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Though the problem of handling the Nieman Bequest has by no means been solved, it must be admitted that Dr. Conant has acted wisely in his decision to award fellowships to newspapermen who have had three years of practical experience. After consultation with leading newspapermen in Boston and elsewhere, Dr. Conant has placed the burden of selection on a small committee who will offer journalists from all over the country the experience of an eight months' study at Harvard.
The fellowship plan, which was brought forward in a series of editorials in these columns two months ago, seems to be satisfactory in that it points to a practical means of attaining Mrs. Nieman's idealistic end, a higher standard of journalism. But taken by themselves, fellowships amounting to $40,000 a year can scarcely affect the standing of the great mass of the nation's periodicals. It is hoped, therefore, that such a program will at least lead the way in the fight for better and cleaner journalism.
There are, of course, other channels than the fellowships through which some of the Nieman money might flow. Prizes could be awarded to the outstanding journalists of each year; undergraduates courses might be organized in newspaper history and technique; a research department might be instituted. Such suggestion are open to argument and consideration, but for the present the advantages of the fellowship plan are undeniable.
Having a certain amount of college background and definitely committed to a career of journalism, the fellowship men with $2000 or more will be free to pursue such studies at Harvard as might be helpful in their work. In this way the cultural background so essential to acurate reporting and worthwhile comment will be afforded at least a few men. Although this may lead to some progress, the whole plan is still "frankly experimental," as Dr. Conant has reported, and it may be changed from year to year until the most effective arrangement is reached.
By its action Harvard appears to have shown good judgement in the handling of the funds; but without the continued interest here as well as in other colleges, the Nieman ideal can never hope to transcend the first stages of embryonic form.
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