Carlin Romano, Lecturer at the Annenberg School, has been named one of 11 Nieman Fellows for 2017, sponsored by the John S. Knight Foundation. The Knight Nieman Fellows are chosen for their interest in seeking innovative ideas in journalism, with the financial and logistical aid of the Nieman Foundation.
The 2017 competition attracted approximately 500 proposals, from which 21 finalists and 11 winners were chosen. Among the other Nieman Fellows are Stephanie Reuter, Managing Director of the Rudolf Augstein Foundation in Germany; Nina Lassam, director of ad product at the New York Times; and Tushar Barot, Mobile Editor for the BBC World Service.
Romano’s project is to adapt the pro bono model of clinical legal work, with which he is familiar as a Columbia Law graduate, to the world of journalism. Like pro bono lawyers who help immigrants, the poor, and non-native English speakers to negotiate the legal system and protect their rights, journalists would commit a certain number of hours a month, in an organized fashion and in face-to-face encounters, to helping those unable or afraid to bring important stories they know about to the media.
Asked why such a simple idea is not already a part of mainstream journalism, in the same way it is already part of the legal and medical professions, Romano observed, “Journalists traditionally think they’re already operating pro bono 100 per cent of the time by doing their day jobs. That may be true of brave investigative journalists like the late Wayne Barrett. But critics, gossip columnists, and your average feature writer? Not so much.”