August 2, 2021

People Column

OPC MEMBERS COVERING COVID-19

OPC member Keith Bradsher co-wrote a piece for The New York Times on March 21 with colleague Sui-Lee Wee about the ripple effects of China’s strict border closures and quarantine measures over the last year. To stanch the spread of coronavirus, China banned tourists and short-term business travelers, and ramped up restrictions for foreigners, even those who have lived there for years. Those moves resulted in separated families, disrupted businesses, and set thousands of international students adrift in uncertainty, the writers said. The story notes that the number of foreign business managers in China has declined, and an American Chamber of Commerce survey of 191 businesses indicates that the proportion of companies with no expatriates had surged to 28 percent, compared to 9 percent a year earlier.

OPC member Vernon Silver was part of a Bloomberg Businessweek team that reported on problems and blowback in the uneven distribution of the Pfizer vaccine. The March 4 story recounted panic and outrage over a Pfizer announcement in January that the company would temporarily cut vaccine supplies while its manufacturing facility in Belgium closed for an upgrade. Italy, one of the world’s worst-hit countries, threatened “unspecified action” against the company and accusations of incompetence. Silver, along with colleagues Stephanie Baker and Cynthia Koons, wrote that vaccine distribution was an “opaque process” involving “a mix of order size, position in the queue, production forecasts, calls from world leaders, the potential to advance the science, and of course the desire to make a profit.”

OPC member Jim Bittermann reported from France for CNN on new lockdown restrictions on March 19 as the country tries to bring a surge of COVID-19 cases under control. He said for the next month that in particular targeted sections around Paris and Nice, an estimated 110,000 non-essential businesses would be shut down. “Travel between parts of the country which are under restrictions and other areas will be forbidden,” he said in a video dispatch.

SCHOLARS

After her fellowship with Rest of the World ended, Mehr Nadeem, the Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship winner in 2019, was hired to stay on as a contributing writer covering all things tech in Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Persian Gulf. The OPC Foundation funded Mehr’s internship with Reuters in Pakistan.

Gabriela Bhaskar, the 2017 David R. Schweisberg Scholarship winner, has been named as member of the 2021-22 New York Times Fellowship class. A photojournalist based in New York, Gabbie’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and more.

AWARDS

OPC member Steve Stecklow was among the winners named in a Reuters’ 2020 Journalists of the Year Award in the category of Enterprise Reporting for the series on coronavirus response mismanagement called COVID Kingdom. The series also won a British Journalism Award for Best Science Journalism late last year.

OPC member and photojournalist Joshua Irwandi has been nominated for a 2021 World Press Photo Award. Irwandi is a photographer based in Jakarta for National Geographic. This year’s nominations include 45 photographers from 28 countries. Winners will be announced on April 15.

UPDATES

OPC member Evgeny Afineevsky is scheduled to participate in a panel tonight (March 25) at 8:00 p.m. following the screening of his film, Francesco, which features interviews with Pope Francis and provides “an intimate look at a global leader who approaches challenging and complex issues with tremendous humility, wisdom and generosity towards all.” The film is scheduled to premiere in theaters on March 26, and will be available on the Discovery+ service on March 28. Click here to RSVP for the virtual screening, which will begin at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Veteran freelance photojournalist Peter Turnley, who has been an OPC member since 1992, is among those slated to present his work during an online symposium on March 30 and 31. Hosted at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the School of Visual Communication, The Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media will focus on covering global crises. Turnley’s photographs have appeared on Newsweek’s cover 40 times, and he has worked in more than 90 countries and published eight books. Many other photographers, journalists and filmmakers are scheduled to speak, and the two-day event will also feature film screenings, including “The Nightcrawlers” about Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” and “Essential Journalists,” about journalists’ adaptations in covering COVID-19. Turnley’s presentation is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time on March 31.

OPC member Kathy Gannon of The Associated Press interviewed former Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March 11 to discuss a draft deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Karzai told Gannon that Afghans were “in a hurry for peace” and healing after decades of conflict. She wrote that President Ashraf Ghani would likely oppose portions of the deal that would diminish the president’s power during a transition government, and the Taliban would push back against liberal reforms and secular rule. Karzai served as president from 2001 to 2004 and has no formal role in negotiations, but is considered to be an important player behind the scenes, Gannon said.

Lucy Sherriff, an OPC member and freelancer based in California, wrote a longform piece for the Medium project Future Human on March 15 about a research project in Hawaii to translate forgotten archives of native-language newspapers for mining valuable climate data. She wrote that there were once more than 100 native language newspapers in circulation in Hawaii that chronicled daily life on the islands. That record was once thought to be lost, but in the early 1990s, Puakea Nogelmeier, a professor of language at the University of Hawai‘i, discovered that local libraries and museums had hoarded its old newspapers. He started the slow process of translating and digitizing each article. Sheriff said that data extracted from the weather reports “enabled meteorologists to track Hawaii’s extreme weather past, which, in turn, led to critical legislation protecting Hawaiians from similar weather in the future.”

OPC member and USA TODAY reporter Kim Hjelmgaard participated in an AMA (ask me anything) thread on Reddit on March 17 to discuss his recent reporting on the United States’ vast overseas military empire. Asked whether the Biden administration intends to reduce U.S. military presence overseas, Hjelmgaard said one key indicator of that intention would be a commitment to reform the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, or AUMF. “This is the legislation that has permitted the U.S. to wield military power all over the world while hunting for terrorists in places like Syria,” he said. “It was intended more narrowly for 9/11-related wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. The Obama admin also signaled it would reform AUMF. It never did.” Links to Hjelmgaard’s recent reporting on the issue, including a longform piece in February titled “A Reckoning is Near,” can be found in the introduction of the AMA thread.

Henry Peck, an OPC member and freelancer based in East Sussex, U.K., wrote about the UK government’s placement programs on the south coast for people displaced by conflict in Syria and Sudan for Open Democracy on March 17. The article explores a flagship government called the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), and examines how effective it has been in practice. Peck wrote that the program has offered one of the only safe routes to Britain for displaced people, but has been used to justify an antagonistic approach to asylum seekers crossing the English Channel. “Across the world, resettlement serves fewer than 1 percent of refugees, but as Europe grapples with fatal sea crossings, xenophobic politics, and overcrowded asylum facilities, the successes and shortcomings of the VPRS hold lessons for the wider region’s immigration policies,” he wrote.

OPC member Kathy Eldon recently traveled to Kenya for a tour and working vacation to visit old and new friends as well as check in on humanitarian aid programs. In a personal newsletter, she wrote about a visit to the Shining Hope for Communities project in a poor community of Nairobi that provides essential services to several local charities. Eldon also wrote about a stop at the nearby Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a haven for elephants and rhinos, a visit with an Empowered Women group, and more. A browser-friendly version of the email newsletter is available here, where you can also find a link to subscribe for future issues.