July 14, 2020

People Column


Ed Ou, winner of the 2007 Dan Eldon Scholarship, won the Canadian Screen Award for cinematography with colleague Kitra Cahana for the documentary “Dancing Toward the Light” for CBC News. Ou is now a video journalist at NBC News. The documentary showed how young people use dance for healing and preventing depression in the isolated northern community of Nunavut, where suicide is alarmingly common. Ou also won this year’s David A. Andelman and Pamela Title Award along with his colleague, Aurora Almendral, for a program about President Duterte’s brutal drug war in the Philippines.

Tom Finn, the H.L Stevenson Fellowship winner in 2013, is back with Reuters, now covering FX in London. Tom previously worked for Reuters in the Qatar bureau. He was an OPC Foundation fellow in the Reuters bureau in Cairo and had previously worked for the Yemen Times.

Pete Vernon, the 2016 Theo Wilson Scholar, wrote an extensive profile of CNN’s Brian Stelter. Stelter hosts the media news show Reliable Sources and serves as the network’s senior media correspondent. Vernon wrote about Stelter’s sense of urgency and near-obsession about covering media in an era marked by constant media-bashing from President Trump. He quoted Stelter as saying the “coordinated campaign against journalism” did not start with the Trump administration, but “dates back decades. He just poured a huge amount of gasoline on the already burning fire.” Vernon is currently a CJR Delacorte Fellow.

Sam McNeil, Walter and Betsy Cronkite Scholarship winner in 2014, is changing positions within The Associated Press from Tunisia to the Beijing bureau. He worked in Beijing last summer and met 2017 Fritz Beebe Fellowship winner Yi-ling Liu, who was there on an OPC Foundation fellowship. McNeil, will now work with Dake Kang, 2016 Fritz Beebe winner, who started in the bureau earlier this year. McNeil had an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in the Cairo bureau.

After Sara Dadouch’s OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Istanbul, the 2016 Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner secured a full-time position with the news wire. She is now a correspondent in the Reuters bureau in Riyadh, alongside 2013 Roy Rowan Scholarship winner Stephen Kalin, who is the senior correspondent there.

2005 David Schweisberg winner Emily Steel and her colleagues at The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The Times shared the award this year with The New Yorker. Steel and her reporting partner Michael Schmidt wrote stories that brought down Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and exposed sexual harassment at Vice Media as part of a series that won the award. Steel told Recode that the power of the reporting on Fox News “wasn’t just a person who was accused of bad behavior at the top who was getting away with it, but it was this entire system and this entire culture that was really corrupt.”

2010 David Schweisberg winner Jenny Gross has been named a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in economics and business journalism for the 2018-2019 academic year at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.  Jenny is currently the U.K. politics correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in London, where she covers Brexit and national security. She previously freelanced from Johannesburg for the Associated Press and the WSJ.

The Foundation’s 2005 Emanuel Freedman winner, Marina Walker Guevara, and her colleagues Frederik Obermaier and Spencer Woodman from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists won the Polk Awards’ Financial Reporting Award for “The Paradise Papers,” which centers on a massive leak of financial documents that shed light on the shady realm of offshore finance.

OPC Governor David Furst, international photo editor for The New York Times, was named Newspaper Visual Editor of the Year in the 75th Annual Pictures of the Year International Competition. He also won second place in the Online News and Issue Story Editing category, and third place in Print Newspaper Visual Editing, as well as an “Award of Excellence” mention for Online Feature Story Editing. Adam Ferguson of the Times was named Photographer of the Year. The award for Newspaper Photographer of the Year went to Magnus Wennman of the Swedish paper Aftonbladet.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt has won an award for international reporting from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Walt’s piece, “Welcome to Tomorrow Land,” examines Estonia’s transformation into a high-tech vision of the future, with buzzing delivery drones, government services going online and access to the Internet declared as a basic human right. She wrote the piece for FORTUNE in April last year. The judges lauded the story’s contrasts “between showing how far Estonia has come from Soviet-era backwater with magnificent medieval architecture to rocketing straight into the future with specific, solid examples.”

Clare Baldwin, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato of Reuters have won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in International reporting for reportage that exposed the brutal killing campaign behind Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. The same reporting garnered the Reuters team this year’s inaugural Roy Rowan Award for best investigative work on an international story. Reuters also won the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for images of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.


OPC member David Ariosto has taken the helm as managing editor of the France-based digital media outlet Brut. Ariosto describes Brut as a “social-only international news company, akin to AJ+ or NowThis.” It currently has about 350 million viewers per month. In an article for Medium, the outlet credited its popularity to the use of engagement metrics to zero in on what its readers respond to most.

The Reuters news operation has received a $10 billion shot in the arm in the wake of Blackstone’s takeover of the Thompson Reuters financial terminal business. Part of the deal requires Blackstone to pay Reuters News $325 million a year for 30 years. The company’s lucrative terminal business has long been a financial stabilizer the Reuters News operation, which employs about 3,000 journalists in 200 locations around the world. But the deal raises questions about what will happen once the terminal business comes under Blackstone leadership. Thomson Reuters board members were divided about the deal, with chairman David Thompson pushing for a higher price. Felix Salmon of Recode wrote that Reuters News should use the money to “embark on a reinvention which will allow it to maintain its size and scope when the money runs out in 2048.”

A&E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc will step down to take a post as Vice Media’s next CEO. Dubuc will replace Vice co-founder Shane Smith, who is taking a new position as Executive Chairman to focus on strategic deals and content development. Dubuc said in a statement that “anyone who knows me well knows I am an entrepreneur, creator, rebel and disruptor at heart.” Dubuc takes the helm at a time when Vice is under fire following a spate of sexual harassment scandals, with a New York Times investigation in December turning up dozens of misconduct complaints from women. Vice president Andrew Creighton has been on leave while the board looks into a $135,000 settlement involving a former employee’s sexual harassment allegations. Its chief digital officer, Mike Germano, was sacked in January following sexual harassment allegations against him. Dubuc is slated to leave A&E on April 16.

NEW YORK: PBS NewsHour has named Judy Woodruff as sole anchor of its nightly newscast. The announcement comes nearly 18 months after her co-anchor, Gwen Ifill, died. Woodruff has anchored the show since 2011, joining forces with Ifill as co-anchor and managing editors in 2013. She previously worked as anchor for NBC and CNN.

OPC member and Foundation board member Nick Schifrin is joining the expanding PBS NewsHour team as full-time foreign affairs and defense correspondent this spring. For the last two years, he has been a PBS NewsHour special correspondent, creating weeklong series from Russia, Eastern Europe, Kenya, Nigeria, and other countries. Since last summer, he has reported on foreign affairs from Washington, D.C., with a focus on Russia, North Korea and the Middle East. Prior to working at NewsHour, Schifrin was Al Jazeera America’s Middle East correspondent, based in Jerusalem. Before that, he was a correspondent for ABC News. He was the network’s Afghanistan-Pakistan correspondent from 2008 to 2012. In 2011, he was one of the first journalists to arrive in Abbottabad, Pakistan after Osama bin Laden’s death and delivered one of the year’s biggest exclusives: the first video from inside bin Laden’s compound. Amna Nawaz, formerly a reporter for NBC and a digital anchor for ABC, will also join PBS NewsHour as correspondent and fill-in anchor.

OPC Governor Rukmini Callimachi is slated to host a New York Times miniseries podcast focused on the rise of the Islamic State, the fall of Mosul and the ongoing efforts to fight the organization. “Caliphate” will follow the format of Serial and S-Town, with a limited run of episodes. The podcast was announced at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas on March 10. The Times plans to experiment with giving subscribers early access to episodes. This marks the Times’ first foray into narrative documentary storytelling.

OPC member Kim Murphy has joined the national desk at The New York Times. Murphy, who served as a head judge in this year’s OPC awards, will serve as deputy national enterprise editor at the Times. She previously worked as a senior editor at the Los Angeles Times, as assistant managing editor, foreign and national news, overseeing all the paper’s foreign coverage. Murphy won a Pulitzer for international reporting in 2005 for her coverage of Russia.

The New York Times has announced that OPC Secretary Liam Stack will serve as part of the new politics reporting team for 2018. A Times release about the move described Stack as “an imaginative reporter who covers social and political issues on Express and spent years covering the Arab Spring and the Middle East.” He is among a total of 13 reporters and three editors named as part of this year’s politics team. Stack joined the Times as a Cairo-based reporter in 2011.

OPC Treasurer Abigail Pesta has announced in April that she is writing a book about the young gymnasts who teamed up to take down serial predator Larry Nassar, the Olympic doctor who got away with sexually abusing hundreds of girls over decades. The Team is slated for publication by Hachette (Seal Press) in 2019. Pesta covered the story for Cosmopolitan. She told Publishers Weekly that she had been one of the first journalists to write about the subject for a national publication.

At an Online News Association gathering on May 11, OPC member and former Governor Daniel Sieberg delivered the closing keynote on business models based on blockchain technology as a road to sustainable journalism. Blockchain powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and also systems like Ethereum for monetizing news content. Sieberg is co-founder of a platform called Civil that uses blockchain technology.

OPC members Mort Rosenblum, Alexis Okeowo and Jon Sawyer participated in a day-long symposium on peace, conflict and the media in New York on April 11. The organization War Stories Peace Stories hosted the program, which included panels on a range of topics. Rosenblum, a reporter and professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, moderated a panel on how reporting frames our understanding of violent conflict. Okeowo recently released her debut book, A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism In Africa. She discussed the book with Robert J. Rosenthal, a journalist and executive producer at The Center for Investigative Reporting. Sawyer, who works for the Pulitzer Center, joined four other panelists to discuss how their organizations are re-thinking conflict reporting and seeking new ways to cover crises.

OPC member Cassandra Vinograd was one of three winners of the “Pitching for Peace” grant competition, for her project on grassroots peacemakers in Africa’s Great Lakes region. She and the other winners were invited to present their projects at April’s “War Stories, Peace Stories Symposium.” Vinograd also was a panelist at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, discussing gender and foreign correspondents.

Separately, Mort Rosenblum was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the University of Arizona’s journalism school for his work as a foreign correspondent, author and teacher that “exemplifies the highest of professional achievements in journalism.” He embarked on his first assignment as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press in 1967, and over a career spanning 40 years covered 200 countries, including stints as bureau chief in the Congo, Nigeria, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Buenos Aires and Paris.

OPC Governor Anjali Kamat has received coverage and plaudits for her year-long investigation into President Trump’s business deals in India. Her story, titled “Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal,” was published as a cover story in the New Republic and aired in two parts on the podcast “Trump, Inc.,” a coproduction of WNYC and ProPublica. Her reporting was supported by The Investigative Fund. The report delved into five active projects that the Trump organization has in India that are worth an estimated $1.5 billion. She found that the organization’s India partners faced a long list of lawsuits, police inquiries and government investigations, with evidence of fraud, intimidation, money laundering, tax evasion and illegal land acquisition. The report also outlined a list of conflicts of interest, including Donald Trump Jr.’s repeated trips India to promote real estate projects during his father’s presidency and offer access to the president’s son. Terry Gross interviewed Kamat on NPR’s Fresh Air along with the podcast cohost co-hosted by Andrea Bernstein. She also talked about the project on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.

OPC Governor Lara Setrakian spoke at the formal launch of a new initiative devoted to changing newsroom culture surrounding sexual harassment on March 13. Setrakian is co-founder of Press Forward, which announced its advisory board at the event. She is one of the women who accused political journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment. Setrakian called the organization a network for women who have endured “creepy and abusive behavior” in the news industry. The board includes Jake Tapper and Alisyn Camerota of CNN, Judy Woodruff of PBS and former ABC News anchor Ted Koppel. Setrakian is the chief executive officer, co-founder and executive editor of the digital media company News Deeply.

John Moore, OPC member and multiple winner of OPC photography awards, was work featured in a New York Times piece The retrospective on March 25. The piece, titled “Where Fear and Hope Collide: Images From Mexican Border, and Beyond,” looked back at a decade of his coverage of the Mexican border and included 17 photographs that illuminated many angles of the issue. Azam Ahmed, the Times bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, wrote that Moore captures “intimate portraits of both migrants and border officers who square off on either side,” and that his images provide depth and context. “For Mr. Moore, immigration begins and ends well beyond the physical border — a line where fear and hope collide to shape American politics.” Moore won the OPC John Faber Award in 1997 for images of refugees from Zaire for The Associated Press, and won the 2007 Robert Capa Award for images of the assassination of then-Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

OPC Governor Azmat Khan spoke on a panel hosted by ELLE.com with female journalists working to champion women’s rights. Khan, an investigative reporter with New America, talked about a bygone era when unions demanded that companies make salary databases available, which she once used to negotiate pay that was on par with a male colleague. “With a decline in unions, this history of salary transparency has really gone down the drain,” she said. The conversation covered a range of professional topics, from the #metoo movement and sexual harassment to the future of the women’s movement. Also speaking on the panel was Emily Steel, business reporter at the New York Times who won the OPC Foundation’s David R. Schweisberg Memorial Scholarship in 2005, and co-wrote the New York Times story that led to the ouster of longtime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, and Brooke Baldwin, CNN anchor and creator of CNN’s American Woman series.

OPC member Ceylan Yeginsu wrote a story for The New York Times in May covering a firestorm sparked by a single tweet from the country’s national account: Swedish meatballs originally came from Turkey. “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century,” the tweet said. “Let’s stick to the facts!” The confession caused some sparring between Turks and Swedes over social media. Yeginsu asked what this revelation might mean for Ikea, which serves two million meatballs daily around the world.

PRINCETON, NJ: OPC Governor Christopher Dickey spoke at Salon on Stockton: A Little Literary Festival in Princeton on April 13. The Paris-based foreign editor for The Daily Beast will talk about his book, Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South, which follows the story of UK diplomat and spy Robert Bunch, who lived a double life during the run up to the America Civil War, and warned the UK against supporting the Confederacy on fears it would lead to a massive increase in slaves Africa.

SYRIA: OPC Governor Rod Nordland wrote a dispatch about his travels to Ainissa in remote northern Syria in February to report on the war for The New York Times. He discussed challenges familiar to many foreign correspondents — navigating bureaucracies and sheaves of paperwork under the Syrian Democratic Forces. “As anyone who has worked in Syria knows, paperwork is an obsession here,” Nordland wrote, adding that the obsession was apparently inherited from the time when Bashir al-Assad’s regime still ruled the region. Nordland wrote several pieces on the war in Syria and conflict with Turkey and ISIS from Kurdish-controlled areas. He is international correspondent at large and Kabul bureau chief at the Times.

BEIJING: Author and OPC member Lenora Chu spoke at events during the 2018 Bookworm Literary Festival in Beijing in early March. Chu served on a panel about gender issues in China and the impact of global movements such as #metoo and calls for pay equality. At a separate event she discussed her book, Little Soldiers, which investigates China’s state-run school system, institutionalized bribery, a deep urban-rural divide and its roots in ancient Confucianism and Communist dogma. Harper Collins published the book in September last year. The Bookworm Literary Festival included panels, talks and events from March 8 to March 25.

KABUL: OPC member and freelance photojournalist Jim Huylebroek had several photographs taken in Kabul featured in a New York Times piece on March 19. The photos accompanied a piece titled “The Story of an Afghan Baby Named Donald Trump” by Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed, which profiles a rural Afghan family who named their son after then-candidate Trump in admiration for the tycoon and in hopes it would bring fortune to their son. But the family was kicked out of their village and had to move to Kabul because of their choice to use a non-Muslim name.

WASHINTON, DC: Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C. that is helmed by OPC Governor Molly Bingham, released a multimedia report in mid-March about micro plastic particles found in global bottled water brands. The project, titled “Plus Plastic,” showed that a single bottle can hold dozens or possibly even thousands of microscopic plastic particles. Tests of more than 250 bottles from 11 brands reveled a global average of more than 10 particles per liter that could be confirmed as plastic, and more than 300 smaller particles that researchers said was “likely plastic.” The online project includes text, audio and data visualization components. The Orb Media Network is slated to publish five more projects this year.

OPC member Neeta Satam wrote a provocative piece for the online publishing platform Medium on the challenges of combatting colonialism and sensationalism in photojournalism. Satam, a documentary photographer and student at the University of Missouri, wrote about a Kashmiri documentarian’s frustration with foreign correspondents who parachute into conflict zones to capture dramatic scenes of war without deeper cultural and historical perspective. She also write about a controversy last year surrounding award-winning photographer Souvid Datta, who garnered a prestigious College Photographer of the Year award but later admitted to plagiarism and manipulating images. Satam wondered if Datta “consciously manipulate[d] his stories so that they would conform to a Eurocentric perspective to gain validation in the Western world?” She calls for discussions about ethics in photojournalism to focus more on problematic issues of representation.


Former Washington Post reporter and author William Prochnau died on March 28 at the age of 80. Prochnau was a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, where his article “Adventures in the Ransom Trade” became the basis of the movie Proof of Life in 2000. Prochnau had stated that he was most proud of his reporting from Vietnam for The Seattle Times in the mid-60s. In the 1980’s, Prochnau left reporting to focus on working as a full-time author. His last article for Vanity Fair took 15 years to write and was published in this year’s February issue. In addition to his wife, Ms. Parker, he is survived by his wife, Laura Parker, a staff writer for National Geographic magazine, as well as two daughters from his first marriage, Monica Bradley and Jennifer McMaster; his brother John; three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. A daughter from his first marriage, Anna, died in 2015.

Joan Konner, former dean of Columbia Journalism School and award-winning broadcaster, passed away on April 18 in Manhattan at the age of 87 after a long battle with leukemia. Konner graduated from Columbia’s journalism school in 1961, later producing documentaries at NBC ten becoming executive producer for New York’s public broadcasting station WNET/Thirteen, where she also served as executive producer of “Bill Moyers Journal,” and then as president and executive producer of Moyers’ production company, Public Affairs Television. Konner was the first woman to helm Columbia’s journalism graduate school when she became dean in 1988. She stepped down in 1997, and continued as publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review until 2000. Longtime OPC member Yvonne Dunleavy recalled that Konner and her husband, Al Perlmutter – and “their adored dog Bliss” – had been summer tenants of theirs on multiple occasions.

Following news of the death of Anna Chennault, a war correspondent and Chinese-born Republican fund-raiser and anti-Communist lobbyist, longtime OPC member Jonathan Kapstein remembered that Chennault was often seen at the OPC when the club was at the brownstone on Bryant Park South. Chennault died on March 30 at her home at the Watergate complex in Washington, DC at age 94. She was a high-profile presence in Washington circles and served as an unofficial diplomat under the presidency Ronald Reagan. Her husband, Claire L. Chennault, was the leader of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Her memoir photos show Chennault posing alongside Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford; as well as J. Edgar Hoover, and General William C. Westmoreland. Kapstein remembered that Chennault was a “good conversationalist but an impatient one. Always on the lookout for a political opening.”