July 18, 2019

People Column


Anupreeta Das, former OPC governor and winner of the Reuters scholarship in 2006, has been named deputy business editor of The Wall Street Journal. An announcement to Journal colleagues called Das “one of our finest, most creative, most versatile reporters and a trusted mentor to many in our newsroom.” Since joining the Journal in 2010, she has covered mergers, finance and investing and serves as part of the paper’s financial enterprise team. Before joining the Journal, Das covered tech, media and telecom deals for Reuters.

Paul Sonne, Swinton winner in 2008, is leaving The Wall Street Journal after more than 8 years to join the national staff of The Washington Post to cover the Pentagon. Sonne had an OPC Foundational fellowship with The Associated Press in Moscow. He also interned with The New York Times in Moscow before joining the Journal in London, covering business and political news. While in London, Paul and his colleagues won the Malcolm Forbes Award for best international business reporting in newspapers. He later returned to Russia to serve as Moscow correspondent for the Journal from 2013 to 2016, covering the Kremlin as relations between Washington and Moscow soured. Since then, he has covered national security from the Washington bureau.

Diksha Madhok, Theo Wilson winner in 2011, has been named digital director of ThePrint, a news media start-up in India. Madhok has also worked as India editor at Quartz and as a reporter for Reuters in New Dehli.

Katie Paul, Irene Corbally Kuhn scholarship winner in 2007, is transferring from one Reuters bureau to another in the Middle East. After several years in Riyadh, she is moving to the Dubai bureau where she will be a senior correspondent covering business throughout the Gulf.  Katie had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Buenos Aires.

Edward Wong, former Beijing correspondent for The New York Times and 1998 David Schweisberg scholarship winner, wrote a longform feature about China’s growing global role and its use of force, writing that the “emerging imperium is more a result of the Communist Party’s exercise of hard power, including economic coercion, than the product of a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas or contemporary culture.” OPC Foundation President Bill Holstein wrote on his blog that “all of us at the foundation are touched that we helped launch Ed Wong, who has become an important voice on issues that Dave [Schweisberg] was passionate about.” Holstein worked with Schweisberg in Hong Kong, and both served as chief of the Beijing bureau for UPI in the 80s.

2016 Hal Boyle Award winner Hannah Dreier has received a 2018 Ochberg Fellowship from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The weeklong program focuses on exploring issues surrounding psychological trauma and ethics challenges connected to journalists’ work. Dreier won her OPC award while covering political turmoil in Venezuela The Associated Press, and is currently a reporter at ProPublica, focusing on immigration.

OPC Governor Josh Fine, along with several colleagues at HBO Sports With Bryant Gumbel, has received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for an global investigation into the International Olympic Committee. The same story, “The Lords of the Rings,” also won the OPC’s inaugural Peter Jennings Award last year. Fine and his colleague, David Scott, who also worked on the IOC story, won 2014 The David A. Andelman and Pamela Title Award for “The Price of Glory.” Also receiving an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award was OPC member Amy Mackinnon, formerly of Coda Story, who shared an award with the team that worked on “Russia’s New Scapegoats,” a radio documentary about Russia’s anti-gay movement. The award was shared with collaborators Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Since reporting on the story, Mackinnon has returned from stints in Moscow and Tbilisi to pursue a masters degree at the CUNY journalism school.


Facebook sent shockwaves through the media industry in early January when it announced it would rein in news content and official business and organization pages on users’ “feeds” to prioritize posts from family and friends. Facebook has been neck-and-neck with Google over recent years as top provider of digital news. The announcement sent Facebook shares falling 4.5 percent and costing founder Mark Zuckerberg an estimated $3.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Media analysts say prioritizing content from friends would worsen the so-called echo chamber in which people only see and discuss content that supports their own assumptions. Facebook faced governmental scrutiny last year for its role in spreading misinformation and hate speech. Financial Times CEO John Ridding told Poynter that challenges in the new information ecosystem will require a subscription model that allows publishers to manage access to their content and make a direct connection with readers, or else “as the large majority of all new online advertising spend continues to go to the search and social media platforms – quality content will no longer be a choice or an option.” Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, told The New York Times that the change “looks like the end of the social news era.”

NEW YORK: An investigation spanning several months by OPC Governor Azmat Khan and OPC member Anand Gopal into underreported civilian casualties in Iraq continues to make ripples after it was published in the new York Times Magazine late last year. In “The Uncounted,” Khan and Gopal found that airstrikes in Iraq are killing civilians at 31 times the rate that the US-led coalition forces reported. In an interview about the piece for Al Jazeera, Khan said on-the-ground reporting at airstrike sites in ISIS territory revealed that one in five bombings resulted in a civilian death.

OPC Governor Lara Setrakian has co-founded a campaign to stop sexual harassment and assault in local and national newsrooms. “Press Forward” plans to analyze best practices to create better working environment, and will ultimately publish a “blueprint” for media organizations. Members of the independent group are current and former journalists, and receives support from the Greater Washington Community Foundation. It is slated to launch early this year.

The New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library both named How Dare the Sun Rise, a book co-written by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and OPC Treasurer Abigail Pesta, among the best books of 2017. The memoir follows Uwiringiyimana’s story as a young woman who escaped a childhood massacre in Africa and fled to America, where she struggled to adapt to a new life attended a middle school in New York.

OPC Governor Emma Daly, who serves as director of communications for Human Rights Watch, wrote an extensive piece in December detailing the efforts of journalists and human rights activists to report on war crimes during the Yugoslav Wars of the 90s. Daly, who was Balkans correspondent for The Independent from 1990 to 1997, wrote that “human rights activists helped put war crimes firmly on the international agenda – with help from journalists who often didn’t understand the legal implications of the horrors they reported on every day.” Her piece, titled “Beyond Justice: How the Yugoslav Tribunal Made History,” coincided with the closure of the Yugoslav tribunal, which indicted a total of 161 people after 24 years. Daly spent a total of 18 years as a journalist, mostly as a foreign correspondent, at a number of outlets including The New York Times, the Independent, Newsweek, the Observer and Reuters.

OPC Third Vice President Pancho Bernasconi of Getty Images spoke to digital culture news site Uproxx about a specially curated gallery of images to honor the “love and resiliency” of survivors of tragic events over the last year. The “Images Of Strength” collection includes 18 photos that show Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, survivors of gun attacks in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Texas and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, soldiers embracing children in Iraq and first responders in the aftermath of hurricanes Maria and Harvey in Puerto Rico and Texas and the earthquake in Mexico City. Bernasconi told Uproxx in a Q&A that images depicting moments of strength and compassion provide crucial context for stories about crisis. “The world can have a conversation through a shared sense of an image or a truth,” he said. Bernasconi also underscored the need for photojournalists to stay vigilant when covering conflict or working in disaster zones. “You as a professional work with your editors and the people you know and trust to mitigate [risks] as much as possible. And, we have to trust our photographers,” he said.

OPC Governor Rukmini Callimachi is warning that the decline of ISIS has been overstated, saying that the terror network is now more deadly than the Taliban. In separate podcast interviews, Callimachi told PRI’s The World and World View, a foreign affairs podcast produced by The Irish Times, that although Islamic State’s territory has reduced in size by 98 per cent in Syria and Iraq, the US Pentagon reports that its numbers in Yemen have doubled over the last year. Her interviews follow Callimachi’s reporting in the Times over the last month on two IS bomb attacks in Kabul on Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, and a gun assault against members of a Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo on Dec. 29.

The OPC’s 2016 Best Commentary winner, Masha Gessen, delivered the Robert B. Silvers lecture, titled “The Stories of a Life,” on Dec. 18. The lecture was created by Max Palevsky and named in honor of Silvers, the co-founding editor of The New York Review of Books, who died in March last year. Her talk was featured on the New York Public Library Podcast in January.

WASHINGTON, DC: Hannah Allam, BuzzFeed reporter, former OPC Governor and a current member, was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition about her coverage of allegations of sexual harassment surrounding Dallas-based Muslim celebrity preacher Nouman Ali Khan. Allam told the public radio program that many Muslim women face additional challenges when deciding whether to report abuse involving cultural and religious taboos. Allam spoke to one of Ali Khan’s accusers for a BuzzFeed piece in December with details of how he allegedly manipulated female followers into sham marriages and then paid them to stay silent.

LOS ANGELES: Newsroom employees at the Los Angeles Times voted in early January on whether to form a union for the first time in the paper’s 136-year history. The workers are calling for higher salaries, better benefits and working conditions, and pay equality for women and minorities. The vote to join NewGuild would affect about 380 employees. The New York Times reported that the move has sparked tensions between the paper’s management and employees, with management urging for staff to vote against the move and saying in an email that “The question to you is do you want to preserve your independence and the independence of the Los Angeles Times or do you want someone else negotiating on your behalf?” Results are slated to be released on Jan. 19.

LONDON: Carrie Gracie, former China editor for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), resigned from her post in Beijing citing a “secretive and illegal pay culture” of pay inequality compared to male international editors at the broadcaster. During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Gracie said she was offered a 33 percent pay increase but rejected it because she wanted equality, not more money. She said she could not resume her post in China and “collude knowingly in what I consider to be unlawful pay discrimination.” BBC was forced to disclose employee salaries last July, revealing that two thirds of the highest paid on-air talent were male, and the top seven earners were men. The UK-based National Union of Journalists has filed complaint with the BBC on behalf of 121 female employees over pay disparity.

CBS News has hired OPC Governor Roxana Saberi as correspondent based in London. Saberi served as a freelance correspondent for the network news service and for its affiliate, Newspath, since 2016. She has also served as fill-in anchor for CBSN. Saberi, who is fluent in Persian, previously worked as correspondent for Al Jazeera America, and reported on Iran for several years. In 2009, she was arrested while working on a book about Iran and held for 100 days at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran on espionage charges. An announcement on the CBS site said Saberi “brings a wealth of unique international and national reporting experience.”

BUENOS AIRES: An Argentinian fact-checking site has released a piece of software that automatically identifies claims in online media and matches them with existing fact checks. The tool, Chequeabot, uses machine learning to assist fact checkers in newsrooms. Poynter.org reported that the software scans text from 25 media outlets in Argentina, automatically flagging claims from politicians and other sources. The bot has already helped to flag erroneous trade surplus numbers from the country’s foreign ministry in a newspaper interview, and to unpack statements about the electricity grid that the energy minister made during a press conference. The organization that developed the software, Chequeado, received a fellowship in 2016 from Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network to work with Full Fact, a nonprofit based in the UK that is developing similar automated tools for English-speaking newsrooms.


The former editor of the Guardian, Peter Preston, died on January 6 at the age of 79. Preston began his career at the paper in 1963 and served as editor for two decades, from 1975 to 1995. Preston helmed the Guardian through a period of historic news events and is credited with helping the paper survive a price war with The Independent by overseeing a redesign in the mid-80s. His final column on press and broadcasting was published on New Year’s Eve, in which he said journalists’ biggest new challenge is to re-establish “some modest degree of public respectability” and trust among readers amid attacks from President Trump and others around the world. Preston is survived by his wife Jean, four children, and eight grandchildren.

This issue’s People column features updates on OPC Foundation scholars Anupreeta Das, Paul Sonne, Diksha Madhok, Katie Paul and Edward Wong; OPC award winners Hannah Dreier and Masha Gessen; OPC Governors Pancho Bernasconi, Rukmini Callimachi, Emma Daly, Josh Fine, Azmat Khan, Abigail Pesta, Roxana Saberi and Lara Setrakian; as well as members Hannah Allam and Anand Gopal.