For those who care about foreign reporting, the news about the news isn’t good. Reporters kidnapped, beheaded, disappeared. The Committee to Protect Journalists documents the toll with a grim menu of online search options. Deaths by type: Murdered. In crossfire/combat. On dangerous assignment.
Anja Niedringhaus was among them this year. The experienced Associated Press photojournalist, 48, was traveling in a protected convoy of election workers in Afghanistan when a uniformed police officer reportedly approached her car and began shooting. Anja was killed; her reporting partner Kathy Gannon was wounded.
Anja was a supremely gifted photographer, “one of the most talented, bravest and accomplished photojournalists of her generation,” wrote AP photography director Santiago Lyon. The day after her death I sat with her book, “At War.” Most striking about her photography was her ability to find humanity in the darkest moments—the little girl in the polka-dot dress reaching out to an armed policeman; boys in Kandahar playing on a broken Ferris wheel; Santa Claus in the Kuwaiti desert visiting Marines as they prepared to invade Iraq.
A framed print of that last photo hangs here at Lippmann House, a reminder of another of Anja’s achievements: she was a Nieman Fellow, a beloved member of the class of 2007. News of her death landed hard for the fellows and staff members who knew and loved her as family.
Lyon, her AP colleague and a 2004 Nieman Fellow, along with photographer Gary Knight, a friend of Anja’s and a class of 2010 Nieman, have written to our alumni and others asking for financial support of a visual journalism fellowship next year in Anja’s name.
They wrote: “We all are painfully aware of the growing threats to journalists around the world [and] need to support those courageous enough to tell the world’s stories—like Anja—and offer them the resources, tools and training that come with a Nieman Fellowship.”
The Fall 2014 issue of Nieman Reports features photographs by Tyler Hicks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photographer who recently gave Nieman’s annual Joe Alex Morris Jr. lecture on foreign reporting. Many of these extraordinary pictures come from places increasingly challenging to access. They also serve as poignant reminders of how much we ask of those who bring us this news, especially photojournalists for whom proximity is vital.
An editor of mine who covered Vietnam used to say that when you see noncombatants running toward danger while everyone else is running away, chances are they’re journalists. For the most experienced, this is not an act of recklessness, but a calculated decision about how best to bear witness.
Anja Niedringhaus died bearing witness so that we may see. Please consider supporting a Nieman Fellowship in her name.
To help fund the Anja Niedringhaus Nieman Fellowship for Visual Journalism, send a check to the Nieman Foundation, 1 Francis Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138 or follow our instructions to donate online and note the purpose of your gift. Call 617-495-2237 or e-mail suggestions about other funding sources to firstname.lastname@example.org