Newsday's Close Leaves Nieman Fellow Jobless

The Nieman Foundation gives fellowships to accomplished journalists in order to allow recipients to "enrich themselves and have space to go back to their jobs better centered," according to Jae V. Roosevelt, spokesperson for the Nieman Foundation.

But Sheryl McCarthy, recipient of one of this fall's fellowships and columnist for New York Newsday, won't be spending her year at Harvard thinking about returning to her former job.

The journalist's professional home for the past eight years was abruptly closed Friday by executives of the Times Mirror company, which owned Newsday.

Although many Newsday staffers are facing either the prospect of folding themselves into the larger Long Island Newsday operation or looking for new employment, McCarthy already has her next year mapped out.

She will be coming to Harvard in the fall to join the University as a Nieman Fellow, the prestigious award given to only 12 U.S. journalists each year.


"It's a bittersweet blessing and I have a lot of mixed feelings," McCarthy said of the timing her fellowship and her newspaper's closing.

She said that while the fellowship has created an option for her which is unavailable to many of her colleagues, the closing of Newsday leaves her feeling very sad.

"A lot of people have said, "You're reallylucky,' and I realize that I am really lucky, andI'm looking for ward to [the fellowship]," shesaid. "On the other hand, I feel like I should belooking for a job."

McCarthy has been in the journalism businessfor 20 years, eight of which have been with NewYork Newsday. She said that Newsday gave her "awhole new lease on the business."

After spending time in television, radio and asa newspaper reporters, McCarthy said she hit aturning point in her career where she wonderedwhether she had any future in newspapers.

At That point, Newsday offered her theopportunity to write her own column, whichMcCarthy felt was a unique opportunity.

"I went from being a reporter to being acolumnist, which means you get your own have a persona in the business, and have moreimpact," she said. "People care more about whatyou say, and it just led to a whole a lot of otherthings."

"Other things" for McCarthy included televisionappearances, syndication of her column and thepublishing of a book of her collected writing.

In competing for the Nieman Fellowship,Roosevelt said McCarthy was judged on anapplication she sent in, a portfolio of writingand both personal and professionalrecommendations. The competitors for thefellowship were also evaluated on their commitmentto ethical journalism.

It's pretty open process," Roosevelt said."It's about what they've done, what theirpotential is and how they can make journalism of ahigher standard."

During their year at Harvard, Nieman Fellowsare required to take two courses, and the rest oftheir time is spent "pursing whatever it is theyfeel their life needs," said Roosevelt.

Larry Tye, columnist at the Boston Globe and a1994 Nieman Fellow ship that he thinks McCarthywill be faced with enormous opportunities nextyear, in spite of having her paper shut down.

"She'll have [Curator of the Nieman fellowshipsand former Washington editor for the New YorkTimes] Bill Kovach as a career advisor and I can'timagine a better way to cushion the impact ofhaving your paper close," he said.

Director of the Joan Shorenstein Barone Centerof Press, Politics and Public Policy Marvin Kalb,who runs courses and events at the Kennedy Schoolwhich are often attended by Nieman Fellows, alsobelieves that the fellowship will offer McCarthy avaluable opportunity.

"As a Nieman Fellow next year, she will be in asense, out of the line of fire," he said.

"It will be an opportunity for her, if shereturns to [the ] Newsday [parent operation] tothink more closely about the business, and if shedoes not return, to expand elsewhere.