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A new direction for the Nieman Watchdog Project

COMMENTARY | August 20, 2012

The Nieman Watchdog Project was launched in 1996, animated by a singular goal: to examine and invigorate journalism in its fundamental role of serving the public interest. The Watchdog Project—funded by 1950 Nieman Fellow Murrey Marder, a former diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post—has been an important and enduring feature of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, and one that has evolved to address emerging issues in accountability journalism.

Next week, the Project will take a new direction. On Aug. 24 the Nieman Watchdog website will end its eight-year run as a separate entity; past articles will remain accessible online at niemanwatchdog.org. Going forward, we will integrate new articles about watchdog journalism into Nieman Reports, which publishes as a print quarterly as well as online and serves an influential international audience of journalists. The material is a natural fit in Nieman Reports, where Watchdog Project stories once ran and where for more than 60 years the Nieman Foundation has examined the rights and responsibilities of news organizations and journalists.

In addition to publishing in Nieman Reports, the Watchdog Project will add two other components to enhance the Nieman Foundation’s longstanding commitment to accountability journalism:

Beginning with next year’s class of Nieman Fellows, the Nieman Foundation will invite watchdog journalists to study for a year at Harvard through the Murrey Marder Nieman Fellowship. Successful applicants will join other Nieman Fellows in a year of intense examination of journalistic priorities as well as independent pursuits. In addition, harnessing the intellectual and creative resources of journalists and Harvard, the Nieman Foundation will organize a series of seminars and other special events to examine the successes and failures that characterize the current state of watchdog journalism in Washington and beyond.

Since 2004, under the direction of Barry Sussman, the Nieman Watchdog site has explored the ways in which journalists do or do not hold powerful individuals and institutions accountable. Morton Mintz, NF ’64, has been a senior adviser to the Watchdog Project from its outset and the site’s many contributors have included policy experts, academics, journalists and think-tank analysts. The site will remain online as a searchable archive while new articles about watchdog journalism by Watchdog’s deputy editor Dan Froomkin and others will appear occasionally on the Nieman Reports website.

The foundation is grateful to all who have contributed to niemanwatchdog.org through the years and excited about the next chapter in the Watchdog Project.

* Read Nieman Watchdog editor Barry Sussman’s final column.

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.