Every fellow who comes through Lippmann House is a storyteller of a sort, whether with words or visuals or data or sound. The Class of 2014 arrived from across journalistic disciplines, and from a wide range of backgrounds*, as you’ll see in this academic year’s meet-the-fellows post. As the current Niemans settle in to the spring term, get to know them and their work: From California to Israel, they tell stories about science, failure, corruption, street violence, music, race, the economy, freedom. As Cristian Lupsa, a fellow from Romania, once said, in advice to new journalism graduates: “Don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’ll have a future in the business. Tell stories, and you’ll be fine.”
Let this year’s class inspire you to polish your application — the deadline to apply for a 2014-15 Nieman fellowship is Jan. 31 .
A Nigerian reporter for BusinessDay, Akpe came to journalism from the classroom: She taught high school geography for a year, in a remote village in the southeastern region of Nigeria. As a reporter, she has established herself as a global go-to source for insights on Nigerian water scarcity and corruption. The United Nations Correspondents Association has honored her for excellence in journalism, and she speaks in the United States and Europe on public sector accountability. She was the 2013 Persephone Miel Fellow at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
Studying: civil movements and their impact on governance; the nature of power and the relationship of citizens to the state; the impact and reception of U.S. soft power in the developing world.
—Her appearance on PBS’s NewsHour, on water shortages:
—Her #AskAmeto session, and other work, via the Pulitzer Center:
—Her writing. An excerpt from her “Flowing Waters” blog:
The average Nigerian does not seek mansions – just a roof over his head. He does not ask for a life of luxury or excess, he just does not want to end his days in abject poverty without dignity. He says stop stealing the food from my children’s mouth. He dreams of a society where his children would be guaranteed good education, health care and safety. Not one in which they are surrounded by savage leaders with no empathy for the deprived, too busy selling away bits of the future. The Nigerian citizen is bullied at home and abroad, sadly, even by the institutions put in place to provide him leverage. These institutions created to secure his rights have become the greatest inhibitors of its expression. A decayed system riddled by foibles, every strata of government pervaded by corruption and inadequacies. To whom do we run for solace?
A metro columnist and senior writer for the Myrtle Beach Sun News, in South Carolina, Bailey is the Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism. He writes about race relations, child protective services, and business, and has served as the newspaper’s business editor. A winner of the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, he has also taught journalism and applied ethics at Coastal Carolina University.
Studying: the intersection of race, sports and the economy in the American South, with a goal of using the research to understand efforts to battle illiteracy and improve regional cross-racial understanding.
—His book, Proud. Black. Southern. (But I Still Don’t Eat Watermelon in Front of White People), a collection of his columns.
—“A Father’s Fight,” his Casey Medal-winning piece on a father’s efforts to win custody of his endangered daughter. Excerpt:
He didn’t know … that the safest his daughter had been between the time he got the message from Prince and the phone call from Warren County was when, dressed in a shirt and diaper, she crossed busy Route 9 in Queensbury, N.Y., alone near an Outback Steakhouse and a Budget Inn. … By that time, she had suffered broken bones, bruises and abrasions from sexual assaults, hemorrhages in both eyes and bald spots where her hair had been yanked out.”
—“The Unexpected Joy of Aging,” on turning 40:
Life is to be lived, not wasted over thoughts of regrets of the past or fear of the future.
You can’t undo past mistakes and missteps.
But you can make it impossible to fulfill the purpose for which you were created if you dwell upon them.
—“What I Learned During My First Semester at Harvard,” about his fall term as a Nieman Fellow:
Harvard’s strength is not just its reputation. The university has people from all walks of life doing incredible, cutting edge work in every field imaginable, which is made possible because of the resources available and because so many people from the top of their fields are eager to come here. That’s where its real power lies.
A network television and video producer, Banikarim has worked at ABC News, on the “World News” and “This Week” senior editorial team, and as a producer for Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. She launched Daily Beast TV for The Newsweek Daily Beast, and helped oversee the Women in the World Summit. She has worked for MTV and for the ABC reality show “Wife Swap,” and most recently was the editorial producer on Katie Couric’s talk show, “Katie.” Her honors include an Edward R. Murrow Award; six Emmy nominations; and the Leslie Rachel Sander Social Justice and James A. Wechsler Memorial Local Reporting awards, which she received while a student at the the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
Studying: visual storytelling, focusing on online video and economically viable models for online-only broadcast enterprises.
—Her recent appearance on WGBH, talking about Katie Couric’s move to Yahoo News, as global anchor:
—Her Nieman Storyboard picks for our Best in Narrative 2013 roundup, featuring video pieces from Frontline, the New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN.com and Time.
—“Op-Vid: Campaign 2012,” the Daily Beast video series she executive-produced, a project described as “opinion, without the pundits yelling. Handmade animation, without the caricatures. Essays, without the text. Complex topics, without the boring.” Here’s one featuring Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard:
An investigative reporter specializing in military and political affairs, Blau writes for the Tel Aviv-based newspaper Haaretz. In 2012, he became Israel’s first journalist charged and convicted under the country’s Espionage Act for possession of classified information, after exposing that the Israeli Defense Forces had conducted, and covered up, unlawful targeted assassinations in the West Bank. “This is a precedent-setting prosecution of a journalist for doing his job,” his attorney said as Blau was sentenced to four months of community service. The acting director of the International Press Institute said Blau’s prosecution “would set a highly unfortunate precedent for press freedom and democracy is Israel.” Blau has covered a number of corruption scandals involving top government and military officials, and has worked as an analyst for international media outlets including Japan’s Fuji TV and Britain’s Channel 4.
Studying: entrepreneurial models for a sustainable, independent nonprofit investigative news platform in Israel and how that could form a base for cooperation among journalists from the Middle East.
—“License to Kill,” his piece, based on leaked classified documents, on unlawful assassinations in the West Bank.
—“Uri Blau…Tells His Side of the Story,” in the Jewish Daily Forward. His opening:
The telephone call I received about a month ago should not have been a surprise. “Your apartment in Tel Aviv has been broken into,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “Everything’s in a mess and it’s not clear what has been taken.”
Half an hour later, sweating in a Bangkok phone booth, mosquitoes flying around me, I spoke to the policeman who came to the apartment.
“Looks like they were looking for something,” he said.
—“Crime and Punishment,” about the sentence and its aftermath (subscription required). His lede:
I arrived for the first time at the Mishan old-age home in Neot Afeka, a Tel Aviv neighborhood, last September 11, in the afternoon. I’d gone there directly from the offices of the Prison Service in Ramle and was met by the institution’s hefty security officer. He had begun working at Mishan after retiring from the Prison Service, I learned later. Some said he had been a prison warden.
Maria Lourdes “Nini” Cabaero
Editor-in-chief of the Sun.Star Network Exchange, in the Philippines, Cabaero has been called a “pioneer of new media in Philippine community journalism.” She manages the digital journalism projects produced by the Sun.Star group of community newspapers, and, previously, served as news editor of the group’s flagship paper, the Sun.Star Cebu. She covered political conflicts during the post-martial law years and beyond. Her master’s degree, in journalism, is from the Ateneo de Manila University. Her Nieman fellowship is supported by the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) and honors the memory of Sandra Burton, a former Time magazine correspondent in the Philippines.
Studying: changing newsrooms and how small communities can use new media to gain equal access to national resources.
—“’Tsunami runners’ and others,” about disaster preparedness and panic. Excerpt:
The earthquake and aftershocks also caused panic on Cebu streets when wrong information about a tsunami alert reminded people of images from disaster movies like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” What was later termed as the “tsunami run,” referring to the thousands who ran on the streets to escape rushing waters that never came, became the symbol of that earthquake in Cebu.
—”Man in the video,” about a power change via YouTube.
—”Online activism,” about digital as a crucial power tool.
The articles editor at Esquire, Cabot edits and writes features on topics ranging from national affairs to science to culture. His story “The Theory of Everything” was anthologized in The Best American Science Writing 2007, and a Luke Dittrich story that he edited, on a deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., received the 2011 National Magazine Award for feature writing. (Dittrich talked about the story in a visit to the Nieman Foundation, as part of the Nieman Narrative Speaker Series.) Cabot is on the founding committee of the global storytelling nonprofit Narrative 4, which defines itself as a “group of authors, musicians, educators and activists” promoting “the exchange of stories as a way to engage more profoundly with the world.” A story on Guantánamo prisoners, an excerpt of which you can read below, was done with help from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
Studying: innovative ways of using digital technology to reimagine the way longform journalism is created, bought and sold.
—“The Prisoners of Guantánamo,” about detainee named Noor Uthman Muhammed. His opening:
A man is born in the 1960s, but in the wrong place. His life is untouched by modernity, and in fact the people who live where he lives — mostly nomads or goatherds or subsistence farmers — carry on as they have for a thousand years. Compared even with the people in this arid Sudanese borderland west of the Red Sea he is poor. He is illiterate, can’t even tell you when he was born, and after his parents die when he is a child, he doesn’t think to ask why. It’s simple: People don’t live long, and then they die. The movements of his life are dictated by elemental concerns — what to eat, where to sleep. He collects what he finds and trades what he can — sticks, cardboard, tattered robes, tires. And when your abiding interests are so basic, you likely don’t have time for something so luxurious as a personal history or self-regard. He makes no claims for himself, possesses nothing resembling the Western notion of ambition. He has no conception of the outside world — knows little of Europe, has barely heard of America, doesn’t have the frame of reference even to conceive of a signal bouncing off a star and sending a picture or someone’s voice around the world. By the standards of the late twentieth century, or of any century, really, he is one of the unlucky men. Maybe God will provide something a little better in heaven, inshallah.
—”The Theory of Everything,” on theoretical physicists and the challenges and promise of string theory. Excerpt:
If the problem with string theory, as some critics claim, is that it’s a closed-minded boys club whose lifetime members hopelessly shuffle and redeal the same deck of equations ad nauseum, then the solution may be found at the Jane Bond, a bar in the staid Canadian college town of Waterloo. The Jane Bond has a decidedly grungy 1970s flair. Tattooed hipsters talk with awed reverence of Brooklyn while DJs spin eclectic and esoteric music next to the bathroom, near the disco ball. And then there are the physicists from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics who have made the Jane Bond their watering hole. They talk theory sometimes. But mostly they just bullshit.
—His appearance on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, on the history of stem cell research. You can listen to “Whatever happened to stem cells?” below, and read his Esquire piece here.
A columnist for the Oakland Tribune/Bay Area News Group, Drummond is a former Miami bureau chief for Time, where she covered Cuba, the U.S. military occupation of Haiti and the Oklahoma City bombing. She also has worked as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times and was on the team that won a Pulitzer for reporting the L.A. riots. Her series on Oakland’s child prostitution epidemic won a Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award; her series on elder financial abuse was named a finalist for the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Public Service Award.
Studying: urban gun violence as a public health emergency, and digital platforms as a means to disseminate information in urban communities plagued by gun homicides and other violent crimes.
—Her award-winning elder financial abuse series. From “Elder Financial Abuse Has Become a Hidden National Epidemic:”
An ex-convict who works at an Antioch car wash “befriends” an 82-year-old customer with dementia. Over time, he not only persuades the World War II veteran to give him more than $300,000 in cash and annuities, but he also gets the elderly man to change his will making him sole beneficiary.
An East Palo Alto woman takes out a $200,000 loan on her 92-year-old grandmother’s house without her knowledge. She leaves the wheelchair-bound senior alone in a house full of rats while she goes on a $75,000 shopping spree — buying herself a champagne-colored Hummer.
After her arrest, she gets a mortgage broker to bring her loan documents in jail so she can take out another $400,000 loan on her grandmother’s house.
Members of a nomadic crime family stage a string of car accidents with a 96-year-old Alameda woman. They scare her into thinking she’ll lose her license if she doesn’t pay them for the bogus damage to their car. They’re able to keep playing the same cruel hoax over and over because she has dementia and forgets each incident moments after it happens. They swindle her out of $100,000.
—Her series on teen prostitution. From one column:
At first, I didn’t think the paper should identify Desiree or run her picture. But after watching the video interview our readers won’t ever see, it was clear to me she wasn’t your typical 15-year-old. She had composure far beyond her years, which is not surprising given the life she has led. By not showing her, an important part of the story — a big part of the essence of who she was — was lost.
Sometimes, to give our readers the full impact of a story, we have to break the journalism rules.
I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t one of those times.
—Her urgent pieces on urban violence. From a column on gun control:
In Newtown, the shooter apparently had access to semi-automatic weapons that had been legally purchased by his mother. In fact, many mass shootings have been carried out by people who used legal guns.
However, in urban communities, most street shootings are committed by people with illegal guns. The weapons are either stolen from legal gun owners or bought from unlicensed gun dealers and traffickers.
Any plan to address gun violence must deal with legal and illegally obtained weapons.
The U.S. political correspondent for the Financial Times, Fifield covers the Obama administration, Congress and a range of issues, from health care and immigration reform to presidential election campaigns. She was previously based in the Middle East, reporting from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Before that, she spent four years covering North and South Korea. A native New Zealander, she won a British Council journalism fellowship in 2000, and joined the Financial Times in 2001. The Society of Publishers in Asia has recognized her for excellence in human rights reporting. She is the 2014 William Montalbano Nieman Fellow, named for a 1970 Nieman Fellow and Los Angeles Times reporter who reported from 100 countries during his 38-year career.
Studying: how change occurs in closed societies; she’s focusing on Iran and the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring and looking at the commonalities among revolutions.
—“Growing Up Muslim in America,” a reported essay. An excerpt:
For me, this issue is personal. My son was born in America but has an Arabic surname and is growing up bilingual, although we are not religious in any direction. He has my lighter hair but his father’s colouring. Once, in an airport, a woman asked me what he was “mixed with”. A look that fell just short of horror passed over her face when I replied, “Iraqi.” I shudder to think of my son being on the receiving end of that look, just because of his name or the way his skin tans at the merest hint of summer.
—Her “Lunch with the FT” piece on Cornel West. The opening:
There’s no such thing as a quiet lunch with Cornel West. From the minute he stalks into the Witherspoon Grill in the leafy university town of Princeton, New Jersey, to the moment he sweeps out, he is the centre of attention.
“Sister Anna! I’m so blessed to meet you!” he bellows across the restaurant, embracing me, then putting his hand on his heart and bowing slightly. With his bushy Afro, black three-piece suit and booming Baptist preacher voice, there is no missing the arrival of this celebrity academic and self-appointed keeper of Martin Luther King Jr’s flame. As we sit down in our booth, it seems as if every guest and every waiter stops by to pay homage to West. To each he says, “Do you know Sister Anna?”
—”Dinner with Rachel Maddow,” from Slate. A taste:
Maddow’s interview style is unorthodox; very measured and respectful, with none of the yelling over the top of each other that characterises other political shows, including those such as Olbermann and Chris Matthews on MSNBC. “I feel like I have made a deal with my audience – I’m the guarantor that this person is worth listening to,” she says of her conscious politesse.
Hook is the Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times, covering energy, the environment, commodities and general news — Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert, rare-earth mines in Southern China, solar-powered villages in Xinjiang. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, where she wrote editorials and op-eds on political and human rights issues in Asia. She has also worked at the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong, writing cover stories about China and editing essays for the magazine.
Studying: the intersection of social media and environmental protests in China, with a focus on the growing impact of social media on political decisions and policymaking.
—Her FT blog posts out of Asia. It’s impossible to resist a piece that begins:
Nothing spells trouble like dead pigs in a river.
—“Central Asia: A Rocky Road to Riches,” about Mongolian mining. Her opening:
The story of Mongolia’s mining boom begins billions of years ago, when magma from deep in the earth’s mantle forced its way close to the surface and deposited rich mineral veins across Central Asia. Today those resources are easy to spot. Driving through the Gobi desert, the pebbly plain is punctuated by small mounds of black coal that erupt from below. Further south, a turquoise-coloured rock outcrop called Oyu Tolgoi, or emerald hill, gave its name to one of the biggest copper-gold mines in the world.
—“The China President Obama Didn’t See,” from the Wall Street Journal. Her opening:
In the northeast part of this city, not far from the old Friendship Hotel, stands a boxy little cinema specializing in anime. A nondescript building on a nondescript thoroughfare, it’s hardly a place a tourist would notice, much less a visiting president. Yet had Barack Obama wanted to understand something of the real China, his time would have been better spent here than at the various state dinners, Forbidden City photo-ops, and carefully managed town-hall events that consumed the balance of his trip this week.
An economist and banker by training, Krause-Jackson is a diplomatic correspondent for Bloomberg News, and covers foreign affairs from the United Nations and the State Department. She has been posted in London, Rome, Washington, D.C., and New York, and has reported from more than 40 countries, at G-20 and G-8 summits and in conflict zones. She has written about the European debt crisis, the Arab uprisings, a papal death and resignation, and the emergence of both South Sudan and Myanmar. She is the 2014 Atsuko Chiba Nieman Fellow, named to honor the memory of Atsuko Chiba, a 1968 Nieman Fellow.
Studying: the political and economic challenges and opportunities in Southeast Asia; she’s using the democratization of Myanmar to investigate the influence of foreign investors, multiethnic representation and exogenous actors, such as China, on the region’s development.
—Her U.N. coverage, including this piece on the stalled arms pact, which ABC News’s The Note blog called a must-read, in late March. (Her work appears regularly on The Note’s must-read lists.)
—“Mother Tells UN’s Ban How Son’s Suicide Sparked Tunisian Revolt,” from Bloomberg News.
—Her short Bloomberg TV interview with Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations undersecretary-general in charge of U.N. Women, which promotes women’s rights.
Lupsa edits Decât o Revista, a Romanian quarterly magazine devoted to longform nonfiction. He oversees an annual storytelling conference in Bucharest and has written and edited for the Romanian edition of Esquire. A master’s graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, he was a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow. 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 to 1967.
Studying: how narrative journalism can create personal and societal change and ways in which such change can be measured.
—His “Why’s this so good?” piece, for Storyboard, on Robert Kurson’s “Into the Light,” about a blind man given the opportunity to regain his eyesight. Excerpt:
What Kurson suggests here is that this is not even a story about sight. May’s narrative isn’t special because he is a patient who escaped the usual side effects of surgery – it’s special because for him vision is just another adventure in a life filled with them. That revelation is Kurson’s final graceful, restrained bow. “Into the Light” was never the archetypal story about recovering something long lost, but a story about how embracing change, when it comes around, doesn’t have to be so bad.
—His Missouri School of Journalism interview, about life and craft. Our favorite excerpt:
Question: What tips do you have for recent graduates that are just getting started in their careers?
Lupsa: There’s a book by Joan Didion called, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. No matter how the form or delivery mechanisms will change, that will stay true. We need reporters to document the world around us. We need to learn about who we are and what we believe. So don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’ll have a future in the business. Tell stories, and you’ll be fine.
—Excerpts of the Power of Storytelling conference, now in its fourth year, in Bucharest. You can read past posts here and here and here and here, on Storyboard, but we especially recommend this video, from the 2013 conference, in which Esquire‘s Chris Jones compares storytelling to magic:
A Washington, D.C.,-based senior editor for NPR’s All Things Considered, MacAdam has edited or produced the program through two wars, a financial crisis and three presidential elections, and has traveled with NPR hosts and reporters to locations including Ghana and post-Katrina Louisiana. Before arriving at NPR, she worked for Boston’s WBUR, first on the news desk and then as associate producer of the nationally syndicated talk show The Connection. She is the 2014 Arts and Culture Nieman Fellow.
Studying: how the arts intersect with business, law and technological innovation, and how cultural institutions are redesigning themselves for the future.
—Her piece on Silicon Valley’s love/hate relationship with failure.
—A rare on-air appearance: “More proof,” she says, “that we truly consider all things.” It’s a story on the character Long Duk Dong, from the movie Sixteen Candles.
—Her series “Mom and Dad’s Record Collection,” featuring real people talking about songs discovered through their parents. Here’s a moving piece on “American Pie:”
A South African photojournalist, Marinovich, with coauthor Joao Silva, wrote The Bang-Bang Club, a nonfiction account of South Africa’s transition to democracy. He won the 1991 Pulitzer for spot news photography, for a series of photos of a man being murdered on suspicion of being a Zulu spy. He has traveled widely as a conflict photographer for the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and others, and has made television documentaries in such countries as Afghanistan and Cameroon, on topics from belief systems to murder. He is currently associate editor at the online Daily Maverick and is working on a book about the 2012 Marikana Massacre, in which South African security forces used lethal force against striking miners. His fellowship is supported by the Nieman Society of Southern Africa.
Studying: African syncretic religion and politics, and issues of communal morality in times of conflict.
—His Fresh Air talk about being injured in the field. He spoke to Terry Gross on the eve of The Bang-Bang Club’s release, in the U.S., as a film, and days before his colleagues Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros died on the job in Libya.
—The Bang-Bang Club, his memoir, with Silva, about experiences covering the civil war in South Africa at the end of apartheid. Excerpt:
“Not a picture,” I muttered as I looked through my camera viewfinder at the soldier firing methodically into the hostel. I turned back towards the line of terrified, unwilling and poorly trained soldiers taking cover alongside the wall next to me. Their eyes darted back and forth under the rims of their steel helmets. I wanted to capture that fear. The next minute, a blow struck me — massive, hammer-like — in the chest. I missed a sub-moment, a beat from my life, and then I found myself on the ground, entangled in the legs of the other photographers working beside me. Pain irradiated my left breast and spread through my torso. It went far beyond the point I imagined pain ended. “Fuck! I’m hit, I’m hit! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
—”Mandela and Me,” a four-minute film on his South African childhood and his time spent covering Nelson Mandela, who died last month:
The South Asia bureau chief for the Associated Press, Nessman has spent 13 years as a foreign correspondent. He has covered the AIDS crisis in Africa, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israel’s pullout from Gaza and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. He won an Overseas Press Club citation and an award from the South Asian Journalists Association for his coverage of the Sri Lankan civil war, and he was part of an AP team that won a Sigma Delta Chi Award for its coverage of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
Studying: the influence of religion on creating and alleviating global poverty, and the responsibility of governments and communities to help the most vulnerable members of society.
—“Saroo Brierly Goes Home,” a captivating narrative series about a boy who fell asleep on a train, was separated from his family for many years, and eventually found them via Google Earth. Pair with his conversation, with Nieman Storyboard, about how he and colleague Kristen Gelineau reported and wrote the story on two continents. In that conversation, Nessman said:
The story of Saroo finding his mother over the Internet was definitely saturated. But that was not the story we wanted to write. We wanted to do something deeper, looking at the bond between a mother and son that kept them both searching for each other and whether that was strong enough to overcome the incredible challenges they faced in reuniting. The earlier reporting generally ignored Fatima and her own lifelong struggles and it all ended with the happy scene of their reunion. There is this great Orson Welles quote: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” We decided to keep the story going after the reunion to see what happened next.
Kumar, 42, who teaches Monday through Saturday and gives no vacations, stood at the blackboard and in a singsong voice led the younger children in math problems. He called students up to the wall to do simple subtraction and gently patted one girl on the cheek when she got an answer right. She ran back to her seat, beaming.
—His talk with Tavis Smiley about the challenges of covering the Sri Lankan government’s targeting of civilians:
An international affairs correspondent for Montreal’s La Presse, Perreault has worked in more than 35 countries and covered subjects ranging from the Chechen war and the Tunisian revolution to the famine in Somalia. Perreault has won a Canadian National Newspaper Award and an Amnesty International Award for her international coverage. In her native French Canada, she has focused on immigration issues and the impact of anti-terror laws on immigrant communities. Before joining La Presse, Perreault worked at Quebec City’s Le Soleil, for the Moscow bureau of CNN and for the London-based Gemini News Service. She is the 2014 Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellow, named for a fellow in the Nieman class of 1962.
Studying: issues facing female combatants; state building and democratization in post-dictatorial states.
If your French is strong, read/watch:
—Her breaking news account of Québécois runners who survived last year’s Boston Marathon bombing.
Trained as a medical doctor, Sangar is an Afghan reporter, in Kabul, for the New York Times. He has covered Afghanistan’s war against the Taliban, politics, presidential and parliamentary elections, the country’s first banking scandal, violence against women and violent protests that erupted after American soldiers burned copies of the Koran at Bagram Air Base. He was part of the 2009 Pulitzer-winning team that covered Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the 2014 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: banking scandals, money laundering, corruption and the misuse of power by politicians.
—This Columbia School of International and Public Affairs feature story on Sangar and the risks of being a journalist in Afghanistan. Excerpt:
Sangar has not been home since 2009, when he came to Mihtarlam as a translator and assistant for The New York Times correspondent Stephen Farrell to cover a suicide attack that had left sixteen people dead, including the country’s second-ranking intelligence official, and many more wounded. During their visit to the hospital, a villager recognized Sangar and demanded to know what he was doing there. The villager had nearly lost his brother in the blast and Sangar knew that betraying his professional affiliation would put him in grave danger.
—His appearance on New York Times Video, via his colleague Adam B. Ellick, about unqualified 2010 Afghan parliamentary candidates: “Most of these candidates don’t even know what the job of the parliament is.”
There are hundreds of candidates with low or almost zero qualifications running for Parliament. A warlord promises social justice and security; a former Taliban official promises change in people’s lives and gender equality, which is not even possible in dreams.
Sandra Rodríguez Nieto
An investigative journalist in Mexico, Rodríguez covers the staggering violence and collateral effects of the drug wars in Juárez, where, since 2008, more than 10,000 people have been killed, dozens of them journalists. Her work has attracted widespread recognition, including the 2013 Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism, the 2012 Zenger Award from the University of Arizona School of Journalism, the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award and the 2010 Reporteros Del Mundo Award from Spain’s El Mundo, for outstanding work in a conflict zone. Her book La Fábrica del Crimen, narrative nonfiction about a teenage killer set against the backdrop of the violent city, was published in 2012. She is the 2014 Ruth Cowan Nash Nieman Fellow; Nash was best known for her work as an Associated Press war correspondent during World War II.
Studying: ways to develop sustainable online investigative and narrative journalism projects, focusing on governmental accountability and transparency in Mexico.
—“Journalism in Mexico: ‘Seeing My Own Death,’” from New Internationalist magazine. Excerpt:
The most recent occasion when I had the vision of my body, shot and left lying on the ground, was in early May. I was in Islas Carolinas street, one of the poorest areas of Juárez, in the western part of the city.
As we walked between the dust and the stones, a relative of a woman who had disappeared was telling me about the power the Aztecas gang had in the area. This gang, composed of prisoners and ex-cons, is the executive arm of the Juárez cartel.
Without stopping to think, I blurted: ‘Still? I thought the Aztecas were pretty much finished.’
‘No…ooo!’ she responded. ‘Don’t you know that they come from prisons on the other side? The “buddies” come over from El Paso [in Texas].’
Perhaps it was the air of pride that I detected in her voice when she mentioned the ‘buddies’. Or the details of the interview that we had just completed, during which I had learned that shortly before she disappeared the missing woman had been visiting the gang’s quarter in Juárez prison. Or perhaps it was my interviewee’s description of the way in which the gang, four years after being hammered by US and Mexican government forces, had maintained territorial control in this part of Juárez.
‘All unknown cars are watched,’ she told me, at the precise moment at which she climbed into my car.
—La Fábrica del Crimen (Murder Factory).
—Her acceptance speech for the Daniel Pearl Award:
Rogers is the editor of The Nicaragua Dispatch and a contributing correspondent for publications including Time, the Miami Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, the BBC and GlobalPost. A Massachusetts native, he has lived in, and reported on, Central America for 13 years, and covered a range of stories: political corruption, renewable energy, border disputes, drug violence, baseball. Rogers started both a traditional print newspaper and an online news publication from Nicaragua, and he has a special interest in reinventing the role of the community newspaper in the digital world, with a focus on innovation, citizen-building and cross-cultural participation. His recent Kickstarter campaign raised more than $6,000 to overhaul the Dispatch site as Central America’s first crowdsourced news platform.
Studying: the evolving role that online media can play in nondemocratic societies, focusing on how content sharing, free expression and interconnectivity contribute to democratization efforts.
—”Nicaragua Rewind,” his Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting project on Daniel Ortega’s “second phase of the Sandinista revolution,” and whether the country is doomed to repeat the past or pursue true democratic social justice. In this short vid, he gives an excellent primer:
—His Kickstarter explanation of The Nicaragua Dispatch‘s new mission:
—His “Living on Earth” appearance, in which he discusses the Nicaragua-China plan to build a canal to rival the Panama and, on a lighter note, his “Reading Rotondas: Stereotyping at its Finest,” a hilarious dispatch about what Nicaragua’s roundabouts say about its towns. Excerpt:
One look at Managua’s Rotonda Jean Paul Genie—a giant four-way pink billboard honoring Daniel Ortega atop of metal-wire Christmas tree (up year round), next to larger concrete Christmas tree, surrounded by a munchkin village of “casas para el pueblo,” a tangle of cables and Christmas lights, a broken pastel-colored wooden fence that serves no purpose, a woebegone security guard and a generous litter of plastic bags and other street garbage—and one can get a pretty clear idea that Managua is crazy and off her medication.
A senior producer at BBC News, in London, Shah has produced award-winning national and international news programs, and worked in social media in the BBC newsroom and as a foreign affairs producer specializing in South Asia. He has covered major breaking news stories and events including the Mumbai attacks, riots in France, violence in Indian-administered Kashmir, the London bombings, regime change in Egypt and the earthquake in Japan. He recently produced the “Indian Dream” series, which profiles people moving to India from the West. Shah is a 2014 Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation at Harvard.
Studying: the rapid growth and development of digital media in India and its impact on journalism, society, popular culture, political discourse, the economy and public policy.
—His interview with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, at Harvard, in which he says:
“My philosophy on journalism is, never look at big themes. What some people do — and I argue about this in newsrooms all the time — is look for narratives that fit a theme. Corruption, or malnutrition, for example. I never do that. I look for interesting stories from which you can extrapolate something much broader.”
—His work on the 2011 revolution in Egypt, upon the resignation of Hosni Mubarak:
Silverman covers management and workplace issues for the Wall Street Journal. She writes features about office distractions, firms with no bosses, and stand-up meetings, and contributes to WSJ.com’s At Work blog. She previously covered personal finance, focusing on estate and tax planning, and edited The Juggle, the Journal’s work and family blog. Silverman is the author of The Wall Street Journal Complete Estate-Planning Guidebook, published in 2011. Based in Austin, she is the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Business Journalism.
Studying: workplace design and how it affects collaboration and productivity; how journalists can more effectively access new academic management research.
—”Workplace Distractions: Here’s Why You Won’t Finish This Article,” in the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:
Even though digital technology has led to significant productivity increases, the modern workday seems custom-built to destroy individual focus. Open-plan offices and an emphasis on collaborative work leave workers with little insulation from colleagues’ chatter. A ceaseless tide of meetings and internal emails means that workers increasingly scramble to get their “real work” done on the margins, early in the morning or late in the evening. And the tempting lure of social-networking streams and status updates make it easy for workers to interrupt themselves.
—Her appearance, on Fran Tarkenton’s radio show, to talk about “flat hierarchies” — or no bosses. Excerpt:
With a “more kind of egalitarian, more level playing field, those who are really strong can shine regardless of title. In the traditional company, you might be a real superstar, but you’re stuck in a low position. And nobody really knows how good you are. In these companies, it’s really whoever takes control of a project, or kind of proves himself, who can do really well.”
—The Wall Street Journal Complete Estate-Planning Guidebook, published by Random House.
A Jerusalem-based author, and a staff writer for The New Yorker, Steavenson was previously a freelancer, reporting from Cairo, Tbilisi, Nagorno-Karabakh, Eritrea, Kabul, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, London, Beirut and Paris. One of her books is about Georgia, the other about Iraq, and she is working on a third, about the Egyptian revolution. She has written for Time, the Financial Times, Granta, The Guardian, The Telegraph and Slate, and is a contributing editor to Prospect magazine, in the U.K.
Studying: the way history is memorialized in the Middle East; theories behind the design of museums and how they contribute to a nation’s sense of its own identity.
I remembered “Reds” as a great epic of journalism and revolution. It’s the story of John Reed, the most swashbuckling war correspondent of his time, as well as a committed Communist and a friend of Trotsky’s, who wrote “Ten Days That Shook the World.” Reed died in Moscow, in 1920, before he could witness the great betrayal of the revolution, and he was buried in the Kremlin. But, watching the movie again, I realized that much of it is dense and complicated debates, first among American socialists and syndicalists in a New England cottage (Jack Nicholson lurks in the corner, playing Eugene O’Neill with a quiet seducer’s leer) and then among Comintern delegates in Moscow. This talkie cacophony was true of my time in Cairo time, too. Sitting in cafés and among friends, endlessly discussing the latest plot twists and what should be in the Constitution.
I died and went to heaven, along a road that wound through Tuscan forest over a ridge into a wide valley where the wavy lines of harvested wheat swept into the curves of the hills so that the whole landscape seemed to be painted with Van Gogh’s wandering brush. August lion coloured fields and baked clay soil, like walking on abandoned tennis courts overgrown with wildflowers. And emerging at the end of the road, a villa fit for a Roman senator. A view of a landscape dotted with medieval towers, a square of green lawn, a pool, a garden heavy with emerald zucchini and fat red tomatoes.
—Her two books: The Weight of a Mustard Seed (“a masterly and elegantly told story that weaves together the Iraqi past and present,” said the New York Times) and Stories I Stole (about moving to Georgia, in the Caucasus, on a whim). From Stories I Stole:
There was a map of the world on the wall in my office and for some reason I had stuck a pin in Tbilisi. Nina had stuck one in Pamplona — she wanted to go and see the running of the bulls. We used to lounge under our escape fantasies, chatting instead of working. Nina would halt her reverie of tapas, sherry and Hemingway and shake her head at me and say, “Yeah Wendell, but why the hell Georgia?”
I could only offer scattered answers. A lonely epiphany watching the Vltava, black ink at night, flow beneath me, a strange affection for concrete Khrushchev housing blocks, rumours of wine and orange trees, milk and honey; Lermontov, a breakfast meeting with Shevardnadze in New York in 1994, a snowy happy winter in Moscow curled up in a garret writing my first great unpublishable novel. These triggers were half-identifiable (Nina would nod, nonplussed but kindly), but they belied a reservoir sunk deep out of explanation. To be honest, this was my own sink well. Who knows from where it sprang; spirit, soul or only runaway.
In any case, I got on a plane.
Temple-Raston is NPR’s counterterrorism correspondent. She began covering terrorism while researching her book The Jihad Next Door: Rough Justice in the Age of Terror, about the Lackawanna Six, a suspected al-Qaeda sleeper cell in upstate New York. Her book A Death in Texas: Race, Murder and a Small Town’s Struggle for Redemption, about the dragging death of James Byrd Jr., was chosen as one of the Washington Post‘s Best Books of 2002; it also won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. She has reported from nearly 50 countries, most recently Iraq and Pakistan. Temple-Raston is the first Murrey Marder Nieman Fellow in Watchdog Journalism. The fellowship honors the memory of Murrey Marder, a 1950 Nieman Fellow who helped found the Nieman Watchdog Project.
Studying: the intersection of Big Data and the intelligence community, to understand how information from Twitter and other social media can be used to predict and understand future events; the rise of Islam and the first caliphate, to learn how Shariah law might be included in the transitional governments of the Arab world.
—Her NPR oeuvre. Here’s “Secrets Just as Hard to Maintain as Privacy in Digital Age,” about stealing classified documents:
—A Death in Texas, which Kirkus called “not just a painstaking anatomy of a murder, but of the intractable difficulties in resolving America’s ongoing racial dilemma.” From the prologue:
Death has a way of making even slow people hurry. It scares them into seeing things the way they are, instead of the way they wish them to be. Even small deaths people don’t expect to notice, or welcome deaths, which end hard-luck lives or long, painful illnesses, sweep mourners backward through rooms they have been avoiding for years. So when the black community in Jasper, Texas, awoke one Sunday morning to hear one of its own had been killed in some awful way on Huff Creek Road, the phones began to ring. Ladies who had come to church early, ahead of the Sunday services, abandoned the hymnals in messy stacks and began counting noses. They called relatives, and friends, and friends of friends to see if their men were home, safe, or whether it might be one of their kin dumped on the side of an old logging road.
—The Jihad Next Door. From the prologue:
Life changed for Mukhtar al-Bakri and five of his friends on an otherwise beautiful crisp September day. He could remember the precise moment when he stepped into the gloom: It started with his hotel room door crashing open. September 9, 2002, was supposed to be the most important day of twenty-one-year-old Mukhtar al-Bakri’s short life. His wedding to the teenage daughter of a family friend in Bahrain had been an elaborate affair, something beyond what the al-Bakri family could really afford. His arrival at the wedding hall was greeted by the beating of drums and a cacophony of traditional instruments. The sisters of his bride playfully welcomed each guest with a gentle tap, a sort of blessing, from a stick wrapped in flowers. Attendants donned flowing white gowns and long Arabian headscarves. The bride wore a modest white veil. Waiters lurched under the weight of plates piled high with food. There were dutiful prayers to Allah. It was everything Mukhtar al-Bakri had envisioned. The proceedings were dignified yet oddly fun. It marked a fresh start for him: a new, better phase of his life.
Yang is a Beijing correspondent and a chief writer for Southern People Weekly, a news magazine owned by China’s Southern Media Group. He writes feature stories on a variety of topics ranging from youth culture to political transition. Before arriving at SPW, Yang worked for the Xinhua News Agency and in the Chicago Tribune’s Beijing bureau. His stories twice won the Best People Portrait Award, presented for journalism excellence by Tencent. He also received the 2010 International Reporting Award given by Southern Weekly and a 2012 feature writing award given by Tencent: two of China’s most important independent journalism awards. His fellowship at Harvard is supported through the Marco Polo Program of Sovereign Bank and Banco Santander.
Studying: comparative politics, democratic theory and courses related to China’s political and economic reforms.
—What he recently told the Harvard Crimson, about the future of journalism. Excerpt:
“We will be finally living in “holo-era” when everything around you is informative, whether it is a screen, a tree or even a part of your body. At that time, a new species of aggregating media (with strong “mute” function) will revive to help us select.”
—His insights, in a Boston Globe story, on how Boston is wooing Chinese tourists.
Young is an editor and writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He has covered the intersection of technology and education for more than 15 years. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and New Scientist, and one of his pieces was selected for The Best Technology Writing 2007. He co-edited the e-book, Rebooting the Academy: 12 Tech Innovators Who Are Transforming Campuses, and teaches multimedia journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park. A Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation, he is also the Louis Stark Nieman Fellow, which honors the memory of the New York Times reporter who pioneered the field of labor reporting.
Studying: MOOCs — massive open online courses — and how they will change higher education and the nature of pedagogy.
—”The Unabomber’s Pen Pal,” about a Michigan philosophy professor’s correspondence with Ted Kaczynski. Excerpt:
Skrbina talks in such a matter-of-fact way about Kaczynski’s beliefs that it’s easy to forget that the potential stakes are the overthrow of civilization as we know it. The professor is clean-cut and exceedingly polite. Married, he has two college-age daughters who tease him about his antitech ideas.
The Unabomber’s argument, Skrbina points out, is that not overthrowing the system will cause an even greater number of deaths than a revolution would, as a result of man-made climate changes or other potential catastrophes caused by our high-tech way of life.
For the most part, the scholar is reluctant to say whether he agrees or disagrees with Kaczynski’s extreme conclusions. He is clear in condemning Kaczynski’s bombing campaign, though. In his introduction to Technological Slavery, he says: “His tactics were deplorable, and I for one do not endorse such actions.”
—The Unabomber piece led to a panel at SXSW, in Austin, where Young moderated a debate between the subject of his profile and another philosopher. You can listen to the session here:
—His Chronicle of Higher Education oeuvre. His “10 Hottest Ed-Tech Stories of 2012” is more than a year old but, if you care about the intersection of education and technology, his list, which includes a piece about the Stanford professor who gave up his classroom for a startup, will keep you reading all day. From that piece:
Mr. Thrun told the crowd his move had been motivated in part by teaching practices that evolved too slowly to be effective. During the era when universities were born, “the lecture was the most effective way to convey information. We had the industrialization, we had the invention of celluloid, of digital media, and, miraculously, professors today teach exactly the same way they taught a thousand years ago,” he said. He concluded by telling the crowd that he couldn’t continue teaching in a traditional setting. “Having done this, I can’t teach at Stanford again,” he said.
*Special thanks to our mothership, the Nieman Foundation, for some of the biographical information.