1964

James H. McCartney, a longtime Washington correspondent and columnist who specialized in foreign affairs and defense policy, died at his home in Florida on May 6th from cancer. He was 85.

During 33 years as a Washington journalist, he had datelines from more than 30 countries and covered every President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton. He wrote about national security, national politics, and presidential campaigns. His coverage was published in 31 Knight Ridder newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, and the Detroit Free Press.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, McCartney was drafted into the U.S. Army while still in his teens. He was honorably discharged, with the rank of corporal, after being wounded shortly before World War II ended.

His wife, Molly Sinclair McCartney, NF ’78, said that the six months he spent on the frontlines were “just a miserable experience … It wasn’t just the physical conditions that were awful, but it was the incompetence of the people running the operation.”

After graduating from Michigan State University, where he was editor of the college newspaper, McCartney took a position at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune. He later earned a master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He was hired by the Chicago Daily News and in 1959 became a Washington correspondent for the paper.

Inspired in part, his family says, by his experiences during the war, he developed an interest in the Pentagon and State Department. He was one of the first reporters to focus on the rise of the military-industrial complex, a trend that Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address.

After three years in Chicago as city editor of the Daily News, McCartney returned to Washington in 1968 as a member of the Knight Ridder bureau. He remained in the city for the rest of his career and developed a reputation for relentlessly questioning officials at White House, State Department, and Pentagon press conferences.

“You knew, if you were a government spokesman, that you’d better have it straight and you’d better have the facts, because he’d keep coming at you,” said former State Department spokesman Hodding Carter III, NF ’66. “He could be the belligerent antagonist when he knew he was being lied to. … I didn’t know anyone I respected more than Jim.”

He received the 1989 Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He was an adjunct professor at Georgetown for 13 years, teaching courses about the media, foreign policy, and politics.

Although he retired as a reporter in 1990, he continued to write a column for Knight Ridder until 1995. Subsequently, he wrote a monthly column for the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald, with the final one appearing March 27.

His marriage to Jule Graham McCartney ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, Molly, he is survived by a son, daughter, stepdaughter and four grandchildren.

 

1968

Jerome Aumente led a series of economic reporting workshops for journalists in Bucharest and three other cities in Romania as part of a U.S. State Department program.

He also conducted discussions with the staffs of Ziarul Financiar, a major financial daily, and “The Money Channel.”

“Romania has joined the European Union and is struggling with the global economic crisis, the fragile beginnings of a stock market and the need for its news media to conduct tough enterprise and investigative reporting as the economy moves toward a more transparent and open market,” Aumente wrote in an e-mail. “So there was plenty to talk about, including the major changes in the news media landscape as we all transition to a challenging digital and Internet environment for news and information.”

Aumente is distinguished professor emeritus and special counselor to the dean of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University.

In May the Livingston College alumni association honored him with a Legacy Award for his work in establishing the journalism department and the Journalism Resources Institute at Rutgers.

He also participated in the “Journalism in Eastern Europe: Who Controls the Media?” conference at the Nieman Foundation on a panel examining what kind of media assistance is most effective.

 

Nieman Conference Examines Media Freedom in Eastern Europe“One couldn’t be there without recognizing that most of the citizens you met were tethered to their nation, like pigeons tethered to a string. … State-controlled television, radio and newspapers were delivering this steady stream of propaganda, hearsay and innuendo.”That’s how Gwen Thompkins, NF ’11, summed up her experiences with Eastern Europe and its media when she lived in the former Yugoslavia from 1988 to 1990. And although she was speaking about Eastern Europe as it was before the fall of communism, not all of the region’s new private media owners have given up on the old state model for news.

To continue the conversation started in the Spring 2011 issue of Nieman Reports, “Shattering Barriers to Reveal Corruption,” the Nieman Foundation held a conference—”Journalism in Eastern Europe: Who Controls the Media?“—on May 6. Academics, journalists and media experts shared what they and their colleagues in the region go through to report—or train others to report—the news in Eastern Europe.

“It’s very rare that you have all these people in the same room together—working journalists and academics,” said Romanian journalist Stefan Candea, NF ’11, after the conference. “Journalists can learn new things from scholars, and the scholars can learn a lot from hearing about the reality on the ground, not just from statistics.”

Since the Soviet Union collapsed, millions of dollars have been poured into media training and assistance in the region, with little to show for it. Improving the quality of journalism was a main discussion thread at the conference, but speakers noted that media owners themselves present a major barrier because some care more about furthering their business interests than promoting good journalism.

Among the speakers were 2011 Nieman Fellows—Candea, co-founder of the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism; Thompkins, former East Africa correspondent for NPR; and Maxim Trudolyubov, the editorial page editor of Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper—along with Jerome Aumente, NF ’68, a media trainer and professor emeritus at Rutgers University.

Other presenters included Harvard government professors Grzegorz Ekiert and Timothy J. Colton, who also teaches Russian studies; Maria Sadovskaya, a Belarusian journalist; and Peter Gross, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee.

Videos from the conference are online at www.nieman.harvard.edu/eastern-europe/. —Jonathan Seitz

 

1973

Wayne Greenhaw, who wrote 22 books, many of them about his home state of Alabama and the civil rights movement in the South, died on May 31st due to complications from heart surgery. He was 71.

His latest book, “Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama” was published in January. In an article in the Winter 2010 issue of Nieman Reports, Greenhaw reminisced about his reporting career as well as the political leaders and memorable citizens he encountered over the years.

He started to cover the civil rights movement in 1965 after Ray Jenkins, NF ’65, managing editor of the Alabama Journal in Montgomery, hired him as a reporter. Greenhaw also reported on the movement as a stringer for The New York Times and Time magazine.

Rick Bragg, NF ’93, a friend of Greehaw’s who teaches at the University of Alabama, told The Associated Press, “Wayne is just a part of the history here and has been a storyteller for so long that I can’t imagine things without him.”

From 1984 to 1988, Greenhaw was editor and publisher of Alabama magazine, and he was a columnist for the Alabama Journal and the Montgomery Advertiser in the early 1990’s.

Among the honors he received was the 2006 Harper Lee Award for a Distinguished Alabama Writer.

A resident of Montgomery, Greenhaw had a varied career and published in a number of genres. He wrote novels, plays, short stories, and poems. He was Jimmy Carter’s press secretary in Alabama during the 1976 presidential campaign, and was director of the state tourism bureau from 1993 to 1994.

He is survived by his wife, Sally.

***

Ed Williams was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame at a dinner at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in April. He was introduced by Hodding Carter III, NF ’66, who hired him in 1967 as a reporter for the Carter family’s Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Mississippi. Williams, a former editor of the University of Mississippi student daily, had just completed two years in the Army.

Williams retired in 2008 after 35 years at The Charlotte Observer, including 25 as editor of the editorial pages. His columns and editorials were part of Observer projects that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1981 and 1988. In 2003 he received the annual Liberty Bell Award from the county bar association for his “willingness to take tough stands on tough issues.” After his retirement, Governor Mike Easley conferred upon him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest award for service to North Carolina.

In addition to his newspaper work, Williams was a frequent lecturer on innovation and ethics at the American Press Institute.

 

1976

Jim Rubin is the new secretary/treasurer of the executive committee of the steering committee of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

Founded in 1970, the RCFP provides free legal assistance to defend the First Amendment rights of journalists. It has been involved in most of the significant press freedom cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court over the past four decades. 3

Rubin is the legal affairs editor for Bloomberg News in Washington, overseeing coverage of the Supreme Court and Justice Department as well as related matters in Congress.

 

A New Curator for the Nieman FoundationAnn Marie Lipinski, NF ’90, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor and senior vice president of the Chicago Tribune, has been named curator of the Nieman Foundation, effective July 1.Lipinski succeeds Bob Giles, NF ’66, who retired after 11 years in the post. She is the first woman to head the Nieman Foundation since it was founded in 1938.

“Harvard and the Nieman Foundation have an extraordinary record of promoting and elevating the standards of journalism, and there is more to be done,” she said, in a statement at the time her appointment was announced. “I look forward to working with colleagues at universities and news organizations globally in addressing the challenges and promise of journalism. Harvard’s deep commitment to this work and to excellence makes this an extraordinary time to be at Nieman.”

Lipinski brings three decades of journalism experience to her new post. Prior to joining the University of Chicago in 2008 as vice president of civic engagement and a senior lecturer, she served as editor of the Chicago Tribune for more than seven years. Under her leadership, the Tribune won Pulitzers for international, explanatory, investigative, feature, and editorial writing.

She joined the Tribune in 1978 as an editorial intern. In 1988 she was one of three Tribune reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting on corruption and conflicts of interest in the Chicago City Council.

After her Nieman year, she returned to the Tribune to lead the paper’s investigative team. “I have no doubt of the singular role that experience played in preparing me for leadership in my newsroom and my profession,” she said. “I’m indebted to Harvard and to Nieman for what was a transformative year, and I am excited to have the chance to support others in their work here.”

Lipinski, a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board since 2003 and a juror for two years before joining the board, in May was elected to serve as one of three co-chairs.

 

1982

Alex Jones received the 2011 DeWitt Carter Reddick Award from The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication in April. Named for the college’s first dean, the award honors achievement in the field of communications.

At the ceremony in Austin, Jones, director of Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, delivered a keynote speech entitled “WikiLeaks, Facebook and Us: Why Professional Journalism Still Matters.” In an e-mail to Nieman Reports, Jones wrote that he was honored by the recognition, adding: “This is an award that the University of Texas College of Communication takes very seriously. Walter Cronkite and Nick Lemann among others have been former winners, and it comes from one of the premier schools of communication in the nation. Plus, at the end of the ceremony, we all stood and sang ‘The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You’ and gave the hook’em horns salute. Nothing like it.”

Also in April, Jones was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 230-year-old policy research center.

Jones previously was the host of NPR’s “On the Media.” A former media reporter at The New York Times, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the demise of the Bingham family’s newspaper empire. He is the author of three books, the most recent of which, “Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy,” was released in paperback in December.

 

1986

Geneva Overholser, director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, joined the newly formed editorial advisory board of Examiner.com in April. The board will meet quarterly to advise the site on editorial policy and training for its contributors as well as on the best uses of technology to serve its audience, according to a press release. The online news network, founded in 2008, publishes 3,000 articles a day by more than 70,000 contributors in nearly 250 markets in the U.S.

 

1989

Joseph Thloloe received an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University in South Africa in April. A committee that included faculty and student representatives selected him for the honor based on his significant contributions.

Thloloe, who has been a figure in South African journalism for more than 50 years, is the country’s press ombudsman. In the past, he was chairman of the South African National Editors’ Forum and president of the Union of Black Journalists and the Media Workers Association of South Africa.

In the 1970’s, he was imprisoned twice for a total of 28 months. No reason was given in either case. In 1981, the apartheid government banned Thloloe from working as a journalist. In response, the Nieman Class of 1982 selected Thloloe for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.

Headliner Awards for Print and Broadcast Two Nieman Fellows received top honors in the 2011 National Headliner Awards, one of the country’s oldest annual contests recognizing excellence in print, broadcast and online media. The Press Club of Atlantic City presents the awards.Kevin Cullen, NF ’03, Boston Globe city and region columnist , NF ’03, received a first-place award in the local interest category for columns on a variety of subjects. Among the columns were one about Phoebe Prince, a high school girl in South Hadley, Massachusetts who committed suicide after being bullied, and another about Lieutenant Scott Milley, an Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan.

The investigative team at WCNC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina, led by Stuart Watson, NF ’08, was given a first-place award for investigative reporting. In “Bamboozled: A Story of Liquor and Money,” Watson’s team uncovered waste and corruption in the Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. After the report aired, new statewide rules for alcoholic beverage control boards were approved.

Also recognized were James E. Causey, NF ’08, who received a third-place award for his editorial writing at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and John Harwood, NF ’90, who was part of a CNBC team that received second-place honors in the category of broadcast business and consumer reporting for “Investing in America: A CNBC Town Hall Event With President Obama.”

1991

Tim Giago, a founder of three Indian newspapers and the first president of the Native American Journalists Association, has retired as editor and publisher of the Native Sun News, the paper he founded in 2008.

He plans to finish a memoir he has been writing about the evolution of the Indian press over his three decades at the forefront.

Early in his career, Giago grew frustrated because his white editors at the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota would not allow him to cover the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where he was raised. They expressed concern that his reporting would not be objective.

In 1981 Giago struck out on his own and founded The Lakota Times, which became the first successful Indian-owned weekly newspaper in the country. Giago did not shy away from criticizing tribal leaders or taking on difficult subjects, and the paper—or rather its building—sometimes paid the price. “After I wrote a strong editorial [against violence perpetrated by the American Indian Movement] in the fall of 1981, the windows of our newspaper office were blasted out with gunfire. We came right back with another editorial challenging the ‘cowards who strike in the middle of the night,'” Giago wrote in the Fall 2005 issue of Nieman Reports.

The paper, renamed Indian Country Today, was sold in 1998. In 2000 Giago founded the Lakota Journal; he sold it a few years later. Reflecting on his career, he said that he regretted selling the first two newspapers he founded to tribes because “freedom of the press is a foreign concept to Indian tribes.”

In 1990, the state of South Dakota eliminated Columbus Day and created Native American Day after Giago advocated for the change in numerous editorials in The Lakota Times. That year was also named the “Year of Reconciliation” after a similar lobbying effort.

Giago has been inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame and was the first Native American honoree of the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame.

He told Nieman Reports that his proudest accomplishment was bringing more Native Americans into journalism: “My lasting legacy would be the dozens of young Indian journalists I sent out into the mainstream media in both newspapers and radio.” A founder and the first president of the Native American Journalists Association, Giago said he is pleased that “27 years later, it is still a viable advocacy group for Native media.”

***

Kevin Noblet was promoted to managing editor of wealth management coverage for Dow Jones Newswires in March after serving as deputy managing editor since 2009. Noblet assumed the presidency of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers at the organization’s annual conference in April. He has been a member of its board for three years.

He spent nearly 30 years at The Associated Press, including as business editor and deputy international editor.

 

Saying Farewell to Bob Giles

Scores of Nieman Fellows celebrated the 11-year tenure of Bob Giles, NF ’66, curator of the Nieman Foundation, at a party in May. Journalists from throughout the world gathered at Lippmann House to toast Giles, who is retiring on June 30. Fellows from the class of 2010 included, from left, Alejandra Matus, Boris Muñoz, Lisa Mullins, Jeff Howe, and Maria Balinska, wearing glasses at far right. Facing Bob is June Carolyn Erlick, editor of Harvard’s Latin American journal ReVista. Photo by Lisa Abitbol.

 

1993

Rick Bragg was part of a team that received the 2011 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in the Food, Culture and Travel writing category for “The Southerner’s Guide to Oysters,” published in the February/March 2010 issue of Garden & Gun magazine.

Bragg, who teaches journalism at the University of Alabama, contributed the lead essay, “Your First Oyster,” about his many experiences with bivalves, from his first—”It tasted like wet dirt, only slicker, fishier, like what a tadpole would taste like if you sucked it right out of the ditch, or a wet hoofprint”—to the “magic” experience he had in New Orleans that made him a convert.

Within the confines of his own experience, Bragg also places oysters into context as one of those things “that male writers, of a certain ilk, feel they have to do.”

 

1994

Melanie Sill left her position as editor and senior vice president of The Sacramento Bee for a six-month appointment as executive in residence at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School of Journalism.

After three decades working for the McClatchy Company, owner of the Bee, Sill wrote in her farewell column that her work at USC “offers me a rare chance to step back from the fray and focus on broader questions.”

At USC, she wrote, she will “do reporting, research, writing and work with students and faculty on questions that have motivated me as an editor: What can journalists and journalism do most effectively to serve the public interest in an age of media fragmentation? How can we report news, tell stories and convey information in ways that connect with more people?”

Sill has been the newspaper’s editor since 2007, when she left the same position at The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer, another McClatchy newspaper. There, she was part of a team that won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for an investigation into the environmental and health risks related to North Carolina’s pig industry.

According to a press release from USC, the findings of Sill’s research at the school will be released online and through public presentations. “I couldn’t be more delighted at the prospect of having Melanie join us,” said Geneva Overholser, NF ’86, director of the Annenberg School of Journalism. “The opportunity for our students to work with one of America’s most respected and future-oriented editors, the chance to bring the fruits of Melanie’s research to life in our own news outlets and the prospect of sharing the results with all who care about information in the public interest—all of this excites me tremendously.”

 

A Teacher’s Legacy of Writing Craft and Community For 19 years, noted author Rose Moss taught creative writing classes at the Nieman Foundation, gently showing fellows and affiliates how to relish the art and craft of penning a good story. She retired this past spring after a particularly brutal Cambridge winter left her yearning for sunnier climes and more time to write.Moss was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved to the United States in 1964. She has called South Africa “the soil of my imagination,” and many of the characters in her fiction and nonfiction wrestled with the effects of exile and reconciliation.

She has written more than 40 short stories and two novels, including “The Family Reunion,” which was short-listed for a National Book Award.

Her teaching method was deceptively simple. Each semester she asked students to produce three “substantial” pieces of writing. In class, students identified what worked in their colleagues’ stories and what didn’t. The authors, meanwhile, had to stay mum no matter what was said.

Moss typically had her class over for dinner and wine, evenings that fostered the sense of community that has long defined the Nieman experience. Many fellows and affiliates became dear friends; some wrote books that grew from class assignments. “The bond between Rose and her students is a joy to observe,” said Nieman Curator Bob Giles, NF ’66, who also is retiring this summer.

Moss once told The Boston Globe, “When I’m gardening, my space reduces to what I can see, the plants nearby, the insects. It is totally engrossing.” She had the same focus on her students, and like her garden, they flourished because of her care. —Tony Bartelme, NF ’11

 

1991

Chris Hedges has put together a new collection of essays that were first published on Truthdig, the news website where he is a columnist. “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress” was published by Nation Books in April. Hedges is a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times who has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East, Central America, Africa and the Balkans. The essays are grouped under four headings: “Politics,” “Israel and Palestine,” “The Middle East,” and “The Decay of Empire.” Topics include the failure of American liberalism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the decay of the American empire.

 

2000

Deborah Schoch was one of the winners of an Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism from the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Schoch was the lead writer for “A Burning Issue,” which won first place in the Community Newspapers category. The series, a partnership between the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, where Schoch is a senior writer, and the Chico Enterprise-Record, examined the effects of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces on the air in Butte County, California. The area frequently sees its air quality dip below safe levels during winter months, leading to numerous health problems for residents.

“We’re proud of the work that Deborah and editor Richard Kipling did on this project,” said David Westphal, the Center for Health Reporting’s editor in chief. “But we’re just as proud of the terrific journalism produced by the intrepid journalists at Chico. They served their readers very, very well.”

Before joining the center, which is based at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Schoch spent 18 years at the Los Angeles Times, covering health and the environment.

***

Stephen Smith, a health reporter for The Boston Globe, was promoted in the spring to city editor. In making the announcement, Jennifer Peter, metro editor, called Smith “a superb journalist and even finer human being.” She continued, “He brings to this role more than 30 years in the business (he began delivering a suburban paper near his hometown of Louisville at age 11), an exemplary reputation as a health reporter at the Globe and The Miami Herald, an insatiable drive to tell important human stories, a stickler’s attention to fairness and accuracy, the most expansive vocabulary in the room, and a cooperative spirit that will serve his editing and reporting colleagues well.”

 

2001

Andrew Sussman, who has been with PRI’s “The World” since the show’s inception in 1995, is its new executive producer. In announcing the promotion in April, Melinda Ward, PRI’s senior vice president of content, said Sussman’s “finely honed global sensibility, developed by over two decades in international news, combined with his energy, wit and creativity, makes him the perfect person to lead ‘The World’ in its next phase to expand its reach nationally and internationally, on air and online.” Three hundred stations nationwide carry the one-hour weekday radio news magazine show.

Sussman previously worked at newspapers in Russia and at Radio France in Paris.

 

2005

Amy Goldstein is among 51 men and women selected from 800 applicants to be a 2011-12 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Her project is called “Slipping Downhill: How Changes in the U.S. Economy Are Transforming Lives and Reshaping Our National Identity.” Goldstein is a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer at The Washington Post who covers social policy issues on a national level.

She will explore the ways that high levels of unemployment and underemployment “are transforming the private sphere of Americans’ lives and the broader public sphere,” she wrote in a summary of her plan for the yearlong fellowship. “My project will provide a ground-level view of potent ripple effects, on domains from mental health to job retraining to politics, as women and men all along the socioeconomic ladder have been torn from their financial moorings. I will gather and, with research partners, generate data to document the changes. The findings can then lead to people and places that illustrate, powerfully and intimately, the most intriguing patterns.” Her aim is to translate what she learns into “prose that can help policymakers and lay readers grasp what the economic crisis has been doing to their neighbors—and possibly to themselves.”

***

Alma Guillermoprieto was named a winner by the Overseas Press Club of America of its 2010 Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting from abroad. She and photographer Shaul Schwarz shared the honor for “Troubled Spirits” in National Geographic.

The article adds new dimensions to the coverage of the drug-related violence in Mexico by looking at the emergence of cults surrounding three figures: St. Jude, patron saint of desperate causes; Jesús Malverde, the original narco-saint revered by drug traffickers; and La Santa Muerte (“Holy Death”), who guards the worst of sinners.

“The reporting from within Mexico’s prisons and shrines is outstanding, the topic fresh and vital,” read the award announcement. “The judges found the care and intelligence of her work a thrill to read.”

Guillermoprieto has covered Latin America extensively, writing for The Guardian, The Washington Post, Newsweek and The New Yorker during a decades-long career that was recently honored with the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of four books, the most recent of which was “Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of Revolution,” published by Pantheon in 2004.

***

Maggie Mulvihill was elected in May to the steering committee of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

Founded in 1970, the RCFP provides free legal assistance to defend the First Amendment rights of journalists. It is a national and international resource on free speech issues and has been involved in most of the significant press freedom cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court over the past four decades.

Mulvihill, a former media lawyer and investigative reporter with the Boston Herald, is the codirector and cofounder of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, based at Boston University. She also is a member of the board of directors of the New England First Amendment Coalition and was a legal intern with the RCFP while she attended Vermont Law School.

 

Amy Ellis Nutt Awarded 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing On the day that the Pulitzers were announced in April, Amy Ellis Nutt, NF ’05, already had reason to celebrate. Her first book, “Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey From Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph,” had just been published and Terry Gross’s interview with her on “Fresh Air” was being broadcast that afternoon.Having worked the previous weekend, Nutt had the day off from her reporting job at The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, and she planned to listen to the NPR show with her parents.

So Nutt was a bit peeved when her editor called and said all staff members were being called to the newsroom for a meeting with the publisher. She changed her plans and was in the newsroom for the announcement that she had won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. The jurors had selected her “deeply probing story” into the sinking of a commercial fishing boat. The news was “surprising, overwhelming and deeply gratifying, especially for the newspaper, which has suffered through some hard times lately,” Nutt wrote in an e-mail to Nieman Reports.

She had spent many months researching the sinking in March 2009 of the Lady Mary. Six of the seven crewmen died. Her five-part series, “The Wreck of the Lady Mary,” appeared this past November in The Star-Ledger and on its website, where it featured photographs and video by her colleague Andre Malok. She is now talking to her agent about turning that series into a book.

“Shadows Bright as Glass” grew out of a story for which she was a 2009 Pulitzer finalist in the feature writing category. Nutt recounted how she came to meet Jon Sarkin, a quiet, sensible chiropractor living in Gloucester, Massachusetts who, after suffering a major stroke, underwent a radical change in personality and now has a compulsion to create art.

She wrote, “I first learned about Jon when interviewing a neurologist Todd Feinberg in NYC for a story I was writing about the search for the source of consciousness. He’d just written a book about it called ‘Altered Egos,’ which was really about his stroke patients who suffered identity disorders.” Nutt was struck by a piece of art on Feinberg’s office wall and asked him about the work, which was a colorful series of 1950’s Cadillac fins created by Sarkin, who had contacted Feinberg after hearing him interviewed on “Fresh Air.”

Tony Bartelme, NF ’11, projects reporter with The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, was a Pulitzer finalist in the feature writing category for his “engaging account of a South Carolina neurosurgeon’s quest to teach brain surgery in Tanzania, possibly providing a new model for health care in developing countries.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Mary Schmich, NF ’96, was a finalist in the commentary category for “her versatile columns exploring life and the concerns of a metropolis with whimsy and poignancy.”—Jan Gardner

 

2006

Chris Cobler and his staff at the Victoria (Tex.) Advocate received a first-place award from the Inland Press Association for creative use of multimedia storytelling. The association’s fourth annual Digital Journalism Awards competition was open to websites run by U.S. newspapers and online-only sites that produce original community news content.

Cobler is editor of the Advocate, which produced “A Father’s Strength” about a family’s battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The judges commented, “The carefully reported six-part series and documentary could each stand easily on its own, and yet the ambitious online package lends informative context to the central story and provides its audience with many different entry points into the material. The Advocate’s use of free online tools to build and host portions of its content increases the visibility of the story in the community, as well as promotes the easy sharing of its content.”

***

Mary C. Curtis was one of 24 journalists selected from nearly 600 who applied to participate in a social media fellowship launched by the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. The three-month fellowship began this past spring with a week of training at Ohio State University in new media tools and strategies.

Curtis has been a print journalist for most of her career. That changed when she left the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer in 2008. Now she is a weekly commentator on “Fox News Rising” in Charlotte and contributes to NPR, Creative Loafing Charlotte, and the Nieman Watchdog.

She wrote in an e-mail to Nieman Reports, “But although I’ve become a multimedia journalist, sharing most of my work online, on television and radio and—occasionally—print, with a presence on Facebook and Twitter, I have still been cautious about taking new steps.

“The Kiplinger fellowship was encouragement to stay on that path. It introduced me to new techniques and platforms, and to journalists eager to share their own experiences and tips. I learned a lot about ways to build an engaging online presence and use different platforms to report and research stories. The tools may be new, but the journalism principles remain the same. However, by using social media tools, you can dig deep and enhance the work. You can also better reach the audience we serve.

“It was interesting to realize how much I can build on my first steps as I navigate a new media world.”

***

Beena Sarwar wrote in March with news about her latest projects: “I am back in Cambridge, working online with Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative between India and Pakistan started by the Jang Group and Times of India. … I am also involved with Citizens for Democracy (CFD), a group we started in Karachi in December 2010 as a platform for secular, liberal voices in Pakistan, coming together on a one-point agenda against the use and abuse of the ‘blasphemy laws’ and religion in politics in general. Salmaan Taseer [the governor of Punjab province] was killed a few weeks later. We arranged a [memorial] for him that was very well attended despite the threats and the general atmosphere of fear. CFD has done several other events and petitions, and is working to break the silence around this issue, including a public signature campaign at which over 15,000 signatures were collected in one day. Details of all these events are available at www.citizensfordemocracy.wordpress.com.

“This is the Pakistan that needs to be strengthened and projected, the people coming out in public at risk to their lives, of their own volition, rather than the mullahs that organize sponsored rallies to which they herd their followers.

“I also write regularly for media in Pakistan and India—and upload most pieces to my blog Journeys to Democracy at www.beenasarwar.wordpress.com. I’m also on Twitter @beenasarwar.”

***

Brent Walth has been named managing editor of Willamette Week, the alternative newspaper in Portland, Oregon. It’s a homecoming for him: He got his start as an investigative reporter at Willamette Week in 1986. He has been senior investigative reporter for The Oregonian, where he worked for 16 years. In his new job, Walth will direct the newspaper’s coverage and occasionally contribute stories.

“My early experience at an alternative newspaper made a huge difference in how I look at stories,” he writes. “Now, I feel very lucky to have this chance to help shape coverage and lead a paper as committed to investigative and watchdog reporting as Willamette Week.”

Walth is also the 2006 Nieman class correspondent, and he sent in the following updates:

Kim Cloete is working as a freelance journalist and television producer. Cloete’s work has included reports on global health issues for international news networks and current affairs for Carte Blanche, a newsmagazine program on M-Net, South Africa’s largest private broadcaster. Her blog, Cross Currents, examines African politics and economics, and appears on Moneyweb.

Margaret Kriz Hobson covers energy and environmental issues for Congressional Quarterly and writes a column for the Environmental Forum. Hobson built a national reputation for her environmental reporting during her 23 years at National Journal, which she left last year.

Mary Ann Jolley has once again shared a Walkley award, Australia’s top journalism prize, for her work with “Foreign Correspondent,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s newsmagazine. As producer, Jolley and reporter Andrew Geoghegan investigated adoption practices in Ethiopia and the complicity and questionable practices of U.S. adoption agencies. She and Geoghegan won a Walkley the previous year for reporting on how Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic was made worse because of close ties between the government and a key United Nations official.

Takashi Oshima has rejoined Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo as a political news reporter focusing on Japan’s foreign policy and security issues. He returns to Asahi Shimbun after leaving the newspaper in 2007. He previously worked as a reporter for TV Tokyo America in New York.

 

First Amendment Honors for Two Niemans Two Nieman Fellows have been recognized for work that educates citizens about important issues facing the nation and fulfills the promise of the First Amendment.Documentary filmmaker Michael Kirk, NF ’80, is this year’s recipient of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s First Amendment Award, which will be presented at the association’s annual meeting in August. Kirk has produced nearly 60 films for “Frontline,” including the Peabody Award winners “Waco—The Inside Story” and “Cheney’s Law.” During the past decade he has focused on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He collaborated with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest on the “Top Secret America” series that examined the growth of intelligence services in the United States.

Former New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer winner Anthony Lewis, NF ’57, was honored in April at the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University in Boston with the 31st annual Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award. Lewis has written about the First Amendment and civil liberties during more than half a century as a journalist.

 

2007

Cameron McWhirter, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, conceived a book during his Nieman year that is being published by Henry Holt in July. “Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America” is a narrative history of the season’s deadliest riots and lynchings. McWhirter argues that it laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement.

Over a seven-month period, hundreds of people—most of them blacks—died in an unprecedented wave of lynchings and anti-black riots. Thousands were injured, and businesses suffered millions of dollars in losses from destruction and looting.

In the acknowledgements, McWhirter thanks Harvard University professors Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “for allowing a Nieman fellow to intrude on their graduate seminars and receive their insights on African American history and literature.” He expresses gratitude to the Nieman Foundation and the 2007 class of fellows and thanks authors Anne Bernays and Justin Kaplan “for early encouragement.”

 

2009

Kael Alford has received a 2011 Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion from the University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. She was one of seven American journalists selected from more than 50 applicants. The stipends range from $5,000 to $25,000.

She will produce “a series of character-driven multimedia pieces, short photo essays and written stories about the political and personal place of religion in the lives of Iraqis and the perceived role religion has played in Iraq’s civil conflict since the U.S.-led war began in 2003. Alford, whose photo-documentary work has appeared in books, on television, and in art galleries, will further develop a model for the production of independent, multiplatform feature journalism,” according to the announcement from USC.

***

Fatima Tlisova has teamed up with a on a Russian language multimedia project called “Journalism in the Crosshairs” (Pressa pod Pressom). It gives journalists from the former Soviet Union and Central Asia a platform—free of censorship—to share the difficult stories that in their own countries they are often unable to pursue.

Videotaped interviews done by Tlisova, who spent many years reporting on human rights abuses in the North Caucusus, are posted on VOA’s Russian Service. In her inaugural interview, she and Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner discussed the climate of intimidation in Russia that leads journalists to censor themselves.

 

2010

Shankar Vedantam left The Washington Post in May to become a science correspondent for NPR.

“The move allows me to return to the themes and passions that have animated much of my recent work, including my 2010 book, ‘The Hidden Brain,'” he wrote in an e-mail to friends and colleagues. “At NPR, I will focus on human behavior and the ways in which insights from the social sciences speak to the news.”

Vedantam had been with the Post for 10 years, the bulk of which was spent as a science writer for the paper’s national bureau. He also wrote a weekly column about psychology called “Department of Human Behavior.”

Since this past August, he had been based in Washington, D.C. covering immigration as a member of the paper’s local reporting staff. In an e-mail announcing Vedantam’s departure, the Post’s local editor Vernon Loeb wrote, “Beyond his obvious talents as a journalist, Shankar will be greatly missed as a thoughtful and generous colleague. His presence enhanced our newsroom, and his easy demeanor and intelligent take on events made even a passing conversation with him something to savor. He is a class act we won’t soon forget. We wish him well, and we have no doubt that he will soon become NPR’s newest star.”

 

2011

Hollman Morris‘s documentary “Impunity,” which he codirected with Juan Jose Lozano, was the winner of the Camera Justitia Award for films that explore human rights and justice at the Movies That Matter Festival in The Hague.

“It is a deeply emotional film, which bravely accuses at least two countries of collusion with impunity for the perpetrators,” wrote the jury about its selection. “Starting with a heartbreaking opening scene, the film skillfully follows the chronology of those seeking truth and justice, narrowing the complex range of issues down to a specific case, overwhelming the audience with the same desperation that threatens to crush the victims and survivors.”

 

The Intersecting Lives of Nieman Fellows in ColombiaThe Colombian presidential elections of 2010 were host to one of the more unlikely figures in Latin American politics: Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher who had served two colorful, nonconsecutive terms as mayor of Bogotá. As the presidential candidate of Partido Verde (“Green Party”), he introduced new ideas to the public discussion and helped spawn La Ola Verde (“The Green Wave”), a grassroots social movement.Now two Colombian journalists have released “La Ola Verde: Antanas’ Way,” a film about the campaign. Directed by Margarita Martínez, NF ’09, former Associated Press correspondent, and produced by Juanita León, NF ’07, editor of the political news website La Silla Vacía, the documentary chronicles the final weeks of this “David and Goliath” contest, as the film’s website calls it. While Mockus had at one time led by 10 points in a poll of voters, he lost the run-off election against Juan Manuel Santos, NF ’88, by more than 25 points.

“Rather than simply documenting a campaign, I tried to focus on the magic, the dreams, the creativity, the values and the innovation that the Green Party, the ‘green wave’ movement and Antanas Mockus brought to Colombian politics,” said Martínez, who has made two other documentaries.

“The documentary is an intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of the Mockus presidential campaign,” she continued. “It has a point of view, but it’s a work of journalism.”

The film has been screened in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Cambridge, Massachusetts since its premiere in Bogotá where, Martínez said, “several activists from the rival campaign told me it was balanced.”

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