The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Ann Marie Lipinski is curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, she previously served as editor/senior VP of the Chicago Tribune and senior lecturer/VP for civic engagement at the University of Chicago. She is a trustee of the Poynter Institute and former co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board.
For 77 years, the idea of a Nieman Foundation fellowship was elegantly simple: We give you an academic year at Harvard; you repay journalism with your expanded knowledge and outlook. As a Nieman Fellow myself, I can say the experience remains the single most important contribution to my journalistic development.
"Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships: New program at Harvard University will advance journalism innovation" press release, 03/25/15
But much had changed about journalism when I returned to Harvard as Nieman curator almost four years ago. Not every journalist who would make an awesome Nieman Fellow is ready to spend a full academic year at Harvard or has a goal that would merit that commitment. And not everyone whose work is having an impact on the future of news is a journalist. That’s long been true of publishers and media company owners, but now developers, entrepreneurs, academics and others are increasingly influential in the news ecosystem — sometimes because they’re building the tools journalists use and the organizations that they work for.
These were the facts that convinced us three years ago to create a new visiting fellowship, available for up to 12 weeks to applicants with a concrete idea to advance journalism. What began then as quiet experimentation—with one visiting fellow planning an epic reporting walk around the world to trace the path of human migration—has grown into an increasingly robust program: Our visiting fellows have included a member of Google’s news partnerships team in Boston, a brand new college graduate from Chicago and an accomplished senior newsroom manager from India. More recently we selected a digital strategist at NPR and the director of Web and information technology for StoryCorps, among others.
We like the questions and energy the visiting fellows bring to Nieman. We’re excited about the quick progress they’ve made while at Harvard. And we wanted to ensure a future for these fellows at Harvard.
With generous support from Knight Foundation, the newly named Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships will become an ongoing asset at Harvard. Knight’s backing will make possible the important work of people like recent fellows Jack Riley, the head of audience development for The Huffington Post UK, who researched the way publishers should think about content for wearables and smartwatches, and Amy Webb, futurist and Spark Camp co-founder, who designed a blueprint to improve journalism education.
Our visiting fellows have the opportunity to collaborate with our full-time Nieman Fellows, our staff at Nieman Journalism Lab, Nieman Reports and Nieman Storyboard, and with the experts, researchers and scholars who make Harvard and MIT such special learning centers. This matrix provides a fertile ground for new ideas and new solutions.
I am sometimes asked what the Nieman curator does and I sometimes answer that I help journalists help journalism. That descends from our founding mission in 1937: “promote and elevate the standards of journalism and educate persons deemed especially qualified for journalism.” By inviting applications for exciting project work from additional cohorts, Nieman has widened the doors of fellowship to include the broadest network of journalism’s leaders, inventors, and influencers.
This summer we will open applications for our next class of visiting fellows and will be looking for people with concrete proposals. If you have an idea for a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowship, I invite you to apply. We look forward to hearing from you.