January 18, 2020

Event Coverage Highlight

Blumenstein Tells OPC Foundation Scholars Foreign Reporting Is Crucial for Modern News

Photo: Michael Dames

By Chad Bouchard

On Feb. 24, Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy managing editor of The New York Times, told a capacity crowd at the OPC Foundation Scholar Awards Luncheon that foreign correspondents play a crucial role in the future of journalism.

“It’s not a secret that major news organizations are looking closely at the cost of foreign correspondents, and in some cases have cut back. But I believe that foreign reporting is what will distinguish modern news organizations,” she said.

Until recently, Blumenstein had been deputy editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. She was the highest-ranking woman to lead the paper’s news organization. In her 22 years at the Journal, she also served as page-one editor, deputy managing editor, international editor and China bureau chief, where she and her team won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2007.

OPC Foundation President Bill Holstein, in his introductory remarks, underscored the urgent need for a new generation of international journalists.

“Not only must we contend with an increasingly hostile international environment that’s dangerous for all journalists, but we also are facing a new administration that is attacking the very foundations of our legitimacy as journalists. Today, here, we are fighting for our values by identifying the next generation of correspondents.”

The list of recipients included 15 graduate and undergraduate students aspiring to become foreign correspondents, with scholars from City University of New York, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, New York University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Florida, University of Missouri, University of Texas at Austin and Yale.

The scholars’ acceptance speeches this year highlighted sources of inspiration as well as the dangers of international reporting. The luncheon was part of a three-day event that also included a welcome reception hosted by Reuters, career panels and breakfast, and a day of situational awareness/risk management training for journalists.

H.L Stevenson Fellowship winner Tik Root, who spent two weeks incarcerated in Damascus, wrote about a family in Yemen torn apart by al-Qaida, a story he said “introduced me to the idea of storytelling in reporting and what the power of human subjects can do to explain very complex ideas of tribalism, terrorism and politics,” he said. Root has an OPC Foundation fellowship in The Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem.

Sarah Dadouch, who grew up in Syria, received the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship for an essay about the plight of refugees escaping Aleppo.

“I never thought I could be a journalist because real journalism doesn’t exist in my country,” she said. “But hope is a really powerful thing.”

She graduated from UC Berkely and worked in Istanbul and as a fixer near the Syrian border for several U.S. clients. She’ll return to Istanbul on an OPC Foundation fellowship for Reuters.
Theo Wilson Scholarship winner Uliana Pavlova wrote about Yazidi girls in northern Iraq who survived sexual slavery.

“We live in an era where each person in the world is connected with another by an invisible thread of stories. I want to make it my job to tell the untold stories of the world in all their depth and complexity,” she said.

The Roy Rowan Scholarship went to Joseph Ataman, a British Flubright scholar who wrote about migrant children from the Middle East. Ataman recounted his reporting on a 13-year-old Eritrean migrant child who made his way across the Mediterranean in a rickety boat. Ataman has an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in Istanbul.

Marc Rowan presented the scholarship on behalf of his father, a former OPC president who died in September last year. He announced that the Rowan family would increase its contribution and the amount of the scholarship.

“If there ever was a time when the media is needed, it’s today. We live in a very fast-moving, fragile world. The truth is needed, and needed now,” he said.

He closed with advice from his father: “Report right, write short and live long.”