September 20, 2021

People Column

Matthew Reysio-Cruz, the winner of the S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting in 2021, has been named to the Pulitzer Center’s Class of 2021 Post-Graduate Reporting Fellowship Program. He will report on the present-day consequences of the U.S. “Secret War” on Laos and will investigate failures to assist the survivors of accidents involving leftover U.S. bombs.

Rose Gilbert, the 2021 Stan Swinton Scholarship winner, has a reporting internship with Tennessean covering Nashville and Middle Tennessee news. She recently wrote about how Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and his wife are trying to ways to ensure a future for the Tennessee Tutoring Corps, which they founded in the spring of 2020 to address summertime learning losses exacerbated by classroom closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annie Todd, the winner of the 2020 S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting, is now a breaking news and community reporter for Argus Leader Media in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She has been covering the story of Rosebud Sioux funeral ceremonies for the remains of Indigenous children whose bodies were uncovered at the Carlisle Indian Reform School in Carlisle, PA, and returned to their native tribal lands in South Dakota. In her winning essay for her OPC Foundation award, Annie wrote about a memorial in Sarajevo for victims of the 1995 massacre whose bodies were identified and moved to the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial.

Dake Kang, the Fritz Beebe Fellowship winner in 2016, was the first Western reporter to get inside one of the largest detention centers in China, perhaps the world, in Xinjiang, home to the Uyghurs. He recently wrote for The Associated Press about the facility, which is twice the size of Vatican City and can hold at least 10,000 inmates, the AP estimates. Kang, an OPC Award winner this year, had an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in Bangkok. Kang, an OPC Award winner this year, had an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in Bangkok.

Valerie Hopkins, winner of the Jerry Flint Internship for International Business in 2013, had her first page-one story in The New York Times. She wrote about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who she described as an “unlikely pro-democracy leader from Belarus” now building what she called a “phalanx of Western opposition” from exile. Before recently joining the Times, Hopkins spent several years with the Financial Times in Budapest. She had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Belgrade. Hopkins also recently co-wrote a piece for the Times on Aug. 3 about an international scandal centering on Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, whose delegation forcibly tried to send her home after she criticized coaching staff on social media.

Simon Akam, the Emmanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2009, was recently interviewed by the Guardian regarding the problems he encountered when Penguin Random House (PHR) won the rights to publish his book, The Changing of the Guard. Later published by Scribe, the book is a critical study of the British army’s time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and details the army’s extensive efforts to shut down criticism directed at it. Akam recalled how PHR made unreasonable demands. Calling it “a terrifying precedent,” he described a situation in which a publisher could make exceptional demands of investigative journalists, including making writers submit their books to their sources for approval, effectively allowing them to edit themselves – and claim the writer has broken their contract if they refuse to do so. Akam had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Istanbul.

Maria Repnikova, the Alexander Kendrick Scholarship winner in 2009, was interviewed by The Washington Post on ways China is trying to influence other countries’ governing models. A political scientist and communication scholar at Georgia State University, Repnikova has written a new book on Chinese soft power that will be published soon, and she is completing a longer manuscript on Chinese soft power in Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia.

Ben Hubbard, the Stan Swinton Scholarship winner in 2007, was one of two New York Times reporters targeted for hacking by Pegasus, the Israeli spyware maker. Now the Times bureau chief in Beirut, Hubbard was also an attempted hacking target in 2018 by an operator linked to Saudi Arabia after he investigated rights abuses and corruption in that country. He also wrote a recent biography of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Hubbard had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem.

UPDATES

A VICE News story by OPC member Amanda Sperber surrounding the toll on survivors of civilian victims from U.S. airstrikes in Somalia sent ripples to Washington last month. For her piece on July 22, she spoke with three of the four families of casualties that the U.S. has taken responsibility for during 14 years of airstrikes that started in 2007. The day after it was published, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar cited the story in a letter to U.S. President Joseph Biden. The letter, as reported by The Intercept, said the administration had failed to make reparations promised to the families, and challenged the administration’s justification for its airstrike on Somalia in July, the first since Biden took office. The Pentagon claimed that attack targeted suspected members of al-Shabab.

OPC member Abigail Pesta wrote a tribute for Olympic gymnast Simone Biles for TIME magazine’s commemorative issue on the games, chronicling how Biles survived trauma of abuse by Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, and highlighting the “profound disappointment in the organizations that failed to protect her, all while training in the isolation and uncertainty of a pandemic.” Pesta is author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt wrote about the ups and downs of the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team for TIME magazine on July 8. The first IOC refugee team competed in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This year the team had 29 members, nearly three times as many as in 2016. But Walt wrote that some athletes struggled with expectations, tensions over their training, and “dissatisfaction with a system that, to them, appeared to deny them opportunities to create lives outside the program.” Six of the refugee team’s strongest athletes quit the program from 2017 to 2019.

OPC member John Daniszewski, the vice president and editor-at-large for standards for The Associated Press, was elected co-chair of Pulitzer Prize board. He will serve with Katherine Boo, a Washington, D.C.-based author and journalist, and Gail Collins, opinion columnist for The New York Times.

In a July 5 piece for The New York Times, OPC Governor Farnaz Fassihi wrote about a brutal murder case that has gripped Iran, in which an Iranian couple confessed to killing their son, daughter and son-in-law over the course of a decade. She wrote that the parents, 81-year-old retired army colonel Akbar Khorramdin, and his wife, 74-year-old Iran Mousavi, do not appear remorseful. Khorramdin stated in a television interview from jail that he “killed people who were very morally corrupt.” Fassihi wrote about the case’s wider context as the country grapples with generational conflict over traditional values, so-called honor killings and calls to reform the country’s penal code, which exempts fathers and grandfathers from the death penalty in murder charges against their own children or wards, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The online news magazine Discourse has gained a footing during the last half year under the editorial leadership of OPC member John Koppisch. Stories published over the last month have covered healthcare and COVID-19, the legacy of James Balwin, news media’s relationship with advertisers and consumers, Critical Race Theory and mainland Chinese identity in Hong Kong. Discourse launched late last year and focuses on economics, politics and society. It is published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Koppisch, a longtime business journalist, was named assistant managing editor of Discourse in December 2020. Previously, he was a senior editor at the Asia edition of Forbes magazine for 13 years after stints at BusinessWeek magazine, the Asian edition of The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Mail in South Africa. He spent 12 years abroad, in Johannesburg and Hong Kong.

Freelance photographer Adriana Zehbrauskas, who spoke on an OPC panel in September 2016, was named a recipient of a 2021 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on the Americas on July 21. This year for the first time all of the Cabot Prize winners are women. Zehbrauskas, a U.S.-based Brazilian photojournalist and documentary photographer, was honored for “illuminating portraits of people in desperate circumstances” showing intimacy and empathy and greatly contributing “to our understanding of the Americas.” She participated in an OPC panel with three other accomplished female photojournalists at the Columbia Journalism School in 2016. Read a recap and watch an archive video of that program here. She also wrote an article for the OPC’s Dateline magazine in 2019 about her project to photograph family members of missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Other Cabot Prize winners this year are Adela Navarro Bello, director of ZETA in Mexico; Mary Beth Sheridan, correspondent at The Washington Post; and Eliane Brum, an independent journalist in Brazil.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) on Aug. 4 named Sharon Moshavi as the organization’s nex president. Effective Sept. 7, Moshavi will replace Joyce Barnathan, who is retiring after more than 15 years in that post. She is currently serving as ICFJ’s senior vice president of new initiatives, and according to a release she has “played a pivotal role in the organization’s tremendous growth and impact during a time of both massive upheaval and new opportunities for news media across the globe.” Barnathan announced her retirement in early 2020 but remained to help the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PEOPLE REMEMBERED

Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 and a 2017 OPC Citation for Excellence, was killed in Afghanistan in mid-July while covering clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban. He was 38. Siddiqui was an Indian national and Reuters staff journalist. He was embedded with members of Afghanistan’s elite special forces in the former Taliban command center of Kandahar. Siddiqui was killed when the soldiers came under Taliban fire during a mission retake a border district near Pakistan. He had been a Reuters journalist since 2010 and covered events across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared his 2017 OPC citation with a Reuters team for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.