July 11, 2020

People Column


2015 Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner Ben Taub of The New Yorker won the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting for his report on the humanitarian devastation caused by the shrinkage of Lake Chad in Africa and linking the ecological disaster to famine and armed conflict. Among the other recipients was Iona Craig of The Intercept, who won the Foreign Reporting Award for documenting the destruction and civilian casualties of a covert U.S. Navy SEAL raid on a remote village in Yemen.

Michael Miller, the 2009 Stan Swinton Fellowship winner, and his colleagues Justin Jouvenal and Dan Morse at The Washington Post have won the National Press Foundation’s 2017 Feddie Reporting Award for their reporting on MS-13. The NPF judges said that the Post reporters “revealed lapses in the federal refugee resettlement program that allowed MS-13 gang members to slip through the cracks and regroup in the United States. In the Washington area alone, more than 40 young immigrants have been involved in MS-13 violence including murder. In a deeply reported and beautifully presented project, the Post reporters illuminated the resurgence of gang violence, which later became a central issue in the Virginia governor’s race.”  Michael had an OPC Foundation fellowship at the AP bureau in Mexico City.

Caelainn Hogan, winner of the 2014 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship, has continued deep coverage of war-devastated Syria with two stories in National Geographic. An earlier story about Syrians risking their lives to visit a children’s hospital on the front lines appeared on the cover of The New York Times Sunday Magazine. In an email to the OPC Foundation, she said she was “ever grateful for the support of the OPC over the years.”

New York Times journalist Chris Chivers is one of three recipients of this year’s James W. Foley American Hostage Freedom Awards. Chivers is currently a longform writer and investigative reporter for the Times, and has reported extensively in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq. In a release, James’ mother Diane Foley said that Chivers “has risked his life many times to bring us authentic stories from conflict zones,” adding that he had often helped fellow journalists in harm’s way abroad. Following the murder of her son in Syria in 2014, Diane Foley launched the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation the same year. The other two recipients this year are former National Security Council counterterrorism official Jennifer Easterly and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.


OPC President Deidre Depke will serve as Marketplace’s next managing editor. Depke joined the American Public Media program three years ago, first as a freelance editor for digital, then as New York bureau chief. In a welcome email, Marketplace’s executive editor, Evelyn Larrubia, said she “couldn’t ask for a better partner than Deidre to help strengthen our journalism and beef up beat reporting.” Depke started her journalism career at BusinessWeek, serving as reporter and senior editor for a total of 12 years. She later worked at Newsweek, The Week.com and The Daily Beast before joining Marketplace. Her first day at the new post will be March 19.

CNN President Jeff Zucker is calling for U.S. regulators to investigate whether Google and Facebook have become digital monopolies over digital ad revenue. Zucker made his comments during a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. He said control and monetization of digital content is the “biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead” and that doing nothing could mean “good journalism will go away, and that will be bad for the United States, and that will be bad for those that are trying to tell the world about what is happening in Syria today.” Business research firm eMarketer shows that Google and Facebook account for 63.1 percent of digital media ad spending in the U.S. this year

Digital media company Vox Media is laying off about 50 employees, according to a memo Variety magazine obtained, as the company cuts back online video operations and other programs including Racked, Curbed and SB Nation. The layoffs represent about 5 percent of the company’s workforce. Other digital media outlets have struggled recently, with BuzzFeed, Mashable and Refinery29 all making significant cuts late last year.

The International Reporting Project has announced it will close up shop after supporting journalism projects and fellowships around the world for two decades. The IRP was founded in 1998 to fill a gap in international coverage as mainstream media began to close overseas bureaus and shrink foreign desks. The organization says it supported 651 writers in more than 115 countries during its years of operation. In a note obtained by the Columbia Journalism Review, John Schidlovsky, IRP’s founder and director, told alumni that “after 20 years, the year-to-year battle to raise sufficient operating funds finally caught up with us.”

Vanity Fair reported in February that CNN is preparing to reduce staff by as many as 50 positions as parent company Time Warner looks for cuts. CNN’s vice president of communications, Matt Dornic, told USA Today that the organization had added 200 jobs over the last 18 months and that “not every new project has paid off.” The network has been expanding digital programs. AT&T bid $85.4 billion to acquire Time Warner in October 2016, a merger the US Justice Department sued to block. A federal court is slated to hear AT&T’s case in March.

Upheaval at Newsweek has led to a spate of layoffs of veteran journalists,  top sales executive Ed Hannigan, editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive editor Ken Li. The firings come as the publisher of Newsweek and The Internatonal Business Times grapples with accusations that the company bought and manipulated traffic from pirated video sites and engaged in ad fraud. The company, Newsweek Media Group, has denied the fraud allegations. The Manhattan district attorney’s office raided the company and has launched an investigation. Adding to the list of troubles, in late February the company narrowly avoided eviction due to a long running legal dispute with Guardian Life Insurance over a sublease.

Meanhile, OPC Governor Christopher Dickey voiced concern about the fate of Newsweek’s archives if the current owners collapse. He said the archives “contain more than a quarter century of my stories: hundreds of thousands of words, some of which I risked my life to write, and many of which I poured blood into on the keyboard.”

Joining an apparent wave of newsroom unionizations, a majority of Slate employees in late January voted to join the Writers Guild of America East. More than 1,000 digital news staff members have joined the union over the last two and a half years at media companies including Vice, HuffPost, The Intercept, Gizmodo Media, ThinkProgress, MTV News, Thrillist and Salon.

NEW YORK: OPC member and CBS News executive Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews has been promoted to executive vice president. She will continue to oversee daily operations and work directly with CBS News president David Rhodes. Ciprian-Matthews has worked for the network for 25 years, serving in a range of posts including foreign editor, senior producer and vice president of news. She started her television career at CNN’s New York bureau, where she served for 9 years.

OPC member Louise Boyle made waves when she broke the story of domestic abuse allegations against key U.S. presidential aide Rob Porter for The Daly Mail on Feb. 6. The story included an interview with Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, who spoke on record about alleged abuses. A reporter at The Intercept, Ryan Grim, added details a day later, spurring other media to follow. Concerns about Porter failing to gain security clearance due to the abuse allegations raised questions about White House handling of classified material. A Washington Post article tracked the development of the story in a piece called “How Two Publications Broke the Rob Porter Scandal.”

Ian Williams, a longtime OPC member, has released his book UNTold: The Real Story of the UN. Williams draws on his personal experience covering the UN since 1989 and serving as president of the     UN Correspondents Association. The book, published by Just World Books, includes illustrations from cartoonist Krishna, who has won two Emmy awards for his writing on Sesame Street. A book launch was held at the Taszo restaurant in Washington Heights. Williams is an associate professor at Bard Center for Globalization and International Affairs.

BENTIU, SOUTH SUDAN: OPC member Cassandra Vinograd wrote about survivors of mass rape in South Sudan for the Pacific Standard, a piece that garnered mentions on the Pulitzer Center website and in the New York Times “What We’re Reading” column that curates excellent journalism. Vinograd reported from one of the areas hit hardest by conflict, Bentiu, where sexual violence is so common that stigma and silence of previous generations has slowly started to lift.

BEIJING: OPC member Jaime Florcruz has been named one of 10 elected vice chairs of the Peking University Alumni Association. He will serve a four-year term along with board chairman Lin Jinhua, who also serves as the university’s president. Florcruz posted on Facebook that he was particularly honored “because I just learned that I am the first ever overseas alumnus elected to such top position.” Florcruz worked for four decades covering China for TIME magazine and CNN. He stepped down as CNN’s Beijing bureau chief in December 2014 and was the network’s longest serving correspondent in China.

KABUL: OPC members Ruchi Kumar and Ivan Flores teamed up for a piece on Vox Media’s style and news website Racked in February about how barber shops are flourishing in Afghanistan as men who lived under strict Taliban rules for grooming explore hair styles as an expression of freedom. Kumar wrote the story, and Flores provided photos.

PARIS: Anna Pujol-Mazzini in January wrote a piece for the Thompson Reuters Foundation about the rise of homelessness in Paris since the financial crisis in 2007, and the proliferation of anti-homeless devices such as cold water sprayers and spikes to repel sleepers from sheltered spots. She also tracked the rise of laws that push homeless people out of public view. Pujol-Mazzini is a freelance journalist based in Gambia and covers West Africa for Reuters, Agence France-Presse and The Times of London, among others.


Former Associated Press photographer Max Desfor died on Feb. 19 at the age of 104. Desfor covered the World War II and the Korean War from the front lines and took one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th Century when he climbed a damaged bridge and captured an image of hundreds of refugees crawling across an icy river to safety in 1950. Desfor was born in the Bronx in 1913 and graduated from Brooklyn College. He worked as staff photographer for the AP in Baltimore and Washington, DC before covering World War II and working from the Philippines and India. He retired from the AP in 1978 and later joined U.S. News & World Report as photo director.

Elizabeth Hawley, a reporter who closely followed expeditions to Himalayan peaks in Nepal, died on Jan. 26 at the age of 94. The U.S.-born journalist lived in Nepal since 1960 and became a fixture in the climbing community. Hawley began reporting for Reuters in 1962, nine years after the seminal expedition by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to climb the summit of Mount Everest.