April 12, 2021

People Column

SCHOLARS
Neha Thirani Bagri, winner of the 2016 Jerry Flint Scholarship for International Business Reporting, landed a cover story in TIME magazine for the third week of August. She and a colleague wrote about how the deepening coronavirus crisis is reshaping India. A freelancer based in Mumbai, she had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The GroundTruth Project.

For the New Humanitarian, William Martin III, 2020 Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship winner, contributed a report and film about the struggles of transgender migrants forced to wait in Mexico’s dangerous border cities, facing increased waiting time and risks due to the pandemic. Martin focuses on immigration policies and climate change. He recently received a fellowship with The GroundTruth Project to report on migration.

Kimon de Greef, 2020 David R. Schweisberg Scholarship winner, wrote a 5,000-word article on Aug. 24 for VICE magazine about the black market for white sage (Salvia apiana), an indigenous herb used traditionally by several Native American tribes.

Krithika Varagur, 2019 Sally Jacobsen Fellowship winner, wrote a piece for The Intercept on Aug. 25 about a paramedic in Minnesota who filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that police pressured him to use ketamine, a sedative, during an arrest. Varagur talked to the whistleblower, Joseph Baker, who said that the incident is part of a larger trend among law enforcement in using ketamine to “gain compliance” during arrests. The lawsuit also alleges falsification of EMS training credentials. Varagur has also been covering COVID-19 updates for the MIT Technology Review, recently filing six pieces in a series on coronavirus responses around the world, including Mongolia, Germany, Liberia, Sweden, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Georgia Wells, the 2012 Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner who is now a reporter for The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco tech bureau, is also a long-distance open water swimmer. Last Saturday, she swam the 12 miles across Lake Tahoe in approximately seven hours. She has completed several long-distance swims, including ones around Alcatraz, Washington’s Mercer Island, a 9.3-mile trek in the South China Sea, and 24-hour marathon relay races, among many others. Before her current position at the Journal, she was an editor for WSJ.com and covered emerging markets for the paper. She also freelanced in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution.

Kantaro Komiya, the 2020 Stan Swinton Fellowship winner, amassed a total of 42 byline stories during the 10 weeks of his remote internship with BarronsOnline this summer. He has an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press in Tokyo.
Tess Taylor, 2004 winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory of IF Stone, has been awarded the Andrews Forest Writing Residency for fall 2020. An accomplished poet, Taylor is the author of Work & Days, The Forage House and Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Review, the Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, the Times Literary Supplement, Memorious, New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker. She has chaired the poetry committee of the National Book Critics Circle and reviews poetry on-air for NPR’s All Things Considered.

J.p Lawrence, the 2015 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship winner, wrote a story on Aug. 12 from Kabul for Stars and Stripes saying Taliban negotiators are likely to reject proposals for the U.S. to establish a lasting counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan during upcoming peace talks with the government in Kabul, according to analysts. A report from the International Crisis Group said that “any remaining foreign presence is a nonstarter among Taliban members.” Lawrence had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press in Uganda, and joined Stars and Stripes in late 2017.

The OPC Foundation is well represented among the recipients of the The GroundTruth Project’s Global Migration, Refugees and Resettlement Reporting Fellowships. Thomas Nocera, the 2020 Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship winner, was the OPC Foundation’s GroundTruth Project fellow. Nocera did some work for GroundTruth this summer on its Democracy project. Also joining GroundTruth is William Martin III, the 2020 Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship winner. Most recently, he has been working with indigenous communities in Brazil to create a short documentary on the growing and sometimes violent conflict between the environment, those who protect it, and the exploitative economies poisoning it. Also among the new Migration fellows is Joseph Ataman, the 2017 Roy Rowan Scholarship winner. Ataman had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press in Turkey. He has been working as a freelance video producer with CNN.

A number of OPC Foundation scholars reported on the massive deadly explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, including 2007 Stan Swinton Scholarship winner Ben Hubbard, whose breaking news reporting on the tragedy and its aftermath was on the front page of The New York Times. Hubbard currently serves as Beirut bureau chief for the Times. 2014 Jerry Flint Fellowship winner John Ismay, who covers armed conflict for The New York Times Magazine from the Washington bureau, wrote a piece on Aug. 6 about how he used his military training and bomb expertise to bolster the Times coverage of the explosion.

2017 Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner Sara Dadouch, now a Beirut-based correspondent for The Washington Post, wrote a harrowing first-person account of her experience during the blast, as “every door inside my apartment, hinges and all, was ripped out of the walls. So was my air conditioner. My big fan split right in half. My massive living room windows flew at me. The glass didn’t just shatter; the windows themselves flew clean off. I genuinely, even now, have no idea how I am not dead.” She detailed scenes of aftermath and rescue efforts, including “Volunteers and paramedics were combing the streets late into the night, shining blue lights and calling out for people to signal to them if they were stuck in the rubble.” Dadouch had an OPC Foundation fellowship with Reuters in Beirut before she landed the Post gig.

AWARDS

The winner of this year’s OPC Edward R. Murrow Award, an episode of the New York Times’ Weekly show, titled “Collision,” also garnered three News and Documentary Emmy nominations. The piece, which investigates the ISIS murders of bicycle tourists Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan in Tajikistan, received Emmy nominations in the categories of Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Video Journalism: News, and Outstanding Editing: News. Nominations were announced on Aug. 6. The OPC will host an online discussion with the team from “Collision,” including OPC members Singeli Agnew and Rukmini Callimachi, on Sept. 17 (scroll up to read more and RSVP or click here).

Several other OPC members took to social media to celebrate Emmy nomination announcements, including OPC Governor Adriane Quinlan, supervising writer for VICE News and winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2013 Flora Lewis internship, who noted that the group received 18 nominations, including 16 for VICE News Tonight, which is the most of any nightly newscast. OPC member Sara Just, executive producer of PBS NewsHour, touted the show’s seven nominations. OPC member Christiane Amanpour’s show received two nominations, for Outstanding Investigative Report in a Newscast and Outstanding Live Interview.

Waad Al-Kateab, a filmmaker who won the OPC’s Peter Jennings Award this year, served on the jury for the BAFTA-GSA student film awards this year. The jury gave a Special Jury Prize to Laura Zéphirin from New York University for the film “Making Waves,” a film following one woman’s work in marine wildlife conservation. Other jury members included actors Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Clarke Peters, and directors Isabel Coixet and Reinaldo Marcus Green.

UPDATES
OPC Governor Jim Laurie has published a memoir exploring his earliest adventures and in Cambodia and Vietnam, titled The Last Helicopter, Two Lives in Indochina, now available in paperback and due for release on Kindle and I-book on Sept. 1, with an audio book version slated for Sept. 15. The book is “drawn from recorded interviews with Soc Sinan and from the contemporaneous writings of Jim Laurie,” and “captures the drama and tensions of the early 1970s, while also recalling places of grace and beauty now gone forever.” It is currently available on Amazon in the U.S., U.K., Australia and France, and other places later. Laurie is an award-winning international broadcaster, writer and media consultant, a recipient of the OPC’s 1983 Ben Grauer Award for best radio spot news from abroad, as well as Emmy and Peabody Awards. He served as radio and television correspondent first for NBC News from 1972 to 1978, and then ABC News from 1978 to 2000.

OPC member Ceylan Yeginsu, who joined The New York Times Turkey bureau in 2013 and has been working from the London bureau in recent years, will join the Travel desk as a reporter on Sept. 1. An announcement about the new posting on Aug. 19 said that the pandemic had pushed the paper’s travel coverage to become “newsier, more urgent and more focused on answering the questions readers have about how to travel safely.” Ceylan is a graduate of the University of Leeds and earned a master’s degree in digital media at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

2017 David A. Andelman and Pamela Title Award winner Aurora Almendral continues to contribute stories for NPR from Southeast Asia, writing the text of a piece on Aug. 21 featuring photos of teen moms in the Philippines from photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales. The story includes reporting on an anticipated baby boom in 2021 due to hundreds of thousands of unplanned pregnancies from conditions during the pandemic.

Fresh allegations against a photographer at the Magnum Photos agency have invoked a 2018 article in the Columbia Journalism Review by OPC member Kristen Chick, who interviewed 50 women in the photography industry and outlined accusations against agencies, publications and institutions for turning a blind eye to abusive behaviour. A recent article referencing Chick’s work covered the Magnum agency’s suspension of David Alan Harvey over allegations that he harassed a colleague. Separately, Magnum also recently faced allegations that it had hosted historical images that may represent child sexual exploitation in its archive, which was taken offline in response.

OPC member Nicole Tung had work displayed at a photojournalism exhibition in the French-Catalan town of Perpignan through late August. For 16 days, Visa Pour l’Image included Tung’s portrayal of young protestors “continuing to live in hope despite the increasingly bleak prospects for the political future of Hong Kong.” She also had work published for a story this month on the website Rest of the World, which covers technology. Her photos accompanied an article about competition in the motorcycle delivery business in Istanbul by Kaya Genc.

OPC Robert Capa Award-winning photographer Dieu Nalio Chery’s photos have been widely published in stories covering the aftermath of Hurricane Laura in Haiti for The Associated Press. Chery’s images capture massive flooding in Port-au-Prince as residence sought safety and recovered damaged belongings in the storm’s wake.

The Daily Beast on Aug. 21 posthumously published a piece by OPC Governor Christopher Dickey, who died in Paris on July 16 at the age of 68, in an article described as an “ode” to the organization’s international coverage and to Dickey’s extensive network of correspondents around the world. After rounding up stories and reporting challenges that spanned several continents, Dickey wrote that “it’s a 24/7 world of trouble, but it can’t be ignored, and it better be understood.” The piece was written as part of The Daily Beast’s membership drive in a series about the backstory behind the organization’s coverage.

OPC member Cam Simpson co-wrote a piece for Bloomberg, sharing the byline with colleagues Michael Smith and Nach Cattan, on Aug. 26 about a chemical manufactured in Mexico by a publicly traded American company that cartels use to cook methamphetamine. The piece outlines the production and sale of acetic anhydride by U.S. company Avantor Inc., despite the chemical being one of the world’s most strictly controlled “precursor and essential chemicals” for the production of illegal narcotics.

OPC member Ilana Ozernoy was featured along with her wife Nina Mouritzen in a News York Times “Vows” feature written by Vincent M. Mallozzi on Aug. 21. The piece chronicles the relationship between Ozernoy and Mouritzen, both of whom moved to New York as immigrants in 2000, later meeting at a wine bar. “It felt like we just picked up in the middle of a conversation and I did not want to stop talking to this person,” Ozernoy was quoted as saying. The two were married on July 4 at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park.

OPC member Campbell MacDiarmid has been reporting on the aftermath of the massive explosion in Beirut for The Telegraph, writing on Aug. 12 that protesters blame politicians for corruption and mismanagement leading to the blast. She said in the days immediately following the blast on Aug. 7, volunteers started clearing rubble and rebuilding, “filling the void of an absent government.” On Aug. 18, MacDiarmid filed a story about a United Nations-backed tribunal’s conviction of a member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a bomb blast in 2005. She wrote that the tribunal found no evidence that Hizbollah leadership or the Syrian government were involved in the bombing.

OPC member Kathy Gannon reported from Kabul for The Associated Press on Aug. 14 that Afghanistan has released the first 80 of a final 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for negotiations between the warring sides in Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict. Gannon wrote that prisoner releases on both sides are part of an agreement signed in February between the U.S. and the Taliban calling for the release of 5,000 Taliban held by the government and 1,000 government and military personnel held by the insurgent group, “as a good will gesture ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.” She reported that Afghan leaders told the AP talks could begin by Aug. 20.

OPC member Simcha Jacobovici is director and executive producer for a docuseries on the Epix network titled “Enslaved,” which will feature three storylines, including a historical investigation led by Jacobovici, along with colleague Afua Hirsch, that will track sunken slave ships using 3D mapping and ground-penetrating radar to shed new light on a chapter of history that is often marginalized or suppressed. The series will also follow actor Samuel L. Jackson’s personal journey to identify his ancestral tribe. “Enslaved” is set to premiere on Epix on Sept. 14. The trailer is available to watch on YouTube here.

Karen Toulon, secretary of the OPC Foundation, has been honored with the title of “2020 Business News Visionary” by her peers at Bloomberg News. Toulon was appointed chief of the organization’s New York bureau after serving eight years as team leader overseeing Bloomberg’s newsmaker and broadcast interviews. She currently, serves as a senior writer on Bloomberg’s global team dedicated to exploring inequality in all its forms. Toulon was the presenter at this year’s Scholar Awards Luncheon in February.
OPC member Rachel Waldholz is contributing to a newly launched podcast on climate change, titled How to Save a Planet, produced by Spotify and Gimlet. Waldholz, who joined the OPC in March 2019, is a freelancer based in Berlin. The podcast will “explore ways to solve the ongoing climate crisis and what we need to do to implement these necessary changes.” The show will also feature Kendra Pierre-Louis, a former New York Times climate reporter. The first episode is slated to drop on Aug. 20.

OPC member Amberin Zaman has been covering developments in a deal between an obscure American oil company and the Kurdish-led autonomous administration of northeast Syria. She outlined on Aug. 4 details of a 25-year deal between Delta Crescent Energy and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Zaman wrote that Mazlum Kobane, the Kurdish commander of SDF, forged the deal to secure objectives that align with that of the White House, including keeping the U.S. military in northeast Syria, restricting oil supplies to the Syrian government to pressure President Bashar Al-Assad to cut ties with Iran, and make Syrian Kurds less financially dependent on the U.S. “In Kurdish minds, the injection of US business will, over time, lead to deeper political engagement between the US government and Syrian Kurds,” she wrote. Zaman is staff correspondent for Al-Monitor. She joined the OPC in June 2019.

Leslye Davis, filmmaker of the Netflix documentary Father Soldier Son who was part of the team that won the 2016 David Kaplan Award for coverage of ISIS-led terrorist attacks in Paris, has signed a contract with the entertainment industry giant United Talent Agency. Davis has worked as a documentarian and photographer at The New York Times since 2012, and in 2017 was on the list of Forbes 30 Under 30 for Media.

Two members of the New York Times team that won this year’s Kim Wall Award were part of a widely shared Times story in which reporters watched and detailed the full 65 minutes of footage from the police body cameras of officers involved in the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Evan Hill and Christiaan Triebert, both members of the Times’ Visual Investigations Team, were among the reporters working on the story. A Minnesota county court only recently released the footage for the first time to the public. The story says that footage “fills in blanks, raises new questions and gives insight into both Mr. Floyd’s state of mind and how the police response to his apparent use of a counterfeit bill became a deadly encounter.” Hill and Triebert, along with Malachy Browne, Whitney Hurst and Dmitriy Khavin, were named as winners of the Wall award for their reporting on Russia’s attacks on civilian targets in Syria.

Along with OPC Foundation scholars mentioned above, OPC member Campbell MacDiarmid has been covering the explosion extensively in Beirut for The Telelgraph as the paper’s Middle East correspondent. He filed a total of eight stories since the blast struck on Aug. 4. His Twitter account declares that he is “soon to be based in Beirut.” MacDiarmid was formerly with the AFP, and joined the OPC in 2016 as a freelancer based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

OPC member Amy MacKinnon wrote a piece for Foreign Policy on July 29 about the arrest of more than 30 fighters from Russia’s private military contractor Wagner Group in Belarus that sparked government speculation about Russian interference ahead of next month’s election. She said the Belarus state new agency alleged that more than 200 Russian-backed militants have been dispatched to the country to destabilize it ahead of the election on Aug. 9. She said other analysts have said Belarus is merely a pass-through point for mercenaries en route to conflict areas such as Syria, Sudan and Libya. Mackinnon serves as staff writer for Foreign Policy.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong announced on Aug. 5 that journalism and editor Kate Springer will serve as editor of the club’s magazine, The Correspondent. During her journalism career in Hong Kong, Springer contributed to regional and international magazines including Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Vogue and Tatler. A writer and editor, she has founded her own content agency. She is also the managing editor of Ariana, a Hong Kong-based publication focused on social justice issues, and the Hong Kong and Macau correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.

COVID COVERAGE
OPC Governor Farnaz Fassihi, who has been reporting on the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran for The New York Times, was interviewed on Aug. 20 in a Times roundup of pandemic news about Iran’s second wave of infections as the country marked 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Fassihi said Iran’s surge in new cases is due to the country reopening too soon. “When the virus first arrived in the country, they closed down for just two weeks during the New Year holiday in mid-March. They didn’t meet any of the benchmarks when they reopened. There’s no contact tracing. There’s no quarantine,” she said. Separately, Fassihi also wrote a piece on Aug. 22 about Facebook engineer Behdad Esfahbod, who said he was was arrested by Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents on the streets of Tehran, held in solitary confinement for seven days and psychologically tortured.

OPC member and freelancer Stéphanie Fillion wrote a piece for IJNet on Aug. 18 covering the impact of the pandemic on Haiti’s deaf community. Fillion interviewed Hatian journalist Milo Milfort, who wrote about the effect of masks on the country’s deaf population, and discussed challenges in accessing information and sources that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
OPC member Dana Thomas of The Washington Post wrote on Aug. 9 about the closure of two hot spots in Saint-Tropez after four staff members reportedly tested positive for the virus. A week later, 20 out of one bistro’s 30 employees tested positive for COVID-19, Thomas wrote. The news came after widespread reports of flouting social distancing and other safety measures at the French Riviera resort town. She quoted Saint-Tropez Deputy Mayor Sylvie Siri as saying she hoped venue closures would “serve as an electroshock” to reckless tourists and business owners.

OPC member Elena Becatoros wrote from Greece for The Associated Press about the effects of COVID-19 on a traditional Greek Orthodox pilgrimage on the island of Tinos on Aug. 15, the feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the most revered holiday after Easter. She wrote that while the celebration is “normally a resplendent and crowded affair, with a navy band and honor guard leading a procession carrying the icon down the hill from the church to the port,” this year the icon stayed inside the church and an attendant inside the church disinfected the glass case surrounding it each time a visitor kissed the icon. She wrote that Greece is experiencing a surge in cases, from daily new cases in the double digits at the beginning of the summer rising to more than 200 per day in recent days.

OPC member Stanley Reed, a London-based journalist who has been writing for The New York Times about energy, the environment, and the Middle East since 2012, has been reporting on European oil companies like British Petroleum and Shell stepping up efforts to produce cleaner energy in part due to the pandemic. “For some executives, the sudden plunge in demand for oil caused by the pandemic — and the accompanying collapse in earnings — is another warning that unless they change the composition of their businesses, they risk being dinosaurs headed for extinction,” Reed wrote in an Aug. 17 article. He said U.S. companies have been slower than European counterparts to commit to climate-related goals for green energy. Before writing for the Times, Reed served as London bureau chief for BusinessWeek magazine.

OPC member Chriss Swaney has continued to cover the effects of COVID-19, including pieces for a website focused on workers’ compensation. On Aug. 11, she wrote about the Pittsburgh assistant district attorney fighting for workers’ compensation while battling COVID-19. She wrote that the county assistant DA, Ted Dutkowski, believes he contracted the coronavirus at the Allegheny County Courthouse, and is appealing a decision to deny his claim for compensation. In July, Swaney wrote about workers facing food insecurity amid lost wages. She said that as a result of the pandemic, “1 in 5 mothers of young children reported that their children weren’t eating enough – a level five times higher than in 2018 – because they couldn’t afford enough food, according to a nationally representative survey from late May.”

OPC member Alice Driver wrote an op-ed piece for CNN about the effects of the pandemic on America’s reputation abroad, saying that “for the first time in my life, I am witnessing how the lack of US leadership on COVID-19 is devaluing the US passport I carry.” She cited several cases in which U.S. tourists have been barred from entering countries due to ballooning infection rates at home. Driver is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on migration, human rights and gender equality.

OPC member Anita Snow has been reporting on COVID-19 from Arizona for The Associated Press, including a piece on Aug. 1 looking at shortcomings of the state’s health officials in spreading the word to Phoenix’s hardest-hit Latino neighborhoods. Snow reported that about 45,000 coronavirus out of 60,000 test kits went unused during a 12-day testing blitz, highlighting “limitations in promoting the availability of health care resources to communities of color during the pandemic and the hesitancy from those often most at risk from COVID-19 even if they know about those options.” In a separate piece, Snow also reported for the AP with co-author Jaques Billeaud on Aug. 6 that according to Arizona corrections officials 517 inmates at the state prison in Tucson tested positive for the coronavirus even as the overall spread in the state was showing signs of slowing.

Katherine Eban, winner of this year’s Cornelius Ryan Award, wrote an investigative piece for Vanity Fair on July 30 that explores possible political motivation to explain why a massive national COVID-19 response plan let by Jared Kushner, which included widespread viral testing that could have brought the pandemic under control, was scuttled in early April despite ballooning infection rates across the country. A source told Eban that a member of Kushner’s team had expressed that “because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically.” The story, titled “How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan ‘Went Poof Into Thin Air,’” has been quoted extensively in other media. Eban won the Ryan Award for her book Bottle of Lies: Inside the Generic Drug Boom, about Indian drug makers who evaded the U.S. FDA and sold billions of dollars in unsafe drugs to the U.S.

MEDIA NEWS

The Jerusalem Press Club has launched a series of interviews on its YouTube channel titled “Journalism is Alive and Kicking” to cover some of the “biggest names in the international media.” The first episode featured Israeli TV anchor Jacob Eilon as host interviewing Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times. Addressing the title of the series and the fate of journalism in general, Friedman said the pandemic presents an opportunity for the industry to dramatically reorganize, adding that “these are the big moments – 9-11, 2008 and 2020 – where you can really define yourself as a news organization and as a journalist.” The second episode featured Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East Editor for the BBC. Discussing the explosion in Beirut, Bowen said that “straight away, Lebanese people were saying this is a lot more than an explosion. It’s a sign of a terrible cancer that is in our society, a cancer of corruption and ineptitude.”