Nieman Foundation at Harvard
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Nov. 6, 2019, 9:11 a.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   November 6, 2019

We have an opening for a staff writer here at Nieman Lab. If you’re interested, apply over here!

The job’s pretty easy to describe: You see all the stories on this website? The ones about journalism innovation — changes in how news gets reported, produced, distributed, discovered, consumed, and paid for? This job is about coming up with, reporting out, and writing those stories. There are some other duties, of course, like helping run our social media presence, but it’s a reporting and writing job at its core. If you’ve ever thought I’d be good at writing Nieman Lab stories, I’d strongly encourage you to apply.

This person will join our little Harvard newsroom. They’ll also be joining the larger Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, which does a lot of exciting things for journalism and for journalists. Best known are the Nieman Fellowships, which bring a few dozen amazing journalists from around the world to our home, Walter Lippmann House, every year. (That’s it up above the headline, though the leaves are prettier right now.)

For more details, you can see my writeup from a previous time we had an opening and, of course, the job listing.

I’ve been hiring people for positions like this one at Nieman Lab for some time now, and these are some of the qualities I look for most:

Deep curiosity. This is No. 1 with a bullet. You’re not a the-stories-come-to-me person; you’re a whoa-what-the-heck-is-the-story-behind-that kind of person. Curiosity is a general trait, but of course it’s obviously better if you’re deeply curious about the specific things we write about most, which I would sum up as how news happens in a digital environment. The future of news should be something you’re excited to think about. We’re journalists who write about journalism, so I expect a higher baseline level of interest in the subject matter.

A lean-forward reporting style. You make the extra phone calls, you write the extra emails, you do the extra archive searches. If you’re on a story, you don’t just send an email to a PR person and wait. Some of the stories we write are ones people are generally happy to tell (“We’re trying this cool new thing here at The Daily Planet, look!”), but others need a substantially heavier dose of digging. In the grand tradition of quality beat reporting, this is a job where you’ll build your own subject-matter expertise every day and over time bring that knowledge to your work. The questions you’re most passionate about answering are typically the ones where you’ll do the best work.

Some writing personality. As I put it back in 2012: “Writing stories for the Lab isn’t exactly the same as writing news stories for a traditional outlet — but it also isn’t the same as writing a blog with your own personality high-beams on. The voice and tone we’ve developed in our [now 10 years] of existence are important to us, and you’ll need to be able to write clean copy that both grabs the audience and respects its time.” One way I’ve described our tone is: Imagine you worked for a company that is a competitor to The Daily Planet, and your boss has asked you to write a memo about this new project they have going on. It’s a bit more nuanced and human voice than what you might find elsewhere.

Collegiality. We’re a pretty small operation, both at Nieman Lab and at the larger Nieman Foundation, so we particularly like to hire people who will be exemplary citizens of Lippmann House. And of course, we’re part of the larger community of Harvard (and Cambridge; MIT is two T stops away), and we value those associations. (Harvard’s a pretty amazing place to work.)

Finally, I want to emphasize that we’re hoping for a very diverse pool of applicants, in all senses of that word. It’s great when someone comes into a newsroom with a fresh set of perspectives, a unique set of experiences, or just a different way of thinking about the issues we’re most interested in.

A few quick process notes: This position will be based here in Cambridge; it can’t be remote, sorry. To be considered for the job, you’ll have to apply at the Harvard HR site linked above, where you should include a cover letter telling me why you think you’d be right for the job. Don’t email me a resume directly; I’m not allowed to consider anyone who doesn’t go through the official HR process. But if you have specific questions about the job, feel free to email me or deputy editor Laura Hazard Owen.)

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