New Niemans and their stories: Meet the Class of 2013
The first week of fall term ends today at Harvard, and the Nieman Foundation’s newest class of fellows is settling in. The Nieman fellowship, which next year will celebrate its 75th anniversary, brings together 12 U.S. and 12 international journalists for one year of study across the university. Fellows pursue the topics of their choice, and convene several times a week for seminars, workshops and social events at Lippmann House, our longtime headquarters. This year’s class − the first chosen under new curator Ann Marie Lipinski − includes gifted reporters, photojournalists, editors, web-startup founders, and authors, all storytellers working across platforms. Allow us to introduce them and some of their work.*
David Abel, staff writer, the Boston Globe. He has covered dissident movements in Cuba, the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, national security policy in Washington, D.C., and, in New England, a range of profiles and issues such as the politics of academia, the persistence of poverty and the effects of climate change.
Studying: the evolution of new media; the impact of rising income equality on the social fabric; the science and potential effects of climate change
You should read: his Kurt Vonnegut story. Nice lines: The prisoner of war who survived the incineration of Dresden nearly died in a blaze of his own making last year. A cigarette he left in an ashtray torched much of his East Side Manhattan brownstone.
Laura Norton Amico, founder and editor, Homicide Watch, an acclaimed Washington, D.C.-based website for data-driven coverage of violent crime. “Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case,” is the motto. Through Kickstarter, Amico, a 2013 Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation, is trying to raise $40,000 to fund and staff the site for the next year, through a student reporting lab. With six days to go, she is less than $9,000 short of the goal. To support this journalism, go here.
Studying: criminal justice journalism in the digital age, including useful tools and new models for crime and courts reporting
You should read about: the late Tawanna Barnes-Copeland, 41. Amico’s lede: Holding her granddaughter close to her side, Brenda Smith Sledge stood before her daughter’s killer this morning to tell him how much her family had lost.
Brett Anderson, restaurant critic and features writer, the Times-Picayune. His work has also appeared in Gourmet, the Washington Post, Food & Wine, Salon and The Oxford American, has been anthologized in eight editions of Best Food Writing, and has won two James Beard Foundation Awards.
Studying: the forces and people fueling the modern American food culture and their impact on the way Americans eat; the role food and restaurants play in communities during crisis
You should read: his James Beard Award-winning five-part series on the post-Katrina rebuilding of the restaurant Mandina. His lede: On Oct. 11, 2005, Cindy Mandina put a hip to the side door of Mandina’s restaurant and stepped into her new world of disorder. The tableau brought to mind a Salvador Dali painting. The asphyxiating aroma suggested the inside of a garbage bin.
Chris Arnold, economy and housing market correspondent, NPR. Arnold, the 2013 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Business Journalism, has covered subjects ranging from Hurricane Katrina recovery, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to new table saws that prevent injuries.
Studying: the reshaping of the government’s role in housing after the collapse of the bubble; how the crash will shape the future of homeownership and the American Dream; obstacles to technological innovation in consumer product safety
You should hear: his 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award-winning series “The Foreclosure Nightmare.”
Alexandra Garcia, multimedia journalist, the Washington Post. She reports, shoots and edits video stories on topics ranging from health care and immigration to fashion and education.
Studying: how news organizations can create visual experiences that engage users; interactive storytelling forms
You should see: “The Healing Fields: Hidden Hurt,” about an annual three-day medical clinic in remote Appalachia for people without (or with too little) healthcare. More of her work can be found here.
Jeneen Interlandi, freelance health and science journalist. She has written about biomedical research, public health and environmental science for publications including the New York Times magazine and Scientific American, and is a former staff writer at Newsweek.
Studying: the history of pharmaceuticals, the cultural forces that have shaped our relationship to medication and the impact that has had on our perceptions of illness and health
You should read: “When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind,” and Storyboard’s recent Q-and-A with her, about how she did it. An excerpt: My father yelled at the social worker, who was present, and talked over the judge and lied about his psychiatric history. He presented his journals as documentation of the injustices he had suffered. He asked to read from them, a request the judge denied. “I came from Brooklyn, New York,” he said. “I fell off a bike, and now I’m in prison.” And then, “This is nuts.”
Blair Kamin, architecture critic, the Chicago Tribune. Kamin, a Pulitzer Prize winner in criticism, is the 2013 Arts and Culture Nieman Fellow, and is the author of the books Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago, and Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age.
Studying: architecture, landscape architecture and urban design as an examination of how to revitalize the field of architectural criticism in print and online
You should read: his Cityscapes blog. From “How Frank Lloyd Wright resolved his inner struggles:” Long before Frank Lloyd Wright became a professional great man who costumed himself in a porkpie hat and a flowing cape, he signed his drawings “Frank L. Wright” and carried out such humble tasks as preparing drawings of buildings for real estate ads in the Chicago Tribune.
Jennifer B. McDonald, an editor at the New York Times Book Review. She assigns reviews of fiction and nonfiction, and occasionally writes. Her beats include linguistics, race, popular history, dance, science and technology, sex and gender, art and media, and graphic novels and reportage.
Studying: canonical works of literature and philosophy, and the historical role of the critic in culture
You should read: “In the Details,” her review of The Lifespan of a Fact. Her opening: This book review would be so much easier to write were we to play by John D’Agata’s rules. So let’s try it. (1) This is not a book review; it’s an essay. (2) I’m not a critic; I’m an artist. (3) Nothing I say can be used against me by the subjects of this essay, nor may anyone hold me to account re facts, truth or any contract I have supposedly entered into with you, the reader. There are to be no objections. There are to be no letters of complaint. For you are about to have — are you ready? — a “genuine experience with art.”
Betsy O’Donovan, freelance writer and editor. The 2013 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism, she has written and edited for newspapers in North Carolina, Idaho and Alabama; helped to create the first SportsCenter spin-off on ESPN; and launched a weekly newspaper in Waxhaw, N.C.
Studying: entrepreneurial models for community newsrooms, with a particular interest in establishing and protecting the value of original reporting
You should read: her editorials in the Durham Herald-Sun, where she became the paper’s first female editorial page editor. From “The ugly end of eugenics:” There is dramatic appeal in the firsthand accounts and tears of those who were cut open and permanently altered, an effect that is lessened when the stories are told by relatives and heirs. The state’s study of this situation has dragged on since 2002. If the state delays long enough, most of the eugenics board’s victims will die without compensation and state-funded medical care…. That would be a terrible failure of conscience. It is time to make good on what we can never make right.
Mary Beth Sheridan, an editor at the Washington Post. She has covered homeland security, immigration and diplomacy, and for 11 years was a Europe- and Latin America-based correspondent for the Associated Press, the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times.
Studying: international politics and economics, with a focus on countries struggling to transition from authoritarian to democratic systems, particularly in Latin America
You should read: her Libya coverage. From a piece on women’s rights: For Zentani, the revolution has transformed a basic relationship, that between women and the mostly male security forces. During the war, she traveled on rebels’ pickups as she delivered aid, a previously unimaginable experience.
Jane Spencer, international editor-at-large, Newsweek and The Daily Beast. A former Hong Kong-based environmental and technology correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, she was part of a team of reporters that won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, for coverage of China’s “Naked Capitalism” and the adverse consequences of economic boom. She is a founding editor of The Daily Beast.
Studying: new digital tools for narrative storytelling, with an emphasis on how emerging technologies can improve news coverage of global women’s issues
You should read: her piece on efforts in China to ban disposable chopsticks. Excerpt: As startled diners looked up from their pork fried rice, Cao Yu, a 26-year-old activist dressed as an endangered orangutan spoke passionately about the ecological perils of China’s most common eating utensil. ”Disposable chopsticks are destroying China’s forests,” said Mr. Cao, whose voice was muffled by the 2-foot-high ape head he was wearing.
Laura Wides-Muñoz, Hispanic affairs writer, the Associated Press. She is the Louis Stark Nieman Fellow, which honors the memory of the New York Times reporter who was a pioneer in the field of labor reporting. Based in Miami, Wides-Muñoz covers U.S.-Cuba relations, immigration and Hispanics in American politics and pop culture.
Studying: the nexus between immigration and economics, specifically how the global financial crisis affects the integration of immigrants into U.S. society; multimedia platforms for presenting data in dynamic new ways
You should read: her coverage of Hispanic issues. From a piece on the disparity in voter turnout in Florida: For years Puerto Rican turnout has been far below that of Cuban-Americans. One big factor: Those in Puerto Rico, while American citizens, can’t vote for president because the island isn’t a state, and many new arrivals aren’t familiar with mainland — and more particularly Florida — politics.
Karim Ben Khelifa, photojournalist and co-founder/CEO of Emphas.is, a website designed to promote crowdfunded visual journalism. He has covered conflicts in the Middle East and Africa and other stories around the world for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Time, Le Monde and Stern. He is the 2013 Carroll Binder Nieman Fellow. The Binder Fund honors 1916 Harvard graduate Carroll Binder, who expanded the Chicago Daily News Foreign Service, and his son, Carroll “Ted” Binder, a 1943 Harvard graduate.
Studying: journalist-audience engagement, behavioral economics linked to crowdfunding and new business models promoting the diversification of visual storytelling
You should see: his photographs, of course, but also what he’s doing with Emphas.is – it’s like Kickstarter for photojournalists, with plans to expand into books.
Katrin Bennhold, London-based staff writer, the International Herald Tribune. She covers European politics and economics from London for the IHT and its parent newspaper, the New York Times, and writes a regular column on the economics of gender. She is the William Montalbano Nieman Fellow. Montalbano was a 1970 Nieman Fellow and a prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter who reported from 100 countries during his 38-year career.
Studying: the economics of gender and motherhood, and the remaining barriers and costs of gender equality in the early 21st century
You should watch: her New York Times piece on French women’s place in society.
Ludovic Blecher, executive director and editor-in-chief, Liberation.fr. He has been in charge of the French newspaper’s digital strategy since 2008. He joined Libération in 2001 as a reporter and was later appointed editor-in-chief, and oversaw the merger of the print and web staff. As executive director of online media he was responsible for developing new forms of journalism and creating a new business model for news. He is the Robert Waldo Ruhl Nieman Fellow. Ruhl, a 1903 Harvard graduate, was editor and publisher of the Medford Mail-Tribune in Oregon from 1911-1967.
Studying: online media business models and ways to monetize high-value journalism
If your French is good, you should watch: him talk about press and the digital revolution.
Jin Deng, Beijing-based senior editor, Southern Weekly. For the past eight years, she has covered China’s economic policies and reforms at the regional and national levels as well as the country’s economic rise and its impact on the reshaping of the international financial order. Previously, she worked as a senior reporter for The Economic Observer and editorial director for Global Entrepreneur magazine.
Studying: how the democratization and fragmentation of information in the social media era will affect China’s journalism, society and politics
Borja Echevarría de la Gándara, deputy managing editor, El País, Spain’s largest daily. Since 2010, he has guided his newsroom toward a digital-first strategy, a move that allowed El País to become the most-visited Spanish-language news site. Previously, Echevarría founded Soitu.es, a news start-up that received numerous honors including two Online News Association awards. He began his newspaper career at El Mundo in 1995, reporting on science, social issues and sports prior to serving as sports editor and then international editor and deputy managing editor for online news. He is a Nieman-Berkman fellow.
Studying: the structural evolution of newsrooms around the world; how disruptive innovation is altering traditional business and workflow models for news; whether the practices of digital start-ups can be applied effectively in established newsrooms
You should watch: him talk about the digital progression of newsrooms and news startups at the 2012 International Symposium on Online Journalism.
Yaakov Katz, military reporter and defense analyst, the Jerusalem Post; Israel correspondent, Jane’s Defence Weekly. He has covered Israeli military operations over the past decade including the pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. His writing focuses on defense planning, intelligence analysis and military technology. He co-authored the recently published Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War. Originally from Chicago, he moved to Israel in 1993 and has a law degree from Bar-Ilan University.
Studying: the use of censorship in the digital age to determine whether it is relevant and consistent with democratic values and if it can be applied differently, especially in coverage of Israel and the Middle East
You should read: his book Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War, a national bestseller in Israel and just out in the U.S. The opening: In mid-July 2006 on an army base in northern Israel, a faint twilight enabled soldiers of the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit − the special unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for guerrilla warfare − to observe their commander as he discreetly conversed with the unit’s squad leaders. Occasionally the officers would glance over their shoulders at the group of impatient soldiers who stood with their heavy gear on their backs and loaded rifles in their hands.
Chong-ae Lee, senior reporter, Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) in Korea. She was the first female investigative reporter for the program “News Pursuit” and has covered issues such as drug distribution, illegal abortion, the human rights of prostitutes and the physical abuse of combat policemen. Chong-ae has won 19 awards including Reporter of the Year from the Journalist Association of Korea and the Korean Broadcasting Grand Prize.
Studying: journalism related to complex trauma, focusing on people who have experienced the effects of periods of colonialism, war and military-influenced dictatorial administrations followed by rapid economic growth
Souad Mekhennet, reporter and columnist, the New York Times, Der Spiegel and ZDF (German television). A German journalist of Turkish and Moroccan descent, she is the 2013 Barry Bingham Jr. Nieman Fellow. (Bingham, a 1956 Harvard graduate, was the editor and publisher of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times.) She has covered conflicts and terrorist groups in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. She helped report the “Inside the Jihad” series for the Times and, with colleague Don van Natta, broke the story of Khaled el-Masri, a German-Lebanese man who had been kidnapped and sent via extraordinary rendition to Afghanistan. She co-authored two books about Islam and terrorism.
Studying: how the 2011 uprisings in Arab countries have influenced the long-term strategies of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, and how Shariah (Islamic law) deals with human rights, women and democracy
You should read: her “Inside the Jihad” coverage in the New York Times. From “In Jihadist heaven:” At his crowded funeral in Zarqa, one of his brothers praised Amer and other suicide bombers. “They are the best youths and good persons,” he said. “He was successful in life, but decided to fight the Americans in Iraq.” The mother of another of the young men, a 20-year-old engineering student, still believes that her son went to Iraq looking for a job. At the family’s home recently, she sank to her knees, weeping and clutching his physics book.
Paula Molina, anchor and editor, Cooperativa, Chile’s leading radio news station. Since 1999, she has conducted daily interviews and has broadcast the news live, covering events such as the aftermath of the 2010 Chilean earthquake and tsunami, the miners’ rescue in the Atacama Desert and massive student protests. She has worked in print, television and radio.
Studying: new digital opportunities for improving the development, sharing and distribution of broadcast news content
Finbarr O’Reilly, photographer, Reuters. He began his journalism career as a writer and turned to photography in 2005. In 2006, he received the World Press Photo of the Year Award. Based in Dakar, Senegal, he has covered Africa for the past 10 years and has won numerous top industry awards for his multimedia work and photography. O’Reilly has worked on long-term projects in Congo and Afghanistan and is among those profiled in the documentary film Under Fire: Journalists in Combat, which was shortlisted for a 2012 Academy Award. He is the 2013 Ruth Cowan Nash Nieman Fellow. Nash was best known for her work as an Associated Press war correspondent during World War II.
Studying: psychology, with a focus on trauma and conflict zones
You should see: all of it – photos across 13 categories – but don’t miss his behind-the-scenes coverage of Fashion Week in Dakar.
Beauregard Tromp, senior field producer, e-news Africa, a pan-African television news station. Previously, as Africa correspondent for Independent Newspapers, he wrote extensively on conflicts in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Niger Delta. He is co-author of Hani: A Life Too Short, a bestselling biography of liberation fighter Chris Hani, and has been recognized for his narrative on the outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Studying: the practice of countries and global corporations purchasing large African land tracts to address future food shortages, and the impact on trade agreements, governments and local communities concerned about possible exploitation under “new colonialism”
You should read: “The Weight of Water.” An excerpt: This morning at 4 Maphello Sephiri will carefully extricate herself from the tangle of bodies littered around the floor of house No 8720 in Zone 8, Extension 10. She will place her baby, seven-month-old Mpho on the sunken double bed next to her mother, wrap a blanket around her shoulders and put the broken size 10 takkies on her size 6 feet. She will take the white 25-litre plastic bucket from the wall of containers next to the wood-fired stove and walk out the front door into the darkness.
San Truong (aka Huy Duc) is a freelance journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City who covers Vietnamese politics. After serving eight years in the Vietnamese army as a senior lieutenant, fighting against the Chinese in 1979 and against the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s, he wrote for leading newspapers in Vietnam including Tuoi Tre and the Saigon Economic Times. As a journalist working in a state-controlled media system, his guiding principle has been to “push the line, but not cross the line,” attacking corruption and promoting political reform in his homeland. Until 2010, he published blogosin.org, which was ranked as the most popular blog in Vietnam. He is the 2013 Atsuko Chiba Nieman Fellow. The Chiba fellowship honors the memory of Atsuko Chiba, a 1968 Nieman Fellow.
Studying: public policy, American literature and the history of Vietnam
You should read: the Committee to Protect Journalists’ appeal for press freedoms, referencing crackdowns on Huy Duc and other online journalists and bloggers. The committee wrote: Truong Huy San, a newspaper reporter who under the pen name Huy Duc maintained a popular blog known as Osin, was dismissed on August 24 from the government-run Saigon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) soon after he had published criticism of the former Soviet Union’s crimes against humanity. It was lost on few observers that the Soviet Union was a key ally to your Communist Party-run government during the Cold War.
*Work isn’t available online for all fellows, and some don’t tweet. You can find the full bios at our main Nieman Foundation site.