June 17, 2024

People Column


Diana Kruzman, the 2021 recipient of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in Memory of I.F. Stone, announced on Jan. 17 that she will soon be moving to Kyrgyzstan on a Fulbright Program grant to study the effects of climate change on water and agriculture. She wrote in a tweet thread that she would provide updates on her work and on climate and environment news from Central Asia, adding that “stories from this region are underreported in U.S. media and I’m hoping to help bridge that gap.” She most recently had a fellowship with Grist covering climate solutions and justice. Fluent in Russian, Kruzman has experience covering the region. Here is a story she wrote about nuclear waste in a small town in Kyrgyzstan in November 2021.

Serginho Roosblad, the Harper’s winner in 2017, was named as a member of FRONTLINE’s Investigative Journalist Equity Initiative (IJEI), a new effort aimed at increasing diversity in the documentary filmmaking landscape. The journalist-filmmakers in the IJEI’s first cohort will receive support for the full trajectory of the documentary filmmaking process from FRONTLINE’s senior editorial team. Roosblad, a video journalist with Associated Press Global Investigations, will work with Trilogy Films on his documentary.

The 2016 Reuters Fellowship winner, Neha Wadekar, received a mention in the University of Southern California, Annenberg’s 50th anniversary magazine issue as one of two alumnae honored for journalism excellence. Wadekar graduated in 2016 and has been reporting on conflicts in Africa since receiving her MS in journalism. She received the 2022 Breakthrough Journalism Award from the Pulitzer Center, for what judges called her “nuanced and persistent reporting on the growing Islamic insurgency in Mozambique.” Wadekar had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Nairobi.


OPC member John Avlon appeared on a segment of CNN This Morning on Jan. 8 to discuss a new documentary series about Rudy Giuliani in which he was interviewed due to his past role as speech writer for the former New York City mayor. The documentary, titled “Giuliani: What Happened to America’s Mayor?” follows his career from New York to counsel and mouthpiece of election deniers for President Donald Trump. Avlon, an anchor and senior political analyst for CNN, served as Giuliani’s chief speech writer from 1999 to 2001. He said the documentary examines Giuliani’s “descent” from his “distinguished record” as a law-and-order figure as Mayor, to “being Donald Trump’s lackey, trying to overturn the election, and playing a role in inciting on January 6 with his ‘trial by combat’ comments, which I thought was unforgivable.” The four-episode series debuted on CNN on Jan. 8 and concluded on Jan. 15, available on CNN, Hulu, Apple TV and other streaming services.

OPC member Sewell Chan, the editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, served as a panelist on a Harvard Kennedy School program on Jan. 17 about the need for newsrooms to prioritize mental health. He said when the Tribune sent reporters to cover the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County last year, the paper immediately reached out to the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the Trust for Trauma Journalism, limited the amount of time each reporter could spend on the ground reporting the story, and set up mental health sessions with staff. “Newsrooms are getting better at this, but we need help,” he said. Newsroom managers should be proactive, Chan added, “and our default should be that covering a massively traumatic event demands that we think about the processing of it and the aftermath of it, and offer people the help, rather than waiting for them to come forward and say that they need it.” Other panelists were Scott Blanchard of the public media station WITF; Elana Newman of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and psychology professor at the University of Tulsa; and Dave Seglins, an investigative journalist and well-being champion at CBC News. The moderator was Naseem Miller, senior health editor at The Journalist’s Resource. The recording of this program will be posted on the Kennedy School’s website “The Journalist’s Resource.”

OPC member Qinling Li was recently interviewed in the online magazine Our Culture Mag and the International Business Times about her award-winning short documentary about gun ownership among African-Americans. Li is a freelance journalist, founder of Dec8 Prodcutions, and contributor to Reason TV, an affiliate project of the Reason Foundation, a Libertarian think tank. Her short film for Reason TV, titled The Reawakening of the Black Gun-Rights Movement, won second place in the National Political/Government Reporting category at the 63rd Southern California Journalism Awards in 2021. She spent months following Black activists calling for armed self-protection in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020. Li was born in Hunan, China and has studied and practiced journalism in China, Australia and the United States. Her work has appeared on PBS Frontline, Al Jazeera English, Newsweek, Politico and the Christian Science Monitor, among others.

From March 13 to April 28, the National Arts Club in New York will celebrate the centenary of the birth of the world’s most famous mime, Marcel Marceau, with an exhibition of taken by TIME/LIFE photographer Ben Martin, a past member of the OPC. An exhibit of Martin’s photographs was presented as part of the OPC Foundation’s Scholar Awards Luncheon in February 2020. The exhibit this April will accompany the publication of a new edition of the book Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime, Martin’s visual tribute to his friend and renowned performer. Martin’s collaboration with Marceau, who died in September 2007 at the age of 84, started with a pictorial for LIFE magazine in the mid-1970s. The book includes more than 350 photographs, 80 in color, that capture Marceau behind the scenes, rehearsing, applying makeup and performing. The National Arts Club will host a reception on March 20 at 15 Gramercy Park South in New York. Marceau’s wife, Anne Sicco, will be in attendance representing the Marceau family.

OPC member Ari Schneider wrote a piece for Teen Vogue last year that made the magazine’s year-end 2022 Best Features list in December. The piece chronicles one teenager’s experience with so-called wilderness therapy, shedding light on the multi-billion dollar “troubled teen” industry. “In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office testified before Congress regarding concerns of abuse and deaths in wilderness therapy programs, boot camps, and boarding schools for troubled teens,” Schneider wrote.

OPC member Jill Langlois wrote a piece for NPR’s Goats and Soda from Brazil on Dec. 31 about how Indigenous Amazonians are using WhatsApp to track mercury in fish. She wrote that the Mebêngôkre Kayapó tribe, which has a population of about 9,400 and occupies a tract of the Amazon about the size of Iceland, knew scientists had done studies to track toxins in other rivers and in other Indigenous territories, “but they didn’t want to wait for outsiders to discover what was happening on their own land.” The group found that fish from key rivers had unsafe levels of mercury, which could indicate mining operations upstream. Langlois received an OPC COVID-19 micro-grant in March 2021, and was profiled in the Bulletin in December.

Amanda Florian, an OPC member and freelance multimedia journalist, wrote a longform piece for Wired magazine on Jan. 11 recounting her strange experience investigating how an image of a woman that looked uncannily like her ended up in an advertisement for a camping stove on a Chinese retail website – despite having no memory of posing for the photo or giving permission for its use. Using some common digital sleuthing tools, she discovered a photo used in an Amazon ad of a woman the company said was one of their employees, which had been reposted and repurposed multiple times across the internet until it appeared to transform closer to her own face. She brought her findings to a private U.S. Department of Defense contractor who specializes in deepfakes, who said the Chinese company might have incorporated actual images of Florian’s face as part of a process to alter the original image for their own needs.


Joel Simon, who served as the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from 2006 to 2021, will join the Newmark J-School on Feb. 1 as the founding director of the Journalism Protection Initiative. The program will foster research into the growing threats to journalists in the U.S. and around the world. Simon served as panelist at numerous press freedom events hosted by the OPC and other organizations. Since stepping down from the CPJ, Simon has served as a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and a senior visiting fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute, also at Columbia.

NBCUniversal has announced that Rebecca Blumenstein, who currently serves as a deputy managing editor at The New York Times, as the president of editorial for NBC News. She will succeed Noah Oppenheim, who has been president of the company’s news operation since 2017. Blumenstein is a former foreign correspondent and was deputy editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal before joining the Times in 2017. She was the keynote speaker at the OPC Foundation’s Scholar Awards Luncheon in 2017.


Michael Eugene “Buck” Tharp, a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) and member of the Overseas Press Club community, died in Dallas, Texas, on Jan. 6 at the age of 77. The cause of death was bone marrow cancer. He served as FCCJ president from 1989 to 1990. Tharp’s journalism career started in 1976 as Wall Street Journal bureau chief in Tokyo. He also worked in Japan for The New York Times, the Far Eastern Economic Review and U.S. News and World Report, and in San Francisco as bureau chief for the Journal. Tharp later taught journalism at California State University in Fullerton and then joined the Merced Sun-Star as local news editor, becoming its executive editor in 2008. In March 2010, he spoke at the OPC’s Japan Hands Reunion and wrote a piece about the event for the Sun-Star, which was also posted on the OPC website here. Tharp received numerous mentions in the People column when Al Kaff, himself a veteran of many years in Asia with UPI, was writing the feature, including notable updates on Tharp’s career with the Sun-Star and his trip to Iraq in the summer of 2009 to report for McClatchy newspapers. The accompanying photo shows Tharp, on the left, posing with OPC Past President Bill Holstein at the Japan Hands event in 2010. Tharp and Holstein overlapped stints at U.S. News and World Report. He said in an email that Tharp “was always a gracious host at the FCCJ, one of the finest press clubs in the world.”

Bernard Kalb, a longtime correspondent for CBS, NBC and The New York Times who won an OPC award in 1968, died on Jan. 8 at his home in Maryland at the age of 100. His career spanned six decades of the Cold War, starting as reporter for the Times from 1946 to 1962, then CBS for the following 18 years, and NBC from 1980 to 1985. He served in the U.S. State Department for nearly two years under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, a stint that ended with his resignation due to a disinformation campaign against Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi. His first overseas assignment was to accompany Richard Byrd in 1955 on a mission to Antarctica. He was posted in Hong Kong, where he covered assignments in India and Southeast Asia, including the Vietnam War. He later served as anchor for CBS Morning News and moderator for CNN’s Reliable Sources show. Kalb won the OPC’s 1968 Asia Magazine Award for his coverage of the Vietnam War for CBS News. He was also a guest on a correspondent panel hosted by the OPC in 1958, and was moderator on an OPC panel 1998 to mark the opening of an exhibit of photos from the book Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina.

Nate Thayer, a foreign correspondent whose career included an exclusive interview in Cambodia with Pol Pot for the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1997, died in Massachusetts in early January at the age of 62. He wrangled the interview after weeks of meetings with Khmer Rouge fighters, crossing into Cambodian wilderness from Thailand. He scooped Elizabeth Becker of The New York Times, who had been closing in on an interview at the same time, but Thayer used connections to block her entry to keep the exclusive. His piece won a 1997 Citation for Excellence in the Hal Boyle Award category. Justin Doebele wrote a piece about Thayer’s interview for the September 1997 issue of the Bulletin.