July 9, 2020

People Column


After three years at Mother Jones in San Francisco, Yu Vongkiatkajorn, the 2016 Emanuel R. Freedman winner in 2016, has signed on with The Washington Post in DC as a community editor, working on leading audience and community engagement strategies.

OPC member Pat Milton, CBS News senior producer of the investigative unit, was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame of the Long Island Press Club honoring her career at The Associated Press and CBS News. CBS President Susan Zirinsky joined Milton’s family, friends and colleagues from the AP and CBS at an induction dinner in Smithtown, Long Island on June 6. “Pat Milton is always on,” Zirinsky said during her dinner address. “Her federal law enforcement and intelligence sources are impeccable. We go live at the network with special reports based on Pat Milton’s reporting. “Pat Milton is an inspiration to her colleagues. Pat Milton is selfless.” Milton opened The AP’s first bureau on Long Island covering key stories such as the crash of TWA Flight 800, the Long Island Railroad shooting massacre, the battle over the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, and kidnapping of Katie Beers. Milton and AP colleagues were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by The AP for their coverage of the TWA crash. She authored a book entitled In The Blink of an Eye, on the FBI investigation into the crash. She joined CBS News in 2008, and co-produces pieces for 60 Minutes. She and her CBS colleagues were awarded an Emmy for their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. Her father, Arthur Milton was a founding member of the OPC and held various positions at the club including Vice President and member of the board of governors. He also started and was long time publisher of OPC’s Dateline magazine.

OPC member Martyn Aim won a Bronze Prize in the Prix de la Photographie Paris awards, also known as Px3, in the category of “Press/War: Professional” for his project on Iraq entitled “Near Dark.” The submitted collection includes a range of photos from his daily coverage of the war in Iraq. He wrote for the awards website that during the course of his work there he “began to strive to see beyond the conflict and to capture the terrible surreal beauty conjured in moments of unexpected silence, in stillness, on deserted streets. They are dark visions that stopped me in my tracks.”


OPC Governor Rod Nordland, international correspondent at large for The New York Times and Kabul bureau chief, collapsed in India on assignment in mid-July. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery in New York on July 17, his 70th birthday. His partner described the surgery as “a great success.” Rod is in recovery in unit 2SW, neurological intensive care, room 2415, Weill Cornell Medical Center, 525 E. 68th St., New York, NY 10065. No flowers are allowed, but inscribed books, letters or cards are welcome. On doctors’ orders, calls or visitors are strictly by prearrangement only through Leila Segal, who can be reached at rod.nordland@nytimes.com.

CNN announced in early July that OPC past president Marcus Mabry will serve as the organization’s new vice president of global programming for CNN Digital Worldwide. A CNN statement about the promotion said Mabry would “unite a global team in the art and science of connecting our audiences with our journalism, across mobile and desktop.” Mabry served for the last three years as head of CNN’s mobile programming team, breaking audience records and building its mobile news team. Mabry previously served as editor of TwitterMoments, and spent nearly 10 years at The New York Times as international business editor, national politics editor and digital editor. He served as the OPC’s president from 2014 to 2016.

OPC past president Deidre Depke has been named as the next executive producer of WNYC’s The Takeaway. Depke has been serving as managing editor of American Public Media’s Marketplace, and has worked in several senior positions in the New York office over the last five years. A statement from WNYC’s vice president for news, Jim Schachter, said Depke was selected from a pool of more than 90 candidates. Depke starter her journalism career at BusinessWeek as a reporter covering Silicon Valley, then later as front-of-book editor. She later worked as foreign editor for Newsweek and managing director of The Daily Beast. She is slated to begin at The Takeaway on Aug. 12.

Trudy Rubin, winner of the OPC’s newly named Flora Lewis Award for best commentary this year, called the OPC office in early July asking for a message of support from the organization because the Philadelphia Inquirer was going to kill her foreign affairs column. Executive Director Patricia Kranz did so immediately in the name of the OPC, and many Inquirer readers also wrote the paper to protest. In a message of thanks to the OPC and other supporters, Rubin wrote that as a result of this outcry, the paper has announced it will continue to run her staff column. She called on supporters to look at the survival of regional coverage as a necessity for democracy, saying that “civic activism must now extend to support for local newspapers.”

Former OPC Governor Robert Nickelsberg on July 2 opened an exhibition of 36 prints of his work focusing on the cultural heritage of Afghanistan in the Delegates Room at the United Nations in New York on July 2. The prints are from his latest book printed and published in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Press & Public Diplomacy. The book documents 15 cultural heritage projects, institutions and sites in Afghanistan and the projects are supported by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Nickelsberg wrote in mid-July: “Better known as soft diplomacy, the book project offered me an opportunity to turn away from people in uniform, frontlines and military hardware, politics and the series of destructive suicide bombs. In the 30-plus years of my coverage and work in Afghanistan, I could visit museums, shrines and sites where in the past, there was often no time for stopping. We’re seeing how crucial this part of diplomacy is for preserving the peace and wellbeing of Afghanistan. After last week’s [July 1] car bomb in downtown Kabul, the exhibit’s opening was a small offering of hope to the search for political solutions. Training engineers, masons, craftspeople, calligraphers is how a nation can sustain itself. Ruhullah Khapalwak, who accompanied me throughout the month-long project, said, ‘As an Afghan working with journalists, this is my country and I’m amazed at the places we have that I’m seeing for the first time.’” The exhibit was up through July 17.

OPC member Cassandra Vinograd has taken a new post with the CBS News program 60 Minutes. She tweeted from @CassVinograd on July 8 that “tuning in was always ritual in my house. And I’m so, so excited that now I get to be a part of the best broadcast in news.” She has previously served as Associated Press correspondent in West Africa and later worked as an editor with The Wall Street Journal in Brussels and London. She has reported extensively on terrorism and ISIS.

OPC member Farnaz Fassihi, a reporter for The New York Times, has been grabbing attention with her coverage of Iran amid growing tension with the Trump administration. On July 4 a piece she co-wrote with David Kirkpatrick landed on the front page with an extended interview with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a divisive figure and key player in last year’s nuclear negotiations with the White House, who hard-liners are calling to resign. Fassihi wrote a piece on July 19 suggesting some of the country’s far right are warming to the idea of negotiations again. In her piece, she quoted a Times interview with former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that lasted more than an hour.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt wrote a piece for TIME in late June covering the global rise of anti-Semitism, with a focus on the trend’s “especially pronounced” increase in Europe. She wrote that for each of the past three years, the U.K. reported record numbers of anti-Semitic incidents. France, which has the world’s third-largest Jewish population, records indicate a 74 percent spike in anti-Semitic acts between 2017 and 2018. Germany saw a 19 percent increase in such incidents last year. “Exacerbated by the Internet’s ability to spread hatred, anti-Jewish feeling is surging in way that experts fear could result in a conflagration, if governments and communities fail effectively to tackle its causes,” Walt warned. She also wrote a cover story in late July about the destruction of Notre Dame, titled “Saving an Icon.”

OPC member Amy Mackinnon filed a long-form interactive feature for Foreign Policy magazine, co-bylined with C.K. Hickey, comparing child welfare in the U.S. with that of Russia and China. The story centers on a report from Save the Children showing that China is on par with the U.S. on an index that compares number of children affected by poverty, violence, child marriages, and teen pregnancy around the world. China moved up from number 41 to 36 in three years in terms of best countries for children, while the U.S has remained static at number 36 on the index. Mackinnon wrote that while the U.S. compares better than China “when it comes to the percentage of children in school, malnutrition, and child mortality rates, the United States has significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy, child marriage, and child homicide.

OPC award winner Hannah Dreier is moving from ProPublica to The Washington Post as a staff writer for National Enterprise. She won the 2016 Hal Boyle Award for coverage of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, and with ProPublica reported on immigrants, gangs and mishandled law enforcement investigations. She has received several awards including the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She begins the new gig on Sept 3.


Longtime New York Times correspondent David Binder, whose career spanned decades of key international stories from the dissolution of the Soviet Union to civil wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, died on June 30 after a long battle with kidney disease at the age of 88. Binder covered the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, and the wall’s destruction in 1989. He covered wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s, interviewing victims as well as war criminals Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic. A Times obituary said he filed more than 2,600 articles over his 43-year career. Binder is survived by his wife, Helga Wagner, an East German physician, who he married in 1959, as well as three daughters, Julia, Andrea and Alena Binder, and six grandchildren. 