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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Have an idea to help improve journalism? Apply for a new Nieman visiting fellowship

It’s a chance to come work on a journalism-related project at Harvard, but for a shorter period of time than our traditional Nieman Fellowships.

For decades, journalists have been coming to Harvard for a year of study and research. The latest bunch make up the 75th class of Nieman Fellows, who arrived in late August and will be here through May.

But as enduring as the traditional Nieman Fellowship has been and continues to be, a fellowship that lasts an entire academic year won’t work for everyone who’d benefit from it.

Some have a defined, focused project they want to work on that doesn’t need to line up with a university’s academic calendar.

And some might not be working journalists at all — at least not as the term’s been traditionally defined. They might be publishers, academics, developers, or others who are dedicated to improving journalism whether or not they directly produce it.

So I’m very happy that the Nieman Foundation just announced the creation of a new, project-based, shorter-term kind of fellowship. We’re calling it a visiting fellowship, and you can read all about it on the main Nieman website.

A few of the highlights:

  • We’ll offer up to three of these visiting fellowships per year, and both American and international applicants are welcome.
  • The length of the fellowship could span from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the proposed project.
  • While we’re accepting applications from non-journalists, journalists are of course very much welcome to apply, too.
  • You can propose something self-contained that you expect to complete in your time at Harvard, or you can propose working on piece of a broader project.
  • You can choose to work with us here at Nieman Lab, or with any of the other projects housed here at the Nieman Foundation.
  • The deadline for applying is November 19 — that’s four weeks from this writing. The application is quite brief — mostly just 500 words on what you’d accomplish as a visiting fellow.

When Agnes Wahl Nieman died in 1937, she left relatively few instructions on how the money she’d given to Harvard should be spent. But she did say its purpose should be to “promote and elevate the standards of journalism.” More than ever, that’s the work of a very broad group of people, and we’re hoping that the visiting fellowships can let us reach more of those people. If you’ve got a great idea that can help advance journalism, I hope you’ll apply.

What to read next
Ken Doctor    Aug. 25, 2014
“Things” editor, distribution editor, correspondent for progress — as newsrooms change, so do the ways they organize their human resources.
  • StanleyKrauter

    Another child was recently killed because reporters think they are too important to communicate like a teacher. 
    Her name was Tamryn Klapheke and she was killed by her mother neglecting to take care of her.  According to the Associated Press article the child had chemical burns on her body that probably happened because her diaper was not changed for a long time.  The accumulated bowel movements had a different acid or base chemical composition than human skin and this produced a chemcial burn. 
    The article also said that the mother, Tiffany Nicole Klapheke, had been supervised by a case worker from the state’s Child Protective Services because of a prior complaint for child abuse or neglect.  But the last visit by her case worker had been about ten months before the child was killed and the supervision was cancelled six days before the death without a final visit by the case worker.  The state of Texas is going to prosecute the case worker and several other employees for hiding evidence of their inadequate care. 
    But the local office of Child Protective Services was severely understaffed.  They had only six case workers instead the sixteen they needed.  And statewide, the shortage was approximately 1,500 case workers instead of the 19,000 they needed.  So who should be prosecuted for inadequate care.  The case workers or the politicians who didn’t provide enough money for case workers.  Or should the voters be blamed for Tamryn Klapheke’s death 
    Well, I think the newspapers of Texas should be blamed.  Politicians are controlled by incentives they can not changed.,  They must support both tax cuts and more subsidies for the most powerful special interest groups or they will be replaced in the next election by smarter politicians.  Children are just too weak of a special interest group to deserve a tax increase.  As for voters, one man, one vote is a wonderful principle and a lousy incentive for becoming an informed voter.  Especially when newspapers are more interested in entertaining their customers with the first draft of history than they care about educating the public  In my informal surveys of friends and drinking buddies, I have never found anyone who knew anything about our state’s programs for vulnerable children before a disaster happened.  So how can voters do anything to protect children who are endangered by their parents and by our politicial system?  They can’t until the news media decides to educate the public by publishing a second draft of history. 
    This second draft would be an annual one week review of events and conditions in our country.  The review would work like the report cards that teachers and parents use for rewarding and punishing students.  (I think most voters will enjoy using a report card for rewarding and punishing their politicians.)   And a one week review will provide enough space for statistics on every major government department.  The statistics for a Child Protective Services could tell the voters every year if there are enough case workers to provide adequate protection for at risk children.  Then at least some deaths could be prevented.  But they aren’t prevented now because voters don’t know anything about the programs for protecting children. 
    But my proposal will never be implemented by the new media for two reasons.  First, a child under the protection of the state is more profitable for the news media when it is dead.  Especially it dies from a gruesome cause.  And a dead child is also more exciting for a reporter.  It might even give him a chance to win a journalism award for discovering incompetent politicians.  And the Nieman Foundation, even though it is giving fellowships for research into improving journalism, is probably not interested in my proposal because the Foundation sees Tamryn’s death as an improvement in our gene pool..

  • gussilva

    Obviously the person that wrote this does not have a grasp of what journalists do and the landscape and organizational climate they work in. To say that any story of human import is “profitable” to a journalist or a newspaper is absolutely ridiculous. To say that a dead child is “more exciting” for a reporter? That’s just the writing of a simplistic mind. To put the onus on journalists to intercede in the lives of the people they report on? That’s not only unethical it is letting many people of the responsibilty hook in a decision chain. In short a post like this is part of the very problem it seeks to address. If the writer feels so compelled to propose changes he should act in deed as well as in word and seek to work to make a difference in this or that issue himself-instead of putting the onus on others.

  • StanleyKrauter

    I know what journalists do and I know they have failed to communicate.  Tamryn Klapheke’s death is only one example of what will happen when too many voters are ignorant.  To say that journalists are not affected by “profitable”  and “more exciting” opportunities is to assert that they are the only group of people in the entire world who are not affected by their own self interest.  All I want is for the news media to publish an annual one week review of events and conditions in our country.  It would be easy to do and it could be very profitable.   Many of the criticisms made against politicians are really the fault of journalists who don’t want to communicate better by taking my advice.   I don’t have the economic or political power to make journalists and politicians do what should be done.   And the people who run the Nieman Lab must have a policy of ignoring people who don’t live in their section of the bell curve.  If my reply is not simple enough for you, please let me know asap.