April 16, 2024

People Column


Krithika Varagur, the winner of the Sally Jacobsen Fellowship in 2019, had a piece published in Harper’s Magazine in August that involved a year of reporting from Nigeria. The article, titled “Love in the Time of Sickle Cell Disease,” follows the story of “what happens when you fall in love, but your genes are incompatible.” Varagur has recently returned to foreign correspondence after a stint working as senior speechwriter at the communications firm Fenway. She previously covered Southeast and South Asia for The Washington Post and The Guardian, among others, was a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and wrote The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project, which she spoke about during an OPC book night in May 2020 that was moderated by Christopher Dickey.

Serginho Roosblad, the 2017 winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in Memory of I.F. Stone, and his colleagues at The Associated Press and FRONTLINE, won a 2023 Online Journalism Award for “How Russia is Smuggling Ukrainian Grain to Pay for Putin’s War.” The team won in the category of Digital Video Storytelling, Medium Form, Large Newsroom. Roosblad is a video producer for the AP Global Investigations team.


The Sperber Book Prize, which OPC Governor Beth Knobel directs, has published a second season of its podcast about journalism. The prize is administered by Fordham University and honors biographies, autobiographies and memoirs by those involved in journalism. Recently published authors speaking in Season 2 include former New York Times public editor and Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, former CNN tech reporter Laurie Segall, Catholic University of America dean Vincent Kiernan, and journalist Steven V. Roberts speaking about his wife, NPR and ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts. The first episode features author Elizabeth Becker, winner of the 2022 Sperber Prize and guest at an OPC Book Night in 2021, speaking about how three women changed reporting of the war in Vietnam and her book You Don’t Belong Here. More on the award is at sperberprize.com.

On Aug. 4, OPC Governor Deborah Amos spoke on a “World Review” panel hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs about international news including peace negotiations in the Middle East, elections in Pakistan, and updates on the war in Ukraine. Amos, who stepped down from NPR earlier this year after a 35-year career at the network and currently serves as professor of journalism at Princeton University, said the negotiations hinge on Saudi Arabia, which has a back-channel relationships with both the U.S. and Israel. “We haven’t seen anything this high profile since the Camp Davids accords, and there’s lots at stake,” she said. Amos outlined what the parties want, including Saudi Arabia’s desire for protection from Iran, help from the U.S. on a civil nuclear power program, and gains of some kind for Palestinians. “If this deal works, it’s a windfall for the Israelis. It would be the biggest breakthrough in 40 years. It would solidify the legacy of Benjamin Netanyahu.”

The New York Times Book Review will include OPC member Andrew Nagorski’s latest book, Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, in its Paperback Row section in the Aug. 27 issue, calling the book a “thrilling” account of Freud’s last minute escape from Vienna. Saving Freud was published in August 2022, and received positive reviews. The Wall Street Journal called it “a psychobiographical thriller about the limits of genius;” and The Sunday Times (London) called it “astonishing,” noting that “in the American journalist Andrew Nagorski this tale has found its ideal narrator.” After its release in paperback this month, the same newspaper hailed it as a Best Paperback of 2023. The Guardian wrote that the book is “thrilling…as edge-of-your seat gripping as any heist movie.” Seth MacFarlane’s Fuzzy Door Productions has now optioned the film rights.

Anand Gopal, a four-time OPC Award winner and a club member who is currently a writer for The New Yorker magazine, is slated to deliver a lecture at Town Hall Seattle in February next year on “the rise and fall of American democracy in the context of historical thinking about what makes democracies flourish.” The talk on Feb 28 is part of a free public lecture series sponsored by the University of Washington. Gopal is a professor at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University, and the author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, which won the Ridenhour Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Award.

OPC member Kang-Chun Cheng, a photojournalist based in Nairobi, Kenya, filed a piece for Grist on Aug. 23 uncovering widespread environmental and public health problems stemming from pesticides used in a United Nations-led attack against locusts. Cheng spoke with farmers who were not aware that the FAO and other humanitarian groups had procured pesticides that were either already banned in the U.S. and Europe or soon would be. Long-term exposure to the chemicals distributed in that program have been “linked to cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders, and infertility in men,” Cheng wrote.

OPC member and investigative journalist Steve Stecklow co-wrote a special report for Reuters on July 27 alleging that Tesla had a secret scheme to rig dashboard readouts on how far owners could drive before needing to recharge, and suppress complaints about the issue. The piece, written with colleague Norihiko Shirouzu, included reports from Tesla employees who had been instructed to thwart customers complaining about poor driving range, revealing that last summer a “Diversion Team” in Las Vegas was created to cancel as many range-related appointments as possible.

Jacqueline Charles, a member of the Miami Herald team that won this year’s Kim Wall Award, was named winner of the 2023 ICFJ Excellence in International Reporting Award. Charles, the paper’s correspondent for Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean, is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Emmy Award-winner, and recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for coverage of the Americas. Charles spoke on an OPC panel on Jan. 16 along with other editors and correspondents about the challenges of covering Haiti.

CBS News announced on Aug. 14 that Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, a past OPC Governor, is the news operation’s new president. Ciprian-Matthews will oversee CBS News’ content across all platforms, including broadcast, streaming, digital and radio. She will also head global newsgathering, bureaus, standards and practices, special events, politics, elections and surveys, social as well as the race and culture unit.