Nieman Fellows Announced, Boasting More Freelancers Than Ever Before

Twenty-four journalists from the U.S. and abroad have been selected for the 2009-2010 class of Nieman Fellows, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard announced last week.

Those chosen represent a diverse cross-section of the industry, from newspaper editors and photographers to multimedia reporters and radio journalists. This year’s class included the largest proportion of freelance journalists in the 72-year history of the fellowship.

“The selection of more freelance journalists and fewer newspaper reporters reflects the changing nature of journalism,” said Nieman Foundation Curator Robert H. Giles.

A number of fellowship recipients had recently repositioned themselves by leaving broadcast or newspaper journalism for the freelance sector, Giles said. Newspaper reporters, he said, may not have turned out for the fellowship because they were afraid that a prolonged absence from the newsroom might exact a toll on their employment status, or because they worked for newspapers that no longer support long-term fellowships for their staffers.

“The standard for selection that we use involves [identifying] people of accomplishment, leadership, and talent to go on in journalism," Giles said. "Whether they do it as freelancers, magazine article writers, or newspaper journalists is not so much of a problem for us--it’s what they represent and how we think they might grow and make their mark in the years ahead."

The fellowship program enables working journalists to spend a year at Harvard pursuing a specific field of study, participating in various seminars, and attending special events.

“The [fellows] are specialists in covering certain areas of the world or the country, and Harvard has a lot of experts and researchers in their field who would love to work with them,” Giles said.

The fellows’ chosen areas of study span a diverse set of issues. According to a press release for the foundation, Beth Macy, the families beat reporter at "The Roanoke Times," will study the financial, social, and political impact of the aging baby boomer population; former NBC correspondent and current freelance multimedia journalist Kevin Sites will focus on developing a model for sustainable, independent Web-centric journalism; and Russian op-ed editor Maxim Trudolyubov will study the interaction of opinion journalism with contemporary media and society.

In response to the journalism industry’s diminishing reliance on print media and its transition to more technologically advanced forms of reporting, the Foundation will introduce a yearlong multimedia curriculum designed to teach the fellows new media skills.

The Nieman Foundation, which administers the oldest mid-career fellowship program for journalists in the world, has supported more than 1,300 journalists from 89 countries since its inception in 1938.

--Staff writer Monica S. Liu can be reached at msliu@fas.harvard.edu.