April 16, 2024

People Column


Three OPC Foundation fellows have started their summer internships at The Wall Street Journal and already landed bylines. Simon Levien, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner for 2023, Nuha Dolby, the Roy Rowan Fellowship winner for 2023, and Humza Jilani, the Roy Rowan Scholarship winner in 2022, have been reporting on a range of topics including culture wars in the U.S. Congress, Facebook’s legal setbacks in ad revenue for Europe, and real estate woes in a London business district. (Photos above, left to right: Levien, Dolby and Jilani.)

Youcef Bounab, winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory of I.F.Stone in 2023, started his internship and OPC fellowship at The Associated Press in Paris. Bounab reported on unrest in France following the police killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, with stories about the implications for tourism, diplomacy with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the effect on Bastille Day celebrations amid restrictions on fireworks and public transportation.

Zane Irvin, the 2023 Flora Lewis/Jacqueline Albert-Simon Scholarship winner, has been writing for The Associated Press during his OPC fellowship this summer from West Africa, with reporting on violence in Cameroon’s English-speaking areas, forced deportations in Ghana, and military killings and torture in Burkina Faso. Irwin previously covered Cameroon as a Pulitzer Center reporting fellow in 2022 with a focus on conflict in the battlefield and on social media.

Rachel Nostrant, the 2023 Edith Lederer Scholarship winner, has also been filing stories for Reuters since the beginning of July, with recent stories about a heat wave in Arizona on July 16, a story about a Florida judge’s decision on July 12 to allow a filmed re-enactment in the Parkland school shooting case, and another story on July 12 about a study showing flagging learning levels among U.S. students since the pandemic.

Lucy Papachristou, the 2023 winner of the Jerry Flint Scholarship for International Business Reporting, has been filing stories about Russia for Reuters since mid-May, most recently with a piece about the passage of a bill banning gender change on July 14, and another story on July 5 about charges against the chief executive of Yandex for alleged offenses under the country’s so-called “LGBT propaganda” law. She has an OPC Foundation fellowship with Reuters.

Sarah Raza, the Rick Davis-Deb Amos Scholarship winner in 2023, has started her internship on the metro desk of The Boston Globe, with seven bylines on topics spanning climate change, city council scandals and implications of the over-the-counter birth control pill, Opill. Raza was previously a beat reporter and desk editor for The Stanford Daily and plans to earn a master’s degree in journalism.


OPC member Astrid Landon received a Gold Award in the Digital Health Awards contest in June for work in MindSite News. Landon was honored for pieces titled “How I Passed a Test To Be a Grief Therapist Without Really Trying,” and “Buyer, Be Aware: An Inside Look at Four Grief Counseling Programs,” which examine the problems of the unregulated mental health care certification industry.


On July 10, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) spoke with OPC Past President David A. Andelman from Paris about riots in France following the police killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk. OPC member Ian Williams, the FPA’s president, asked Andelman about cultural changes and attitudes toward marginalized groups in France. He said neighborhoods that were once segregated by ethnicity have become more integrated, inflaming tensions and nativist sentiments. “Unfortunately the police are drawn from a segment of the population that is very much like that,” he said, adding that self-selection and institutional attitudes within the French police force deepens the problem. “They come more from the milieu of people who don’t trust Nahel [Merzouk], and feel hostile toward him, and don’t necessarily think they belong in France, even though Nahel was born in France and was a citizen.”

OPC member Jim Bitterman also discussed the unrest for CNN from Paris on July 4, as French President Emmanuel Macron met with mayors across the country hit hard by violence. To illustrate division in France over the incident, he contrasted two fundraising campaigns, one for the family of the police officer who shot Merzouk, and another for Merzouk’s family, with funds for the police outpacing that of Merzouk by a factor of up to five times. “It’s a very telling figure, and some people are using that this morning to make their arguments, saying what’s needed here is a tougher police crackdown, and not so much better police work,” he said. “On the other hand, there are plenty of people who say the police need more training and more sensitivity.”

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, an OPC member and columnist for The Telegraph in London, on July 3 discussed the riots in France with the right-leaning British broadcast channel GBNews. “We now are beginning to understand that the first day, which may have been crucial to set the tone, there were severe instructions to police not to have another incident, and therefore they held out, rather than risk another killing. The result is that there was an emboldenment of the movement by people who have no political demands whatsoever.” She rejected the labeling of unrest as protests, saying that “they are riots by people who essentially are out to get revenge.”

Elena Becatoros, an OPC member based in Athens who serves as Associated Press bureau chief for southeast Europe, spoke to NPR on June 21 about the deadly wreck of a crowded ship off the coast of Greece carrying 750 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and other countries, which claimed the lives of at least 500 people. Becatoros talked about testimony from survivors who described appalling conditions, with “women and children mainly held down below in the hold, which is why there have been no women or children among the survivors.” Nine Egyptians were arrested and charged in connection with the incident amid allegations of violence on board the ship and links with a human trafficking ring.

OPC member Ben Taub, a staff writer for The New Yorker, wrote a longform piece on July 1 that closely examines events and safety concerns leading up to the Titan submersible disaster. Through extensive interviews and access to emails with OceanGate expedition leaders and staff, Taub reveals that many warnings were ignored. He wrote that experts “had been warning of the submersible’s design flaws for more than five years, filing complaints to the U.S. government and to OceanGate itself, and pleading with [OceanGate founder and Titan pilot Stockton Rush] to abandon his aspirations. As they mourned Nargeolet and the other passengers, they decided to reveal OceanGate’s history of knowingly shoddy design and construction. “You can’t cut corners in the deep,” Taub quoted Rob McCallum, a veteran expedition leader, as telling Rush. “It’s not about being a disruptor. It’s about the laws of physics.” Taub won OPC Foundation’s Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship in 2015 and won the OPC’s 2016 Best Investigative Reporting Award for his piece about Syria’s war crimes against its own citizens.