August 2, 2021

People Column


Meena Venkataramanan, winner of an OPC Foundation award this year, has been named a member of the 2021 class of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She is one of 24 U.S. students to receive full funding for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. The scholarship website says that criteria for selected students includes a demonstration of “outstanding intellectual ability,” “reasons for choice of course,” “a commitment to improving the lives of others,” “and leadership potential.”
Jimin Kang, also one of this year’s foundation award recipients, was one of three recipients of a Sachs Scholarship this year, one of Princeton University’s highest awards. The award is given to students to pursue postgraduate education. According to the Daily Princetonian, Kang plans to pursue two master’s degrees at University of Oxford’s Worcester College in comparative literature and critical translation as well as environmental studies.

Yi-Ling Liu, the 2017 winner of the Fritz Beebe Fellowship, landed an extensive piece for Wired magazine on March 9 about Chinese science fiction writer Chen Qiufan, who has risen to a level of cultural status she describes as oracular. She said he has now joined the ranks of many science fiction writers in China whose work has garnered acclaim in the tech industry in recent years.

Kimon de Greef, the 2020 winner of the David R. Schweisberg Scholarship, wrote about the effects of the pandemic on the underground realm of finch smuggling and competitions for a March 10 piece for Guernica magazine. He wrote about his reporting on the same story for his winning OPC Foundation essay and spoke about it during the Scholar Luncheon in 2020.


Fanne Foxe, who co-wrote an autobiographical book with OPC member Yvonne Dunleavy, died on Feb. 10 at the age of 84. Foxe, a stripper dubbed the “Argentine Firecracker,” became the center of one of the biggest sex scandals of the 1970s when she jumped from a limousine owned by Arkansas Representative Wilbur D. Mills into the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Foxe and Dunleavy co-write a book about the affair, titled The Stripper and the Congressman, which has been frequently quoted in Foxe’s obituaries.

OPC Governor Derek Kravitz is slated to speak on an online panel on March 18 about the fight for open government and access to public records. The program, hosted by the News Leaders Association and the First Amendment Coalition, will cover added challenges to public access during the pandemic, and journalists’ efforts to break through the barriers. Other speakers include Nancy Ancrum of the Miami Herald, Andrea Gallo of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, and First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder. Kravitz is a contributing reporter for ProPublica and works on data and FOIA projects for the Brown Institute. The panel gets underway at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The answer to a question from OPC member Edith Lederer, chief correspondent at the U.N. for The Associated Press, was cited widely in coverage of the arrest of AP journalist Thein Zaw in Myanmar. Lederer on March 4 asked Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General, for comment on the arrests of Zaw and anti-coup protesters. A video taken at the time shows Zaw photographing security forces arresting protesters before being placed in a chokehold and was arrested himself. Dujarric answered that the “video is extremely disturbing to anyone who sees it,” and said that harassment, arrests and physical attacks on journalists in Myanmar “must cease” and those who have been detained should be freed.

Meanwhile Barbie Latza Nadeau, OPC member and correspondent-at-large for The Daily Beast, has also been covering unrest in Myanmar and the military junta’s crackdown on free expression. She wrote on March 10 that at least two Myanmarese poets, Myint Myint Zin and K Za Win, had been shot and killed and dozens more poets and artists arrested for protesting the Feb. 1 coup. “The targeting of poets in Mynamar predates the recent military coup thanks to laws that control public speech,” Latza Nadeau wrote.

OPC member Ryan Delaney, education reporter for St. Louis Public Radio, has been covering the pandemic’s impact on students and families, including a feature in late February about how a year of online classes is starting to drag down students’ grades and “drain their love of school.” He wrote that school administrators around the country are reporting a sharp increase in the number of students failing classes, and many students have stopped logging on altogether.

Dexter Filkins, New Yorker writer and winner of multiple OPC awards, was a guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on March 4 to discuss the status of the war in Afghanistan as the Biden administration grapples with how to handle the Trump deal to withdraw troops by May 1. Filkins won the 2004 Hal Boyle Award and the 2005 Ed Cunningham Award for reporting in Iraq, and the 2008 Cornelius Ryan Award for his book The Forever War.