May 17, 2021

People Column


Luca Powell, winner of a 2021 OPC Foundation Scholar Award and a graduate student at CUNY, wrote about the high toll COVID-19 has taken on Filipino nurses for a New York Times piece on Jan. 15. The article, titled “‘It’s Starting Again’: Why Filipino Nurses Dread the Second Wave,” cites a recent study that found close to a third of all the nurses who died from the virus in the U.S. were Filipino. Powell traces the history of Filipino nurses working in New York City hospitals in greater numbers since immigration reforms in the 1960s. Neighborhoods in Elmhurst and Woodside in Queens, an area now known as Little Manila, were hit particularly hard by the virus, he writes, “In June, a community group painted a mural in Woodside to fallen Filipino workers. It reads ‘Mabuhay,’ which in Tagalog means ‘May you live.’”

Caelainn Hogan, winner of the 2014 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship, wrote a piece for The New York Times on Jan. 15 about a system of institutions that Ireland created that separated mixed-race children from their mothers and placed them in so-called “reject wards.” Her article follows the story of singer Jess Kavanagh’s “search for answers and the barriers to justice that survivors still face.” Hogan’s book about the country’s institutionalization of unmarried pregnant women and forced separations, titled Republic of Shame, was published by Penguin in September 2019, and became available in the U.S. last October.


Many OPC members covered violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and its aftermath. OPC member Kim Hjelmgaard covered the attacks as breaking news for USA Today, writing on Jan. 6 about world leaders’ reactions “with a mixture of strong condemnations, shock and outright disbelief.” OPC member Linda Kinstler wrote about the siege for The Economist on Jan.7 in a piece titled “They Stormed the Capitol, then Posed for Selfies,” describing developments that day and providing on-the-ground color before, during and after the violence. “With water bottles in their holsters and guns at their side, they looked ready for battle, though it was unclear of what kind,” Kinstler wrote. OPC member Dalton Bennett was part of the Washington Post team that reconstructed a timeline and map for the attacks on Jan. 16, which used text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. OPC member Amy Mackinnon wrote for Foreign Policy magazine on Jan. 19 about how the Capitol assault dominated a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to consider Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence. She also faced questions from lawmakers on China, the Iran nuclear deal, and the SolarWinds hack of the federal government. OPC member Mort Rosenblum wrote on Jan. 9 about the siege on his blog “The Mort Report,” comparing the Trump administration’s strongarm handling of anti-racism protesters and journalists covering unrest last summer to the lack of response from law enforcement in D.C., on Jan. 6 while “the world watched, stupefied, as louts in battle costume swarmed into the Capitol unhindered.”

CBS News on Jan. 5 named OPC member Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews as executive vice president and Washington bureau chief. In her new post, she oversees the newsgathering and management of the division’s larges bureau. Ciprian-Matthews is a 25-year veteran at CBS who has served as an executive vice president since 2018 and held several senior management roles. She has won an Emmy Award and an Alfred I. duPont award for CBS News’ coverage of the Newtown tragedy. In 2016, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists presented Ciprian-Matthews with the Presidential Award of Impact.

OPC member Clarissa McNair, a foreign correspondent with World Radio Paris, has been named as an executive officer of the Association and the Club of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States (AFC-USA). The organization’s new board was announced on Jan. 15.

Danielle Keeton-Olsen, an OPC member, freelancer and editor for who is based in Cambodia, wrote a piece for Global Voices on Jan. 14 about the revival of a Cambodian martial art that nearly disappeared after the Khmer Rouge regime executed many of its teachers and practitioners. She wrote that the discipline, called L’bokator, combines techniques like throwing elbows, knees and punches as well as using weaponry. Keeton-Olsen wrote about a 67-year-old master who is trying to revive the martial art and is pushing for L’bokator to be recognized as an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

OPC member Jane Ferguson, special correspondent for PBS NewsHour, spoke with host Amna Nawaz from Kabul on Jan. 15 to discuss the announcement that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has fallen to 2,500, the lowest since the U.S. first invaded in 2001. The move is part of a deal the U.S. struck with the Taliban in February last year. Ferguson said the withdrawal has increased pressure amid fighting and stalled peace talks, as well anxiety about whether the U.S. will adhere to the Trump plan that would have troops pulled out completely by the end of April. “That leaves the Afghan government and negotiators from Kabul in quite a weakened position,” she said.

Amberin Zaman, OPC member and senior correspondent for the news website Al-Monitor, will serve as occasional host for the site’s podcast, “On the Middle East,” which is usually hosted by Al-Monitor president Andrew Parasiliti. The podcast covers “the latest news and trends in the region, with additional commentary from Al-Monitor’s ‘on-the-ground’ correspondents.” Zaman was a guest on Jan. 12 to discuss the strained future of U.S.-Turkey relations, and then hosted the show on Jan. 19 with guest Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian scholar and a fellow at the Center for Global Policy, who talked about how a peaceful civilian uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad degenerated over the past decade into “a seemingly endless series of conflicts within conflicts.”


Chris Cramer, a senior Reuters journalist who once served, died on Jan. 16 at the age of 73. Cramer was a supporter of safety training and standards for journalists working in risky conditions, as well as mental health treatment after traumatic assignments. He was founding member and head of the International News Safety Institute (INSI). During his career, he also served as head of news gathering for the BBC, an executive at CNN International, and head of video production at The Wall Street Journal. He was taken hostage with 25 other people during the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980, an experience that inspired his dedication to journalist safety.


OPC member Megan U. Boyanton wrote for Bloomberg Government on Jan. 19 about meatpackers calling for early access to the COVID-19 vaccine due to being at high risk in their work. Boyanton cited the Food and Environment Reporting Network, which estimates at least 53,620 meatpacking workers have tested positive for coronavirus and 269 had died as of Jan. 15. She wrote that the country’s largest meatpacking union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as well as some of the country’s meatpacking heavyweights, including Tyson Foods Inc., JBS SA, and Cargill Inc., are pushing to have their employees vaccinated quickly.

OPC Governor Derek Kravitz has also been following COVID-19’s links to the meatpacking industry as part of a team that includes the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. A piece filed on Jan. 18 recounts the Trump administration’s pressure to keep meatpacking plants open as an essential part of the food system in late April. The article focuses on a plant in northern Illinois at Rochelle Foods, a Hormel subsidiary, where officials were pushed to keep operations running despite an outbreak. In the fall, a second outbreak of infections “went unreported to anyone outside the company and the local health department. By mid-September, at least 137 COVID-19 cases had been reported at the plant in Rochelle,” the article reports.

OPC member Scott Gilmore wrote an op-ed for MacLean’s on Jan. 11 about the Canadian government’s shortcomings in handling COVID-19. “We need to be angrier,” Gilmore wrote as an opening line to the piece, in which he outlines what he calls a “strange lack of urgency” among leaders, with delays in distributing vaccine doses despite a national death toll of 16,000 and a rising number of cases.

OPC member Kristen Chick wrote a piece for National Geographic on Jan. 8 about COVID-19 in the aftermath of a six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that killed more than 5,000 people and displaced tens of thousands more. She traces the roots of the conflict, which stretch back more than a century to the end of the Ottoman and Russian empires, erupting in the late 1980s until a ceasefire in 1994. Chick wrote that when the conflict flared up again in September last year, more than half of the 150,000 residents in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh fled to Armenia. Those who remained took refuge underground, where they were more vulnerable to the coronavirus.