Award-Winning Veteran Correspondent to Deliver Keynote at OPC Scholar Luncheon

C.J. Chivers. Photo: Mick Chivers

by Jane Reilly

C.J. Chivers, Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The New York Times, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholar Awards Luncheon on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, at the Yale Club. The event begins with a reception at the club’s Rooftop Terrace at 11:30 a.m., followed by the luncheon in the Grand Ballroom which ends promptly at 2:00 p.m.

Bill Holstein, president of the OPC Foundation, said he was especially pleased to have Chivers headline the Foundation’s signature event. “C.J. Chivers represents the very best values and work ethic in the business and he has the awards to show it. He has long gone into very difficult situations to get the story.” He added, “we don’t encourage our young people to go anywhere near combat, but they will be inspired by Chris’ determination to be on the ground and tell stories in longform, a craft that was supposed to have disappeared in the era of social media.”

Chivers spent the vast portion of his 20-year career at the Times as a foreign correspondent focusing on conflict, human rights and the arms trade on assignments in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Chechnya, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. He also served as Moscow correspondent from June 2004 through 2007 and was the paper’s Moscow bureau chief in 2007 and 2008. He is now a long-form writer and investigative reporter who works for The New York Times Magazine and the paper’s investigations desk.

He won the OPC’s 2011 Hal Boyle Award for conflict reporting in Libya and Afghanistan, and the 2014 Best Investigative Reporting Award for his series “Secret Casualties” on U.S. soldiers’ exposure to chemical weapons. His magazine story “The Fighter” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. In 2009 he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for coverage from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chivers served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps in the Persian Gulf War and on peacekeeping duty during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

The luncheon will also feature the presentation of a combination of scholarships and fellowships to 16 graduate and undergraduate college students aspiring to become foreign correspondents. Holstein is especially pleased to announce the first award in the name of Richard Pyle, whose long and accomplished Associated Press career spanned the globe and a half-century of crisis, war, catastrophe and indelible moments in news reporting, including the Cuban missile crisis, the resignation of Richard Nixon, the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks and Desert Storm. He will be remembered most for his Vietnam War coverage over five critical years, the last half as chief of the news organization’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Saigon bureau.

Holstein noted, “I used to hang out with Richard at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan late in his career and then again in New York when he was transferred home. He was one of the all-time greats, spending nearly half a century chronicling the world’s toughest stories. Unlike a lot of burned-out wire service correspondents I’ve known, he was easy to approach and talk with. He was a gentleman and I regarded him as a friend.”

Holstein remains concerned with how the current economic model supporting international news will affect this generation of young journalists. “We think we are witnessing a decline in the number of young Americans who believe that becoming a foreign correspondent is a great and glorious cause. So we are increasingly playing the role of an institution that encourages young people to see the act of covering international stories as something that is valuable to themselves and to our democracy as a whole,” he said.

The 2019 winning recipients are from Brown University, Columbia University, Davidson College, Harvard University, Tufts University, University of California-Berkeley, University of London, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Yale University. “These young people inspire me every year because they want to travel down what I regard as the sacred path of bearing witness. They just want a chance. Our imperative is to help train them and keep them safe as they explore the world,” said Holstein.

Events for the 2018 winners will last three days starting on Thursday afternoon, when the Foundation will host two panels at Reuters for those award winners interested in either business journalism or television news. That evening, Reuters will host the traditional reception for current and past winners of OPC Foundation awards at the wire service’s Times Square headquarters. On Friday, besides addressing a distinguished audience of more than 200 luncheon guests at the Yale Club, the award winners will meet with Holstein and veteran international journalists in a pre-luncheon breakfast and with several foreign editors following the luncheon. For many, said Holstein, the opportunity to meet and observe prominent journalists in action is as valuable as any monetary awards.

For the fifth year in a row, on the Saturday after the luncheon, the OPC Foundation will offer a full day of risk assessment and situational training for the winners at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Frank Smyth, president and founder of Global Journalist Security, a hostile environment training firm based in Washington DC, will again lead the program. Those who participated in the past called the experience invaluable. “We have a responsibility to make sure our winners engage in the world’s stories in ways that keep them safe,” said Holstein. “We will continue to do what we can, as fiscal sponsors of the ACOS Alliance, to see that journalists throughout the world have the training and support they need to do their jobs as well and as securely as possible.”

Up to 12 of this year’s winners will receive fellowships to work in the foreign bureaus of the Foundation’s media partners, including the AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, GroundTruth Project and possibly the Los Angeles Times. The fellowships ensure that the awardees gain valuable experience and insight working with veteran editors and reporters. In 2018, the Foundation funded fellowships in bureaus across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. The Foundation picks up the cost of the airfare and one to two months living expenses for the winners.

Holstein is grateful to Bloomberg which again hosted the judging in December and to the dedicated panel of judges who chose the 2019 recipients: Allen Alter; Tom Contiliano of Bloomberg; John Daniszewski of the AP; Bob Dowling; Tim Ferguson; Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal; Allan Dodds Frank; Holstein; Adam Horvath of The Wall Street Journal; Caitlin Hu of CNN; Larry Martz; Marcy McGinnis; Kate McLeod; Maria Mercader of CBS News; Russell Midori of CBS News; Ellen Nimmons of the AP; Jim Pensiero; Charlie Sennott of the GroundTruth Project; Michael Serrill; Steve Swanson of the Bronx Botanical Garden; Ed Tobin of Reuters; and Karen Toulon of Bloomberg.

Luncheon tickets are $85 for OPC members and $150 for non-members. The Foundation encourages media and corporate support at its three levels of giving: Benefactors, $9,000; Patrons, $6,000; and Friends, $3,000. Tables seat 10. The reception begins at 11:30 a.m. on the Yale’s Club’s Roof Terrace followed by luncheon in the Grand Ballroom. The event ends promptly at 2:00 p.m. All proceeds benefit the OPC Foundation. For further information, contact Jane Reilly, the OPC Foundation’s executive director, at 201 819-2639 or: