Nathan Payne, executive editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle in Michigan, has been selected for an academic year of study at Harvard University under the Nieman Foundation Fellowship program .
Payne received the new Abrams Nieman Fellowship for community journalists with interest in pursuing fact-based local and regional public service investigative journalism.
The fellowship is funded by a grant from the Boston-based Abrams Foundation, which invests in journalism initiatives that serve the public welfare and preserve a healthy democracy.
In addition to enriching his journalism skills at Harvard, Payne will pursue a public service project in his home region for up to nine months after his academic year ends. He plans to explore public perceptions of local data-driven investigative journalism, with a focus on mental health policies.
More than 1,500 promising and accomplished journalists from 96 countries have spent a year of study, innovation and experimentation at Harvard as Nieman Fellows since the program began in 1938.
Ann Marie Lipinski, Nieman Foundation curator, has stated the purpose of the Abrams extended fellowship is to invest in smaller market journalists as “important assets to their communities and give them the tools to report the issues that may otherwise go uncovered.”
Payne has been the editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle since August of 2015 after two years as the paper’s features editor. The Record-Eagle recently won the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists for disclosing inequities in the local criminal justice system’s prosecution and sentencing of black drug defendants.
In addition to serving as the editor of The Record-Eagle, Payne was appointed in January as a regional editor for the CNHI newspaper group to work with the company's local editors in Minnesota and Iowa. Earlier in his career, Payne was a photographer, photo editor and city editor at the Gillette, Wyoming, News Record. He is a journalism graduate of Central Michigan University.
Donna Barrett, president and CEO of CNHI, parent company of The Record-Eagle, expressed delight with Payne’s selection for the Nieman Fellowship.
“We are exceptionally proud of Nate’s selection for the premier program for midcareer professional journalists,” said Barrett. “Nate has shown the talent, resourcefulness and initiative to produce significant journalism at the local level. His year at Harvard and the follow-up public service project will doubtless lead to ever greater achievements.”
Bill Ketter, CNHI’s senior vice president of news, said Payne will learn from and contribute to the Nieman program, which brings together top journalists from around the world in a fellowship of common interest to discuss the ways and means of great journalism.
“Nate is a journalist who thrives on challenge,” said Ketter. “He’s at the fore of young editors embracing and using the rapidly changing technology of journalism to get at the wholeness of the news, including the hidden dimensions.”
Payne is the second CNHI journalist to be selected for a Nieman Fellowship in a half-dozen years. David Joyner, executive editor of The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts, was a member of the 2012 Nieman class at Harvard.
Headquarter in Montgomery, Alabama, CNHI is a leading U.S. local news company, with newspapers, websites, mobile sites, magazines and niche publications in more than 100 communities in 22 states. The company is owned by Raycom Media Inc., which operates 65 television stations in 20 states.