Nieman Curator Honored With Award for Excellence in Journalism

Bill Kovach, the curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University for 11 years, received the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) last night.

About 100 people attended the awards ceremony, a group consisting mostly of recipients and finalists of other awards given at the event, KSG affiliates and personal acquaintances of Kovach.

Each year, the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy sponsors the Goldsmith award in honor of a journalist whose work has influenced society through powerful investigative reporting on politics.

"[Kovach is] universally hailed as the conscience of the American journalist," said Thomas E. Patterson, acting director of the Shorenstein Center and Bradlee professor of government and the press.

Kovach began his reporting career in 1959 at the Johnson City Press Chronicle in Tennessee, where he covered the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He went on to work for The New York Times for 18 years, eventually becoming Washington bureau chief.


Kovach joined the Nieman Foundation in 1989 after a stint at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He resigned from his position there after management asked him to tone down editorials that were critical of area businesses.

In his speech last night, Kovach said journalists must struggle to maintain independence in the midst of major media company mergers.

"Freedom of the press is not a luxury," he said.

Kovach said an independent press is crucial is to journalistic integrity, citing recent takeover like the AOL acquisition of Time Warner CNN as part of a disturbing media trend.

"We must all question whether we can rely on a handful of behemoth corporations to monitor themselves," Kovach said. "Journalists are beginning to react."

Only by making news relevant and engaging can journalists hope to convince readers and viewers of the media's integrity, Kovach said.

"No matter how serious it is you have to make it engaging but you can't stop there," said Kovach.

Kovach was given a standing ovation upon completing his remarks.

"He is very thought provoking. Journalism needs more people like that," said Felicity Spector, a KSG student.

She said Kovach's words were a good reminder that ethical standards in journalism should be valued over sensational scoops.

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