Campus & Community

Nieman Foundation to administer Bingham Prize for journalism

4 min read

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard has announced that it will oversee the management of the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism. The annual award honors outstanding newspaper or magazine investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being poorly served.

The prize was established for journalist and Harvard graduate Worth Bingham, who died at the age of 34 in 1966.

“We’re delighted to take on the administration of the Bingham Prize, with its history of recognizing stellar investigative reporting,” said Nieman Curator Bob Giles. “This is very much in keeping with the Nieman mission to elevate and promote standards of journalism, and our hope is that the annual award will continue to inspire reporters to dig deep and ask the right questions when it comes to protecting the public good.”

“The Nieman Foundation is the ideal home for the Worth Bingham Prize,” added Clara Bingham, Worth Bingham’s daughter. “My family is pleased that the integrity of the award will be protected by the foundation, and we’re looking forward to working with the Nieman staff, as we support their efforts to further the cause of watchdog journalism.”

An advisory board, consisting of Bingham family members and their designees, will work with the curator of the Nieman Foundation to provide management oversight of the award. Prize money for the award will increase to $20,000 in 2009.

In addition to administering the award, the Nieman Foundation will maintain an archive of the entries from past winners, including luminaries such as Seymour Hersh and Carl Bernstein, along with this year’s winners, Anne Hull and Dana Priest from The Washington Post. These materials will be available to journalists, scholars, and others who may be interested in the history of the prize.

Each year, a group of judges will be selected to make the final prize decisions. The advisory board will select two judges and the Nieman curator will select two, one a Nieman alumni and the other a current Nieman Fellow. The Worth Bingham Prize will be awarded at an annual dinner at the foundation’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., each March.

The annual budget for the prize will be covered by funds donated to Harvard for this purpose. This gift includes past donations from family, friends, classmates, fellow journalists, and foundations, and will be used to establish the new Worth Bingham Fund for Investigative Journalism.

After graduating from Harvard in 1954, Worth Bingham served as a Navy Officer before working as a reporter, first in Minneapolis and then in San Francisco. He joined the Washington bureau of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times in 1961, where his reporting included, among other articles, a series on “Our Costly Congress,” which was widely reprinted and earned him a Headliner Award of the National Headliner Club. After two years in the paper’s Washington bureau, he returned to Louisville to join the executive staff, and became an assistant to the publisher. Married, with two children, he was also active in numerous civic endeavors at the time of his death in an accident on Nantucket Island.

Entries for the annual Worth Bingham Prize may involve state, local, or national government; lobbyists; or the press itself — wherever exists that “atmosphere of easy tolerance” that Worth Bingham himself once described in his reporting on the nation’s capital. The investigative reporting may cover actual violations of the law; lax or ineffective administration or enforcement; or activities creating conflicts of interest, excessive secrecy, or questions of propriety.

Established in 1938, the Nieman program is the oldest midcareer fellowship for journalists in the world. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise for a year of study at the University. More than 1,200 journalists from 88 countries have studied at Harvard as Nieman Fellows.