Contender For Nieman Post Under Scrutiny

Search stalls after candidate stirs controversy

Harvard was hours away from naming former Detroit News editor Robert H. Giles curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, but postponed a decision after protests regarding his role in a bitter strike at the News surfaced, sources said this week.

"They were supposed to issue the announcement Thursday [June 23]," said a media industry source with an active interest in the appointment. "They called up and said there had been a slight hitch and it would be Friday. And then, bingo, it didn't happen."

Giles has come under attack from former reporters at the Detroit News who say that his performance as editor and his conduct during the still-ongoing strike should disqualify him from the position.


President Neil L. Rudenstine's staff director, Jackie O'Neil, said that Harvard's search is on hold but that when Rudenstine returns from a European vacation in mid-July, the Nieman appointment would be "number one on his dance card."

Both Giles and Harvard refused to comment this week on whether he is still a candidate for the curatorship. But a close Giles associate, Knight Foundation President Hodding Carter III, said Wednesday that Giles is still being considered.

"It is my understanding that no offer, assuming that there is one out there, has been withdrawn," Carter said.

But Robert Ourlian, an ex-Detroit News reporter, said that rumor in the union camp is that it is only a matter of time before Giles withdraws his name from consideration.

Former curator Bill Kovach spent his last day at the Foundation on June 30 before leaving for Washington, D.C. to head the Committee of Concerned Journalists. He said this week that a new curator will not be named until mid-summer.

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