In an effort to bring the worldwide Nieman family together, the Nieman Foundation introduced its Web site in 1999. At that time, Bill Kovach, then Curator, sent a note to Nieman Fellows in which he described what he hoped this Web site would become. "By combining the new information technologywith the Nieman network," he wrote, "the foundation is rapidly becoming a leading-edge electronic clearinghouse for journalists and their work, a sure sign that public interest journalism will be well-represented in the 21st century."
In its early years, the Nieman Web site (www.nieman.harvard.edu) served as a reliable place to find information about the program and about Nieman Fellows. The increasing power of the Web now has enabled the Nieman Foundation to expand on that beginning with changes that permit more than 900 Nieman Fellows, as well as other journalists, educators, students and citizens interested in how the press does its work, to access a larger variety of information. Next steps include a new database and content management system to support new and expanded services and make interactive engagement possible.
We are building on the idea that the Nieman Foundation should be an Internet destination for good journalism. Here are some of our Web site's developing elements.
* The Watchdog Journalism Project. The mission of the watchdog project since its inception in 1997 has been to reinvigorate the news media in its fundamental role of monitoring the activities of organizations and individuals who wield power at all levels of government, business, labor and nonprofit organizations. Until now the project's work has focused on convening conferences and reporting on them in Nieman Reports. Now we recognize the need to reinforce an essential aspect of watchdog reporting--asking probing questions. Effective questioning techniques are not emphasized in journalism courses, nor are they evident in much of the daily news coverage in print and broadcast. Important elements of stories are left unexplored and policymakers often seem to escape questioning they want to avoid. The new online watchdog project staff will be working with authoritative sources at universities and other places to develop lines of questioning that a probing and penetrating press should be asking. This part of the Nieman Web site will also provide links to "best practices" in watchdog journalism and a forum for discussions about watchdog reporting.
* The Narrative Digest. The Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism is developing an online narrative newspaper to provide links to the best work in narrative journalism that we can find. …