February 28, 2021

People Column


Sandali Handagama, winner of the 2020 Jerry Flint Fellowship for International Business Reporting, has landed an internship at CoinDesk. She will serve as reporter for the news site’s global macro and policy coverage on blockchain-based digital assets.

Derek Kravitz, OPC board member and the OPC Foundation’s 2014 winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship, has been awarded a 2020-21 Magic Grant from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a collaboration between Stanford University’s School of Engineering and the Columbia Journalism School. His project, the COVID-19 FOIA Repository, began as a 2019-2020 Magic Grant that has now shifted its focus to reporting on how local governments were responding to the pandemic. The team will continue its work, issuing targeted Freedom of Information Act requests to build a nationwide repository of COVID-19 related emails between city, county, and state officials. So far, the project has requested records from more than 200 agencies in 44 states, and received 16 substantive responses from 10 states totaling more than 50,000 pages and hundreds of attachments, in data and PDF forms. The COVID-19 FOIA Repository will make the full document sets searchable and available to news organizations, academics and the public.

Marta Orosz, winner of the 2020 Reuters Fellowship, reported for the news service on an epidemic simulation at the U.S. Naval War College that predicted several trends in September 2019. Benjamin Davies, who creates war games for the institution, designed a simulated epidemic to help boost future crisis management. Orosz said that the simulation modeled an “infectious disease spreading through a densely populated city with 21 million people and pockets of inequality that became a hotbed for contagion.”

Mehr Nadeem, the Irene Corbally Kuhn winner in 2019, has received a reporting fellowship from Rest of the World, an organization founded to tell technology stories, particularly from places that are overlooked. The OPC Foundation funded Mehr’s internship with Reuters in Pakistan. She has also reported for Bloomberg News and Lebanon’s Daily Star. Nadeem is proficient in Urdu, Hindi and Arabic.

Lingling Wei, winner of the 2001 Reuters Scholarship, is co-author of a new book, along with Bob Davis, covering the U.S.-China trade war. The book, titled “Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War,” was published on June 9 by Harper’s Press.

Marta Orosz, winner of the 2020 Reuters Fellowship, was awarded a $3,000 scholarship from the New York Financial Writers Association. The scholarship is for students interested in business and financial journalism.

Kantaro Komiya, 2020 OPC Foundation Stan Swinton Fellowship winner, has landed his first byline as part of this summer’s Dow Jones internship. The piece covers Dunkin’ Brands Group (the donut firm) hiring of 25,000 workers at its franchise restaurants, among other companies that are adding jobs as the dormant economy slowly grinds back into production.   


Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra won the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)’s Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award on June 11. Zahra and colleague Peerzada Ashiq have been facing harassment and intimidation from local authorities for their reporting. Zahra’s work has appeared in The Caravan, The Washington Post, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The New Humanitarian, Religion Unplugged and several other media outlets. Zahra has previously exhibited at the annual Photoville festival in New York with her portfolio, “Journalists Under Fire.” The annual IWMF award is named for photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed during an attack in April 2014 while reporting in Afghanistan with OPC member Kathy Gannon, who was injured critically in the attack.

An NBC Digital documentary produced by Ed Ou, winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2007 Dan Eldon Scholarship, won a Peabody Award. The one-hour program, “A Different Kind Of Force: Policing Mental Illness,” focuses on law enforcement approach to mental illness in San Antonio and Houston, and how “deinstitutionalization of the mental health system and lack of resources for both police and health workers created a societal problem.” NBC Digital also won a Peabody for Richard Engel‘s reporting on the U.S. decision to abandon its traditional allies the Kurds, titled “American Betrayal.”


Terrence McCoy, recipient of a Citation for Excellence in the OPC’s Kim Wall Award category this year, landed a front page story for The Washington Post about the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil, which is set to surpass the number of cases and deaths in the U.S. even as world leaders brace for a second wave. McCoy shared the OPC citation with Courtney Kan for their project, “More Tigers Now Live in Cages than in the Wild,” which follows Swiss counter-trafficking conservationist Karl Ammann in his mission to break tiger poaching networks in Southeast Asia.

OPC former Governor Rukmini Callimachi co-wrote a piece on June 6 for The Nork Times along with colleague Eric Schmitt covering the French military’s announcement that it had killed one of Al Qaeda’s longest-serving commanders in Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdal. The two wrote about the leader’s rise to power over the last decade within the ranks of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a local insurgent group, which pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2006 and began what has been described as “the terrorist version of a corporate merger.”


OPC member Eric Reidy, who was one of the freelancers to receive an OPC microgrant, shared an article that the funding helped bring to fruition. The article, titled “Coronavirus: A Window of Opportunity for Action on Migration?” is part of a series pieces Reidy has written on migration, refugees and coronavirus since the outbreak began. “I received the grant at a moment when I was feeling quite insecure financially because of the pandemic,” Reidy wrote in an email. “I was looking for online work teaching English, copy-editing, transcribing, anything I could potentially find. The grant helped to calm my nerves, boost my confidence and turn my focus back to full time journalism and my coverage of the virus.”

OPC member Kathy Gannon has been covering COVID-19 and other stories for The Associated Press in the Middle East. On June 10, she filed a piece from Pakistan about the impact of the coronavirus on areas that had already been beset with health epidemics before COVID-19 struck, such as endemic polio, Ebola, cholera, dengue, tuberculosis and malaria, among others. “The onslaught of infectious diseases is made worse by the many other threats in lives already overwhelmed by adversity,” Gannon wrote.

Sarah Champaign, the OPC Foundation’s 2019 winner of the S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting, has been covering the pandemic in Texas for The Texas Tribune, most recently in a piece on June 10 titled “Texas Reports Largest Single-Day Increase in Coronavirus Cases,” in which she explores causes behind a new high of more than 2,500 new cases in a single day. The previous high had been just under 1,950 cases on May 31. More than 20 percent of the cases were from a single county, where health officials said most of the new cases were from three state prisons, Champaign reported. She has a fellowship with the Tribune.

Eli Binder, the 2019 Fritz Beebe Fellowship winner, continues to cover COVID-19 developments for The Wire China with a piece on June 7, titled “China’s Pandemic Pork Haul,” covering the aftermath of coronavirus hotspots at U.S. producer Smithfield Foods’ massive pork processing plants. Binder wrote that as plants saw a spike in viral cases and the company warned there would be U.S. meat shortages unless plants stayed open, its exports to China surged.

OPC member Martin Smith, along with his reporting partner and wife Marcela Gaviria, produced a documentary for FRONTLINE PBS covering the shortcomings of the U.S. administration in preparing for and coping with COVID-19. The program, “The Virus: What Went Wrong?” aired on June 16 but is available to watch via the PBS website.

OPC member Sudarsan Raghavan reported from Cairo for The Washington Post on June 17 about a sudden rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Egypt in recent weeks after it seemed the country had staved off widespread infection. Raghavan wrote that the country’s medical union has now warned that Egypt’s health system is overwhelmed and faced possible collapse, as doctors and journalists have been arrested on charges of “false news” about the pandemic.

OPC member Judith Matloff, a Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Greater Good in February-March, has garnered extensive media interest for her new book, How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope to Never Need, in part due to advice relevant to reporting during the pandemic. Matloff published an article in The New York Times about the anxiety of easing lockdown, and an OpEd in the Daily Beast about emergency planning for natural disasters during a pandemic. The BBC World Service, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, the Weather Channel, and the Octavian Report podcast have interviewed her about emotional resilience during lockdown, protest safety and natural disaster prep.


Two veteran journalists in charge of Voice of America, Amanda Bennett and Sandra Sugawara, resigned on June 15 following the congressional confirmation of a conservative activist and filmmaker, Michael Pack, to be the head of the agency that oversees the government broadcast organization.