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What great news it was to learn (May 3) that Rob Chaney of the Missoulian has been awarded a Nieman Fellowship for Professional Journalists to Harvard University for the school year 2019-2020.

As the first journalist in Montana to become a Nieman Fellow myself, way back in 1975-76, I both congratulate Chaney and wish him well on his year of study in Cambridge — which I’m sure will be for him, as it was for me, a life-changing event. In fact, I was on the phone with Chaney the morning of the announcement to let him know how proud we all are of him because those of us who have observed his work for some time had hoped he would achieve this great honor.

At the same time, however, I must note for the record that the story in the Missoulian announcing Chaney's selection contained one factual error and one glaring omission (neither his fault, by the way) — both involving the listing of the handful of journalists working in Montana who have won Nieman Fellowships.

First, your report listed me and Jody Rave as Missoulian staffers named as Nieman Fellows when in fact that is not true. Rave, a fine reporter, was not a Montana journalist when selected for her Nieman. She was working on a newspaper outside Montana and came to the Missoulian for her short stint there only after she had spent her year at Harvard; she was not a “Montana” Nieman Fellow.

In fact, there are only five of us such creatures: myself, followed by Frank Adams of the Great Falls Tribune (whose name you failed to include in your story), my good friend Bert Lindler of the Great Falls Tribune (now living in Missoula), and Carol Bradley of the Great Falls Tribune — plus, now, Rob Chaney of the Missoulian.

In addition to these five, however, it is worth noting that two other writers with strong Montana ties won Nieman Fellowships while working out-of-state and ultimately made their major working base in Montana: A.B. “Bud” Guthrie way back in 1937 and John Maclean, both of whom are writers of considerable accomplishment and prestige, and with whom I enjoyed both a personal and professional relationship.

All of us cherish our “ties” with each other through that Harvard experience as friends and colleagues, and — if you will — writers embedded in a special “fellowship” that transcends time and place. The Nieman Foundation has a saying that “There are no former Nieman Fellows — once so designated, you are forever a Nieman Fellow.” And now we salute the latest Montana addition to that group.

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Dale A. Burk of Stevensville was the first journalist in Montana to become a Nieman Fellow (1975-76). He was a Missoulian staff member at the time. 

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