou Mangahas, NF ’99, the executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and host of GMA News TV’s “Investigative Documentaries.” She won the Outstanding Award for Print and Broadcast for a number of reports, including a PCIJ investigation into President Benigno S. Aquino III’s campaign funding in the 2010 election, while her GMA News program won in the broadcast category. October 11, 2011
  • The Star’s Publisher Is the Star
    Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism bestowed its Carr Van Anda Award on The Anniston (Ala.) Star’s H. Brandt Ayers, NF ’68. During his long tenure as publisher, Time magazine twice named The Star as one of the “best small newspapers in the United States.” In accepting this award, Ayers reminded students and faculty of the irreplaceable value of community journalism. “The Wall Street Journal isn’t going to cover your mayor’s race and The New York Times will not follow the rising fortunes of two rival high schools,” he said. “Only our printed papers and websites will do that.” October 6, 2011
  • Rose Economou: Broadcaster and Professor
    Veteran broadcast journalist Rose Economou, NF ‘81, died at her home in Oak Park, Illinois on October 2. She was 65. Her work in television started in the 1970’s after her stint as a 25-year-old “advance man” for Ed Muskie during the 1972 presidential primary. She later became a producer and reporter for regional stations in Richmond, Washington, D.C., and Chicago before joining CBS News following her Nieman year. Since 1990, she taught at Columbia College in Chicago, first as artist in residence and later as part of the journalism faculty. In an obituary on the college’s website, Nancy Day, NF ‘79 and chair of the department, said “Rose was bright, talented and passionate about her students and making a difference in the world.” October 6, 2011
  • Turning Shoe Leather Into Silver
    A winner of this year’s Barlett & Steele Awards in Investigative Business Reporting is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Raquel Rutledge, NF ’12. She and fellow reporter Rick Barrett received the silver medal for “A Case of Shattered Trust,” their investigation of why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed to stop a Wisconsin company from producing contaminated medical supplies that were suspected in the death of a 2-year old boy in Texas. The Seattle Times’s Michael J. Berens took bronze for “Seniors for Sale,” his Worth Bingham Prize-winning series on nursing home abuses. Rutledge received the Bingham Prize in 2009. October 5, 2011
  • Human Rights—Victims Get a Voice
    Hollman Morris, NF '11, received the 2011 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award on September 25. As a documentary filmmaker and TV journalist, Morris frequently reports on violence and corruption in Colombia on his program “Contravía.” In awarding the prize, the jury wrote that Morris “has made visible the victims of the horrible armed conflict prevailing in his native country Colombia, and in his TV programs has given them a voice.” They also noted that some of his research “has stopped impunity for horrific violations of human rights.” His work has been used as evidence by investigators, judges and prosecutors. “He has paid a high price for his perseverance in reporting on human rights violations,” the jury said. October 3, 2011
  • Keeping an Eye on Washington
    The machinations of federal regulation are fertile ground for reporters who know how to plow it. Kirstin Downey, NF ’01, developed this skill during two decades as a business reporter for The Washington Post, and now she employs this talent in her new role as the editor of FTC:Watch. It covers antitrust and consumer protection enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission and related government agencies. Downey describes this independent newsletter as featuring “topics I find fascinating, a paid subscription base that is not dependent on advertising, [and it] comes out twice a month so that I have time to reflect, and not just react.” September 27, 2011
  • In Good Company
    Joining such luminaries as Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates, historian Robert Caro, NF ’66, has been recognized as a Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Called a “standard-setter for other political historians” by the school’s president, Caro is best known for his penetrating biographies of New York City planner Robert Moses and former president Lyndon Johnson. He will give a lecture at the school in February. September 22, 2011
  • Murray Seeger: Friend and Colleague
    Longtime economics reporter and foreign correspondent Murray Seeger, NF ’62, died on August 29th. He was 82. After cultivating an interest in the Soviet Union while on his Nieman Fellowship, he put the knowledge to good use as Moscow bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times from 1972-74. He also served as associate editor of Nieman Reports in the 1990’s and wrote many articles for the magazine, including a piece about the decline of labor reporting and reviews of books about wars, dissidents and spies. He published a book, “Discovering Russia: 200 Years of America Journalism,” in 2005. August 31, 2011
  • Training for a Difficult Subject
    As a 2011 Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Beth Macy, NF ’10, will participate in a weeklong training program and attend the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference in November. She will learn about the many dimensions of psychological trauma, a subject covered comprehensively in Nieman Reports. In 2010, the Dart Society funded Macy’s trip to post-earthquake Haiti to report for The Roanoke (Va.) Times. Her story, “Life and Death in the Time of Cholera,” won a 2011 Associated Press Managing Editors award. August 29, 2011
  • Following Clam Smugglers Reaps an Award
    Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch, NF ’07, took top honors in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ (SEJ) Rachel Carson Environment Book Award for “Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers and the Hunt for Nature’s Bounty.” For transforming a local story about geoduck clam poaching into an international tale of smuggling and black market intrigue, the SEJ judges praised his book as “a wonderful combination of solid reporting, good historical research and fine writing.” In Nieman Reports, he described the advantages of longevity on the environment beat. August 9, 2011
  • Bravely Telling Her Story
    A young woman’s courageous decision to testify against the men who enslaved her became the heart of The Boston Globe’s nuanced look at the sex trafficking of minors. The Journalism Center on Children & Families named reporter Jenifer McKim, NF ’08, and her editor, Mark Pothier, NF ’01, as winners of a 2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for the piece, which the judges hailed as a story of “realistic triumph and taking back control.” July 27, 2011
  • Fighting for Press Freedom
    John Carroll, NF ’72, has joined the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), where he will assist the 30-year-old organization in its mission to advocate on behalf of journalists and defend press freedom around the world. Carroll, the former editor of the Los Angeles Times and The (Baltimore) Sun, joins Gene Roberts, NF ’62, on the board. Anthony Lewis, NF ’57, and John Seigenthaler, NF ’59, serve on the CPJ advisory board. July 19, 2011
  • Coming Home Again
    Susan Smith Richardson, NF ’03, is the new managing editor of The Texas Observer, a nonprofit news organization based in Austin that specializes in investigative, political and social justice reporting. The move marks her return to Texas after six years in Chicago as senior writer at the MacArthur Foundation and assistant metro editor at the Chicago Tribune. She says that she is “looking forward to combining my experience in philanthropy, a driving force in shaping the nonprofit media landscape, with my love for investigative and narrative journalism.” July 19, 2011
  • On the Move From Nairobi to Shanghai
    NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt, NF ’03, is moving to Shanghai after reporting from East Africa for the past year. Before his stint in Africa, he was based in Washington, D.C., covering business for NPR. He writes in that he “will miss the adventure of East Africa, but China is something of a home-coming. Julie and I lived in Beijing in the 1990s and have kept in touch with many friends there. We’ll be trading the leafy suburbs of Nairobi for a high-rise in Shanghai's financial district, but Katie and Christopher enjoy big-city life, including scootering on Nanjing Road.” July 11, 2011
  • The Leading Edge of the Fortune 100
    Unable to find the statistics she wanted on the diversity of leadership at Fortune 100 companies, business journalist Susan E. Reed, NF ’99, did the research herself. The studies she conducted became the basis for “The Diversity Index,” to be published next month by Amacom. Reed found that more than 40 of the top 100 have no minority executives. In addition to reviewing the history of affirmative action laws, she suggests ways to increase the number of minority, female and foreign-born executives based on the successful strategies of Merck, PepsiCo and other companies. July 6, 2011
  • New Leader for Student Investigative Journalism Unit
    William Marimow, NF ’83, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, is joining Arizona State University to lead the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative journalism program. Marimow will be a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and executive editor of News21. “Bill Marimow is one of the great investigative journalists of our time, one of the best investigative team leaders and a wonderful mentor to smart young journalists,” said the school’s dean, Christopher Callahan. June 27, 2011
  • Telling the Stories Behind the Numbers
    Beginning this fall, Amy Goldstein, NF ’05, will examine how unemployment and underemployment are changing American lives and the nation’s identity. She will be one of 51 fellows at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Goldstein, a staff writer at The Washington Post who covered the White House during George W. Bush’s first presidential term, said she hopes to “provide a ground-level view of potent ripple effects, on domains from mental health to job retraining to politics, as women and men all along the socioeconomic ladder have been torn from their financial moorings.” June 20, 2011
  • Journalism Educator as Ombudsman
    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting appointed Joel Kaplan, NF ’85, as its new ombudsman. When he started in early June, he set goals of improving transparency and accountability at the CPB, which has faced accusations of bias and threats of funding cuts from Congress. “Public media has consistently demonstrated its commitment to strive for editorial independence,” Kaplan observed. He will remain as associate dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he developed a multimedia curriculum for graduate students. In Nieman Reports he wrote about the expansive role engineers play in changing journalism. June 7, 2011
  • Getting to the Core of Journalism’s Questions
    Melanie Sill, NF ’94, brings more than 30 years of experience in newspapers to the University of Southern California as she becomes executive in residence this month at its Annenberg School of Journalism. Sill used her farewell column as editor of The Sacramento Bee to share with Bee readers her plans to engage with students and faculty around two core questions during her six-month appointment: “What can journalists and journalism do most effectively to serve the public interest in an age of media fragmentation? How can we report news, tell stories and convey information in ways that connect with more people?” Geneva Overholser, NF ’86, Annenberg’s director who wrote about journalism’s place in social media in Nieman Reports, expressed her delight at the “opportunity for our students to work with one of America’s most respected and future-oriented editors.” June 7, 2011
  • Journalist Returns to His Roots in a New Role
    It’s a homecoming for Brent Walth, NF ’06, the new managing editor of Willamette Week, the alternative newspaper in Portland, Oregon. In 1986 he got his start as an investigative reporter at the paper before spending 16 years at The Oregonian, most recently as senior investigative reporter. In his new job, Walth directs the newspaper’s coverage and occasionally contributes stories. “My early experience at an alternative newspaper made a huge difference in how I look at stories,” he writes. “Now, I feel very lucky to have this chance to help shape coverage and lead a paper as committed to investigative and watchdog reporting as Willamette Week.” What he wrote in Nieman Reports about teaching young, aspiring journalists offers insights into how he will lead his new staff. May 31, 2011
  • Chile to Cambridge—Two Fellowships and an Award
    Chilean journalist Alejandra Matus, NF ’10, received the Lucius N. Littauer award as one of the top 10 Mason Fellows to graduate this May from the Kennedy School. After her year as a Nieman Fellow, Alejandra joined Harvard’s Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Edward S. Mason Program, designed for professionals from newly industrialized and transitional economy countries. “I had an outstanding academic record and at the same time I participated and spoke up on issues regarding freedom of expression, gender disparity, and social inequality,” Matus said. In the fall, she will help to create a presence for Spanish-language journalism on the Nieman Reports website. May 31, 2011
  • Protecting Reporters With Legal Assistance
    Two Niemans have taken on new roles with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP). Maggie Mulvihill, NF ’05, a former media lawyer and investigative reporter who is codirector of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University, is the newest member of the RCFP Steering Committee. Committee member Jim Rubin, NF ’76, legal affairs editor for Bloomberg News, was named secretary/treasurer of the committee’s Executive Committee. The RCFP has provided free legal assistance to journalists since 1970. May 18, 2011
  • From ‘The Hidden Brain’ to Public Radio
    From his Washington Post column “Department of Human Behavior” to his well-reviewed book “The Hidden Brain,” Shankar Vedantam, NF ’10, has been a respected voice in science journalism. That voice will soon travel even further as he starts a new position this June on the science desk at NPR. He wrote to friends and colleagues that the move—from the immigration beat at the Post—would allow him to cover his enduring passions: science and human behavior. In announcing Vedantam’s departure, his old editor predicted that “he will soon become NPR’s newest star.” May 18, 2011
  • The Next Curator—Eclectic Reader Who Craves Great Editing
    After being named the next curator of the Nieman Foundation, Ann Marie Lipinski, NF ’90, spoke with media critic Robert Feder, who writes a blog for Time Out Chicago. She talked about her seven years as editor of the Chicago Tribune and her current job as vice president for civic engagement at the University of Chicago where she taught nonfiction narrative writing and found students with a passion for long-form storytelling. Lipinski said her consumption of media is “much more eclectic” since she left the newsroom. She craves “great editing” and she’s “reading less of more things.” She suggests that “every editor take a month off and go someplace and read papers and consume media other than his or her own, and really think about what is working and what is not.” May 17, 2011
  • Meeting the Saints of Mexico’s ‘Troubled Spirits’
    Alma Guillermoprieto, NF ’05, was named a winner of the 2010 Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting from abroad by the Overseas Press Club. She and photographer Shaul Schwarz shared the honor for “Troubled Spirits” in National Geographic. Guillermoprieto puts a new face on the drug-related violence in Mexico by looking at the emergence of cults surrounding three figures: St. Jude, patron saint of desperate causes; Jesús Malverde, the original narco-saint revered by drug traffickers; and La Santa Muerte (“Holy Death”), who guards the worst of sinners. In the Spring 2010 issue, Elia Baltazar and Daniela Patrana highlighted the dangers faced by journalists in Mexico. May 17, 2011
  • Campaigning for a Nieman Sister
    Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz, NF ’09, has been deported from Syria to Iran, according to her news organization. Parvaz, who holds U.S., Canadian, and Iranian citizenship, has not been heard from since she arrived at the airport in Damascus on April 29. Among those tweeting about her situation and sharing thoughts on the Free Dorothy Parvaz Facebook page are her Nieman classmates. Dorothy’s friend and classmate Rosita Boland wrote about her in The Irish Times, and Tommy Tomlinson, another classmate, published “My Friend Dorothy” on his Charlotte Observer blog. May 9, 2011
  • Picking Up Honors From Austin to Cambridge
    Alex S. Jones, NF ’82, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, was in Austin recently to receive the DeWitt Carter Reddick Award given by the University of Texas College of Communication to recognize his career achievements. At the Honors Day Convocation, he delivered the keynote speech, “WikiLeaks, Facebook and Us: Why Professional Journalism Still Matters,” and then “at the end of the ceremony, we all stood and sang ‘The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You’ and gave the hook ’em horns salute. Nothing like it,” he told us. Back in Cambridge, a few days later he was among the new members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 230-year-old policy research center that brings together leaders from the arts, business, public affairs, and academia. April 24, 2011
  • Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing: Amy Ellis Nutt
    Only one of seven crew members survived the sudden sinking of the Lady Mary, a scallop boat, in March 2009. Reporter Amy Ellis Nutt, NF ’05, spent seven months unraveling clues, and in November 2010, her five-part series, “The Wreck of the Lady Mary,” appeared on the front page of the Star-Ledger and on its website, where it featured photographs and video by her colleague Andre Malok. Nutt was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Current Nieman Fellow Tony Bartelme, projects reporter with The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, was a finalist in this category, as was the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich, NF ’96, for commentary. April 22, 2011
  • Nieman Fellows examine Latin American journalism
    Several Nieman Fellows contributed to the latest issue of ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, published by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. The new magazine focuses on “Journalism of the Americas” and features articles by Mónica Almeida NF ’09, Rosental Alves NF ’88, Alfredo Corchado NF ’09, Bob Giles NF ’66, Juanita León NF ’07, Graciela Mochkofsky NF ’09 and Raúl Peñaranda U. NF ’08. April 8, 2011
  • Lukas Prize for Eliza Griswold’s ‘Tenth Parallel’
    Eliza Griswold, NF ’07, won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.” The judges described her writing from countries where more than half the world’s Christians and Muslims live as “a brilliantly original construct for examining one of the most important — perhaps the most important — conflicts in the world today.” The $10,000 award was announced by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation. April 1, 2011
  • Ah, To Be a Fellow Again!
    Mary C. Curtis, NF ’06, is one of the 24 inaugural social media fellows chosen by the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. Nearly 600 journalists applied for this three-month fellowship. It includes a week of strategic hands-on training and exploration of emerging news models before coaching begins on social media projects of their choice. Based in Charlotte, N.C., Curtis is a correspondent for AOL’s and contributes to National Public Radio, and Nieman Watchdog. March 28, 2011
  • Bringing Foreign News Home
    Maria Balinska, NF ’10, received a $20,000 grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation to launch an online international news service. In Nieman Reports she wrote about why she was leaving her long-held job as editor of World Current Affairs Radio at the BBC to take on the risky role of a digital entrepreneur. In foreign reporting, she said, “It’s past time to expand its focus [beyond governmental priorities]—to welcome the grass-roots perspectives of ordinary people.” March 22, 2011
  • Nieman Fellow Philippa Thomas discovers the power of the blog
    When BBC journalist and 2011 Nieman Fellow Philippa Thomas wrote recently about a talk given by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley at MIT, little did she know that her blog post would have far-reaching results. Her report on Crowley’s surprisingly candid comments about the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning ultimately led to Crowley’s resignation. As Thomas writes, “This was a story that started online and only subsequently spread to traditional media outlets.” March 16, 2011
  • Welcome to Our Redesigned Website
    This homepage expands our magazine’s mission. We still provide links to the stories in our current issue, while featuring high-quality storytelling in our Spotlight box and connecting you with activities and events related to journalism. The multimedia, print, broadcast and photographic work that Nieman Fellows and Nieman Reports contributing writers do in the field is highlighted here, too, along with news about Nieman alums and what’s happening in Professor’s Corner. Give us your feedback and offer suggestions via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. Stay in touch about your work so we can share your stories with our global community. March 14, 2011
  • Ideology in a Hurricane
    In the 2010 William Allen White Citation speech at the University of Kansas, John S. Carroll, NF '72, offered his frank assessment of the preparedness of journalists to face the array of challenges ahead. As he began, Carroll gave a hint of what would follow when he declared that "the ideology of the journalist, which, I submit, was never all that highly developed in the first place and is now flickering like a candle in a hurricane." March 4, 2011