August 17, 2022

People Column


Sarah Trent, the Roy Rowan Scholarship winner in 2020, wrote an article published on Nov. 15 in The New York Times about a Philippine marine conservation effort led by women. She wrote about the political and personal fight to support the Maite Marine Sanctuary, a zone within the species-rich Coral Triangle where fishing is forbidden, writing about a recent study that found overall when women lead conservation efforts “indicators of success like solidarity, rule compliance and forest and fishery regeneration often go up, even as these women face doubt, discrimination and even threats of violence.” Her story is part of a special Times report on Climate Solutions, which looks at efforts around the world to curb and adapt to harmful effects of climate change. Sarah had an OPC Foundation fellowship on the science desk at The Wall Street Journal.

After a year working as a reporter for The Moscow Times, Uliana Pavlova, the Theo Wilson Scholarship winner in 2017, has decided to go freelance full-time, mostly for The Associated Press and others.


On Dec. 1, in a grand ceremony at the Consulate General of France in New York, OPC Past President David A. Andelman was awarded the rank of chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian decoration. The medal was presented by Jérémie Robert, France’s consul general, on behalf of President Emmanuel Macron. In presenting the medallion, Robert said that “for your long standing friendship with our country and your lifelong commitment to promoting better understanding between the people of France and the United States, it is an honor to bestow the title of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor upon you.” Robert added that Andelman’s ties with France date back to the first term of President François Mitterrand in 1981 when Andelman took over as CBS News correspondent in Paris, encompassing more than four decades of reporting and commenting on France, its government and its people. Other celebrants including David’s wife Pamela Title and his longtime friend, Le Monde’s Patrice de Beer, pointed out that his ties go back decades earlier, de Beer and Andelman having first met at the tail end of the war in Cambodia in 1975. Title said that “walking through Paris with David is a stroll through the history and culture of a magical land, with the best possible guide.”

Valerie Hopkins, an OPC member and the winner of the 2013 Jerry Flint Fellowship for International Business Reporting, landed a front page story for The New York Times on Nov. 23 about Russian prosecutors’ attempts to shut down one of the country’s key human rights groups, Memorial International. Reporting from Moscow, she wrote that The effort is part of an ongoing campaign by the Kremlin to rewrite “the memory of one of the most painful times in Russia’s turbulent history: the era of the gulag, when millions of Russians toiled and died, mostly in the first half of the 20th century.” Hopkins also interviewed convicted Russian spy Maria Butina for an article in the Times published on Nov. 19. Butina, who spent 15 months in U.S. prisons for working as an unregistered foreign agent during the 2016 election, is now a member of the Russian Parliament, supported by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Krithika Varagur, an OPC member and the winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2019 Sally Jacobsen Fellowship, has been working since October as a senior speechwriter at Fenway, a communications firm founded by President Barack Obama’s former chief speechwriter Jon Favreau and national security spokesman Tommy Vietor. Before October, she was the youngest staff columnist at The Wall Street Journal, writing the “At Work” column, about the “quirks, realities and frustrations of the workplace.” Varagur previously spent four years covering religion, politics, extremism and corruption in Southeast and South Asia for The Washington Post and The Guardian, among others. She authored 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.

OPC member Amanda Florian wrote a piece for Discover Magazine on Dec. 4 on research into why musicians, particularly vocalists, have an apparent knack for learning new languages. She wrote that researchers found musicians tend to pick up language quicker due to training and talent focused on sound, “most notably when it comes to pronunciation and accent because, like parrots, they mimic what they hear.” The research indicates that more wrinkles in a particular type of ridge on the surface of the brain dedicated to sound could be a key indicator of musical ability and aptitude for learning new languages.

In an opinion piece penned to The Globe and Mail on Dec. 3, OPC member Hikmat Noori, an Afghan journalist who has reported on conflict, politics and culture in Afghanistan, called for the U.S. to provide more help to Afghan soldiers and others left abandoned by U.S. forces’ withdrawal this year. “For Afghan soldiers, who had been trained by their American counterparts and provided operational and moral support during the 20-year mission, it was as if ‘the rug was pulled from under them,’” he wrote. “It would be a disservice to roll them up in that same rug and bury them with the full weight of blame for the tragedy that has taken place in Afghanistan.”

The New York Times has announced that past OPC Award winner Raja Abdulrahim will join the paper’s Jerusalem bureau. She won the OPC’s 2012 Hal Boyle Award for her coverage of the war in Syria for the Los Angeles Times, which judges praised as “beautifully detailed stories from the conflict zone, giving readers a human portrayal of war.” She was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2014. A Nov. 3 announcement said that in the new post Abdulrahim will “roam widely, writing about Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, with a special focus on Palestinian affairs.”

Tony Cavin, an OPC Foundation board member and longtime journalist who spent two decades at CBS News, will take a new post at NPR as managing editor for standards and practices. As quoted in a note to newsroom staff on Nov. 2, Cavin said on his application for the position that “standards are what distinguishes a serious news organization and makes it stand out from the ever louder din of competing voices on the internet. Standards are how we maintain the trust of our audience and trust is something we cannot afford to squander.” He was slated to begin on Dec. 6.


Amanda Bennett, a past OPC Awards judge who resigned from a top post at the Voice of America in June 2020 amid turmoil at the organization, on Nov. 12 was named nominee for chief executive officer at the United States Agency for Global Media. She is an author, investigative journalist and editor who was named director of Voice of America in March, 2016 and stepped down last year when Congress confirmed conservative activist and filmmaker Michael Pack to be the head of the agency that oversees the government broadcast organization. Bennett was a member of the board of the Pulitzer Prizes and served as co-Chair of the Pulitzer Board in 2010.