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Member Spotlight - Yankee Quill Recipient Robert Giles
52nd Annual Yankee Quill Awards
Robert Giles, Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
At Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, the mission is to expand the knowledge base of mid-career journalists from the United States and abroad. During Bob Giles’ 11 years as foundation curator, the emphasis went well beyond that to redefining the news business in an age of media transformation.
That Bob Giles managed to refocus and advance one of America’s foremost journalism fellowship study programs is no surprise. He’s been a mover and shaker in the news industry for more than four decades – as reporter, editor, publisher and academic leader.
Under his guidance, the Nieman Foundation enlarged its outreach to the larger world of journalism in New England and elsewhere by establishing the:
Nieman Journalism Lab to help ensure quality journalism thrives in the digital era.
Nieman Narrative Journalism Program to improve the way we tell stories. Nieman Watchdog Reporting Project to encourage the press to fulfill its obligation to hold accountable our public and private institutions – and the people who run them.
And that’s only a sampling of his achievements at Harvard. He also served as publisher of the Nieman Reports, a quarterly magazine of commentary and criticism about the news media; expanded the Nieman Foundation’s headquarters, Walter Lippmann House, to include a seminar room and library, and connected the Nieman program and its fellows to the multimedia strategies and tools necessary to inform today’s dot.com world.
Giles was born in Cleveland and graduated from DePauw University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. After service in the U.S. Army, he joined the staff of the Akron Beacon Journal, working his way up from reporter to executive editor and becoming a Nieman Fellow in the process. In 1970, he directed coverage of the Kent State University shootings for which his newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize.
In 1977, Giles became the executive editor and later editor of the Democrat & Chronicle and the Times-Union in Rochester, N.Y. He moved to the Detroit News in 1986, serving first as executive editor and later as editor and publisher during a tumultuous period in that city’s newspaper history. Again, his paper was honored for its exemplary journalism with a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.
Giles retired from the Detroit News in 1997 and joined the Freedom Forum to direct its Media Studies Center, including an extensive examination of fairness in the news media. He was appointed curator of the Nieman Foundation in 2000. And today he serves as commentary editor for GlobalPost, an international online news organization based in Boston.
His honors are many. He has received national recognition for his service in the cause of the First Amendment, for his contributions to newsroom management and for his commitment to journalism education. This year he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He’s also served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Associated Press Managing Editors and the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism. He is currently a member of the advisory board of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and the Publisher’s Advisory Board of Stars and Stripes.
His wife, Nancy, is a psychologist and a specialist in trauma. They have three children: David is deputy general counsel for E. W. Scripps Co. in Cincinnati; Rob, who lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife and two daughters, is senior attorney for the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse; and Megan, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with her husband, a Ford Motor Co. executive, and their two children.
-- William Ketter Academy of New England Journalists