December 7, 2023

People Column


Max Seddon, an OPC member who serves as the Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times and won the 2012 Stan Swinton Internship, has continued to cover the Russian invasion of Ukraine, recently with a piece on April 15 about Natalia Sindeyeva, the founder of TV Rain (or Dozhd), and how it grew over more than a decade from a lifestyle broadcaster to an independent news channel and a focal point of Russian dissent. Speaking from exile in Istanbul, she told Seddon that she hopes to return to Russia, and discussed her goal to bring back the news channel that shuttered amid fears that they could be prosecuted for violating “fake news” laws. “I had no idea I had so much endurance and courage inside me. I got to know myself better — I’d never been in a position for that to come through. That’s why I’m not scared of anything,” she said. Seddon has been with the Financial Times for about six years, and became Moscow bureau chief about six months ago. He recently spoke with OPC Past President William J. Holstein and John Daniszewski of The Associated Press for an interview about his experience covering the war that will be broadcast during the OPC Foundation’s Scholar Awards program on May 11. See our Upcoming Events section above for more details.

Jonathan Richard Jones, the winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory of I.F. Stone in 2009, along with his team from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, won an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award for their 2021 production of “Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe.” The seven-part series investigates the 2008 suspicious death of Billey Joe Johnson Jr., a 17-year-old Black high school student in Lucedale, Mississippi.

Sarah Garland, the Theo Wilson Scholarship winner in 2004, has been named a new assistant editor for Metro at The New York Times. She will oversee the Times’ coverage of education, health care, housing and homelessness. Most recently Sarah was the executive editor of the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit education news outlet. Before joining them in 2010, she worked for Newsweek International and The New York Sun. She is the author of Divided We Fall and Gangs in Garden City.


OPC Governor Marina Guevara Walker, who was the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2005, was among those who took first place in this year’s Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) Awards in the Energy/Resources category in Large Division for a collaboration of NBC News Investigations, The New York Times and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for “Rainforest Destruction: The Supply Chains To U.S. Consumers.”

Jeff Horvitz, the Fred Wiegl Scholarship winner in 2009, and Georgia Wells, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2012, and their team from The Wall Street Journal added a SABEW to their list of prizes for “The Facebook Files.” They won the Investigative, Large Category. Wells also received an honorable mention in the Video category for the Journal’s “How TikTok’s Algorithm Figures Out Your Deepest Desires.” Aaron Clark, the 2007 Roy Rowan Scholarship winner, and his colleagues from Bloomberg won the International Reporting prize for “Methane Emissions.” In that same category, Eva Dou, winner of the S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting in 2012, and The Washington Post received an honorable mention for “Inside Huawei.” In the Technology category, Garance Burke, the Freedman winner in 2004, and her Associated Press colleagues received an honorable mention for “How AI-powered tech landed man in jail, with scant evidence.”


The New York Times has announced that Farnaz Fassihi, an OPC Governor and award-winning foreign correspondent, will serve as the paper’s next United Nations bureau chief, while continuing to help with coverage of Iran. A Times announcement on April 5 recounted Fassihi’s early career with the paper, when an earthquake struck Iran while she was attending college in Tehran. The Times sent a reporter, Phil Shenon, from Washington to cover the story and a professor recommended he hire Farnaz as a fixer because of her fluent English. She spent the next few weeks working for the Times. “She had all the instincts of a fine journalist at the age of 19. And she was brave and willing to take risks,” Shenon said. Their collaboration was a revelation for Farnaz. “I knew by the end of the first day that I had found my calling in life and wanted to be a journalist,” she said.

OPC member Sewell Chan, who serves as the editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, graduated on April from the Executive Program in News Leadership and Innovation at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He said in a Facebook post that the program taught him business strategy, digital product development, finance, data and audience engagement – all areas he will need in his new post at the Tribune. Chan previously worked at the Los Angeles Times overseeing opinion pages.

OPC member David Hume Kennerly wrote an essay with photos for The New York Times opinion section on April 16 discussing his experience seeing images of violence in Bucha, Ukraine. He likened the images to his memories of covering the aftermath of mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. Kennerly had been one of the first photographers on the scene and saw the bodies of colleagues and more than 900 other people at the jungle compound. He said photographs taken in Ukraine, as with images of Jonestown and the Vietnam War, have the power to “make us confront horror.” Images of atrocities in Ukraine, he wrote, were “taken by trusted photojournalists. They are the truth, and a record of the mendacity and brutality of the Russian military. As accusations of war crimes mount, these photos are the documentation the world needs to finally understand what is really happening in Ukraine.” Kennerly won the OPC’s 1985 Olivier Rebbot Award for images of a meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva, a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his images of the Vietnam War, among many others, and was the chief White House photographer for President Gerald Ford. A link to Kennerly’s essay follows. Be warned that the piece contains images of graphic violence from Jonestown, Ukraine, the Vietnam War, and World War II. Read the piece here.

Daniel Berehulak, an award-winning photojournalist and OPC member, has continued to cover the Russian invasion of Ukraine for The New York Times, recently with a series of photographs that accompanied a long-form piece on April 11 about the city of Bucha, written by colleague Carlotta Gall, that reported as Russian troops stalled in its advance against Kyiv, the military waged a month of “terror and revenge” against civilians nearby. Berehulak took all of the photographs for the piece, which depict horrific scenes of death and violence, with bodies abandoned in the aftermath of atrocities, leaving a “landscape of horrors.” Berehulak won two OPC awards for his work in the Times, the 2015 Feature Photography Award for covering an earthquake in Nepal, and the 2016 Olivier Rebbot Award for a series capturing the human cost of the Philippine drug war. He also won the OPC’s 2010 John Faber Award for photographs of floods in Pakistan for Getty Images.

OPC member Sofia Barbarani wrote a piece for the Independent on March 29 covering the growing concern from Italian charities about the threat of child trafficking as Ukrainian refugees flee to new homes across Europe, including tens of thousands of children arriving in Italy alone. Barbarani covers Italy and wider Europe for the Independent and other outlets and has previously covered Iraq, Kurdistan, and northeast Syria.

OPC member Jim Bitterman reported from France for CNN in the days before the French election on the role the Ukraine war could play in the outcome and aftermath. He said many voters were focused on news about the war, which could have suppressed turnout, with polls at the time showing about 90 percent of the French electorate saying they are worried about the war. He added that candidates were haunted by statements they made before the Russian invasion, with far-right candidate Eric Zemour supporting Vladimir Putin before the war and blaming the U.S. for provoking him, and far-left candidate Jean-luc Mélechon cautioning against vilifying Russia and calling them a partner. The election ended on April 24 with Emmanuel Macron taking more than 58 percent of the vote and becoming the first French leader to be reelected in 20 years.

Stephen Baker, a journalist and author who won the OPC’s 1992 Morton Frank Award for reporting on the rising auto industry in Mexico, is slated to publish a fiction crime thriller in May for Atmosphere Press titled Donkey Show. The book’s protagonist is a photojournalist who is attacked and on the run from a Mexican drug trafficker. Baker has worked as a journalist in many cities, including Paris, Mexico City, Caracas, Quito, Madrid, New York, and El Paso. He has written one other fiction book, The Boost, in 2014, and several non-fiction books that focus on technology.

Joseph Kahn, a former China correspondent who helmed the international desk of The New York Times, and then became managing editor, has been named as the paper’s next executive editor. Kahn was part of the Times team that won the OPC’s 2007 Whitman Bassow Award for reporting on environmental damage from in China’s rapid growth. He delivered the keynote address at the OPC’s Annual Awards Dinner in 2018, which can be seen here.