July 14, 2020

People Column


Isabel DeBre, the 2018 Stan Swinton winner, made the most of her OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press in Jerusalem. She was hired on as a reporter and will remain in Jerusalem until the summer of 2019. In her application for the OPC Foundation in 2017, DeBre wrote about an influential club at the American University in Beirut that became a formidable political force in Lebanon.

Hiba Dlewati, the first Sally Jacobsen winner in 2018, has just been hired as a reporter for Al Jazeera English. She is based in Doha, Qatar. Dlewati had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the AP bureau in Beirut. After her study of medicine in Damascus was cut short by the Syrian War, she moved to the U.S. and finished her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in Flint. She has written extensively about Syrian diaspora and the world of shady brokers who book boat passage for refugees traveling from Turkey to Greece.

After an award-winning stretch as an investigative reporter for The Associated Press, Jeff Horwitz, Fred Wiegold winner in 2009, will be leaving Washington, DC for San Francisco where he will be covering Facebook for The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, Jeff was the 2018 recipient of the Knight Bagehot Fellowship’s annual Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize, for his reporting on the Paul Manafort saga.

Katie Paul, the 2017 Irene Corbally Kuhn winner, is leaving the Middle East after stints in Damascus, Beirut, Amman and most recently as a senior correspondent for Reuters in Dubai and Riyadh. She will now be based in the Reuters bureau in San Francisco. Paul’s new beat is social media, covering Facebook, Twitter and other companies that are based in America but responsible for the flow of information across the planet. Katie had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Buenos Aires.

The New Yorker published a new long-form piece from Ben Taub, the 2014 Emanuel R. Freedman winner, about Iraq’s treatment of suspected jihadis and how it would set the stage for an ISIS resurgence. Taub’s piece, “Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge,” published in December, follows a brutal campaign by Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims are being detained, tortured and executed or cast out of society because of suspected associations with ISIS. He was interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” in December to talk about the article.

OPC member and freelancer Roopa Gogineni won the Rory Peck award for News Feature in November. The Rory Peck awards honor the work of freelancers covering global news. Gogineni was recognized for her film The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan, which focused on the creator of a satirical puppet show to share the news of the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. She filmed the piece in Sudan in 2016, and it was later broadcast on The New York Times website. Judges of the Rory Peck award acknowledged the risk Gogineni took by making the story with very little funding and little backing. Based in Nairobi, she has spent the last seven years covering the conflict in East Africa. She has been an OPC member since 2017.

Masha Gessen, winner of the OPC’s 2016 Best Commentary Award, was one of this year’s recipients of the CFR Arthur Ross Book Award in early December. She won the bronze medal for her book The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. She and three other winners of the award participated in a discussion on Dec. 4. The Gold Medal went to Stephen Kotkin for Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941, and the Silver Medal went to Michael J. Green for By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783. The award honors books that make an outstanding contribution to the understanding of foreign policy or international relations. The prize is for non-fiction works from the past year. In early December, Gessen received a Hitchens Prize for a body of work that expresses a commitment to “free expression and inquiry.”

Author and journalist Steve Coll’s book Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan was nominated for the “longlist” for The National Book Award for Nonfiction. The book, published early last year, is a close look at secret security agencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nonfiction award this year went to Jeffrey C. Stewart for The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, a biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Directorate S was also named as a finalist  for the National Book Critics Circle Award on Jan. 22. Coll is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and served as president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington D.C. His first book, Ghost Wars, won him a Pulitzer Prize. Last March, Coll sat down with the OPC for a book night to discuss Directorate S.

Freelance reporter Asad Hashim was named as winner of the 2018 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize on Jan. 13. He was recognized for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan. The award, named after one of AFP’s most celebrated correspondents who died in 2007 at the age of 64, recognizes journalism by locally hired reporters in Asia operating in risky or difficult conditions.


It has been a tough month for many journalists. BuzzFeed News told staff on Jan. 25 that 43 of the division’s 250 journalists would be laid off. The cut was just the first step in a planned 15 percent reduction in staff overall at BuzzFeed. HuffPost announced 20 employees were cut on Jan. 24 as its parent company, Verizon Media, laid off 7 percent of its staff. Overall, about 800 employees across several brands, including AOL and Yahoo. Cuts of about 400 jobs were also announced at Gannett newsrooms across the U.S.

Award-winning journalist Susan Zirinsky, senior executive producer at CBS News, has been named president and senior executive producer of CBS News. Her new role was announced on Jan. 6 by Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO of CBS Corporation. Zirinsky started working for CBS in the network’s Washington bureau two weeks after the Watergate break-in. Over the next four decades, she produced multiple award-winning documentaries and programs, covering a wide range of stories including the Gulf War, the student uprising in Tiananmen Square, the 9/11 attacks, the Paris terror attacks, and the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida last year. Zirinsky is slated to begin her new role in March.

OPC Governor David Ariosto has moved from his post at Brut to a new gig as executive producer at GZERO Media at Eurasia Group. He previously worked as managing editor at Brut, and has also served as supervising producer of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” You can read about his new book This Is Cuba on Page 10.

Noticias Telemundo announced in December that it will launch its first-ever English-language daily newscast. The video news updates will be distributed exclusively via YouTube. The project won a Google News Innovation YouTube grant. This marks the first time a Noticias Telemundo production will be distributed outside of a Telemundo-owned platform.

OPC member Kathy Gannon, senior correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Associated Press, filed a story with help from 2016 Fritz Beebe win­ner Dake Kang that follows the plight of Muslim ethnic Uighur women, spouses of Pakistani men living in China, who have been taken from families and kept in “education centers.” The piece, titled “Locked away, Forgotten: Muslim Uighur Wives of Pakistani Men,” includes interviews with families searching for mothers and wives who have disappeared. Gannon lit the Candle of Remembrance during the 2015 Annual Awards Dinner and was the keynote speaker at the OPC Foundation Scholar Awards Luncheon in 2016. She survived a brutal shooting attack while covering elections in Afghanistan in 2014. Kang is a video journalist based in Beijing and contributed to the report.

OPC member Jake Naughton launched a Kickstarter for a book project he and his partner Juan Sosa have completed to chronicle their love story in photographs. The campaign raised more than $25,000 from a total of 278 backers. The two have been working the project together for five years, collecting photos, designing and editing the book. The book, titled When We Were Strangers, will be published by Red Hook Editions and is due out in the spring of this year. On the Kickstarter page, Naughton describes the book as a look at “the ups and downs, the challenges and triumphs, the everyday little wondrous moments” of being in love. A recent update indicated that the book is already being printed, and the two creators will hold a book launch and exhibition opening at United Photo Industries in Brooklyn on Feb. 14. Naughton is a world recognized photographer who has been awarded numerous times for his photos. He has been an OPC member since 2017.

Jason Rezaian, journalist for The Washington Post who spent 18 months in an Iranian prison on bogus charges, testified with his family in a $1 billion federal lawsuit against the Iranian government on Jan. 8. The lawsuit seeks damages for his 544-day ordeal, in which he was taken hostage and psychologically tortured by the Iranian government, as well as damages his family suffered. Jason’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, was also arrested and spent 72 days in solitary confinement. The lawsuit seeks $44 million in compensatory and economic damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. Rezaian’s attorney argued that his client was held as a bargaining chip in talks with Iran. Rezaian was the Post’s correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016 and is now a writer for its Global Opinions section. A book about his experience in Iran, titled Prisoner, was released in January. In 2017, Rezaian lit the ceremonial Candle of Remembrance at the OPC Awards Dinner.


Desmond Boylan, a veteran photojournalist for The Associated Press, died suddenly while on assignment in Cuba on Dec. 29. at the age of 54. Boylan was traveling to cover New Year’s festivities in Central Havana for the AP when he reported feeling ill. He asked to rest on a local family’s couch and passed away there. Boylan began working as a photographer for AP in Spain in 1989. He later worked for Reuters, covering the end of apartheid in South Africa, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and war in the former Yugoslavia. Boylan traveled to Cuba in 1994, where he met his wife Gloria Gonzalez. He worked from Madrid and India, covering conflict in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, and then moved back to Cuba in 2009, returning to the AP in 2014.

Peter Larkin, former foreign editor of CBS News, passed away early New Year’s Eve with his family around him. He was 76 years old. His mission was to help Americans better understand events abroad and their impact on the U.S. He worked at UPI and at CBS News as a war correspondent in Vietnam and during the Indo-Pakistani war. Life-threatening battlefield wounds he sustained while covering the Vietnam war left him with lifelong pain. Despite this, Peter worked at CBS News for more than 20 years. Peter rose from foreign correspondent to CBS News London Bureau Chief, and he became Foreign Editor of CBS News, working closely with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. International news coverage directed by Peter won many awards and accolades. He leaves a daughter, Brett Elizabeth Larkin. Donations in his memory can be made to the Overseas Press Club Foundation.