September 29, 2023

People Column


Juan Diego Arredondo, the 2020 winner of the OPC Foundation’s Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory I.F. Stone, has returned to the U.S. after surviving gunshot wounds from an attack in Ukraine in which his colleague, Brent Renaud, was shot and killed. Arredondo spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper while receiving treatment at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He recounted events on the day of the attack, when he and colleagues were trying to cross a bridge that was part of what he said was designated as a “humanitarian corridor” for those fleeing violence. “I saw in the trenches two [soldiers]. One of them pulled out [an AK-47], and I just shouted ‘we’re getting shot!’” he told Cooper.

The 2022 Edith Lederer Scholarship winner, Emma Tobin, landed a photo in The Wall Street Journal on March 24 accompanying a story about the safety status of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children. She took the photo for The Associated Press. In a tweet, Tobin shared a photo of the paper, saying “my dad excitedly sent me a photo of his morning @WSJ this week when he realized I took the photo he was looking at. Always fun seeing how far @AP travels.”

Euan Ward, the 2022 winner of the Rick Davis-Deb Amos scholarship, was named the international reporting fellow for the 2022-2023 New York Times Fellowship Class. Currently at Columbia Journalism School, he formerly was based in Beirut where he reported for a number of news organizations including The Guardian, CNN and Al-Arabiya. Last year, Ward led a cross-border investigation for The Guardian into the abuse of “golden passport” schemes by the world’s rich and powerful.

Meena Venkataramanan, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2021, published a review on March 22 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of Sindya Bhanoo’s book of short stories, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere, which uses the structure of the American road trip to explore narratives focused on Indian immigrants, particularly Tamil women and their children.

Kimon de Greef, the David R. Schweisberg Scholarship winner in 2020, has an article in The New Yorker posted on March 21 about psychedelic toad smoking and a divisive self-styled healer who popularized the practice. He wrote about a practice amplified by Octavio Rettig, a charismatic Mexican doctor who took the stage at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2013 to talk about what he called “the ultimate experience.” De Greef wrote that smoking the dried excretions of the psychedelic toad has been likened to “being strapped to the nose of a rocket that flies into the sun and evaporates.”


Rana Ayyub, a columnist for The Washington Post who earlier this month was named winner of the OPC’s Flora Lewis Award, was barred from boarding a flight to London on March 29 as she was departing for an International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) event in which she was scheduled to deliver a keynote address on violence and targeting of women journalists in India. She also received an email summons from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, an hour after she reached the airport. Ayyub was to receive an award and address the newsroom of the Guardian newspaper on April 1. Indian media have reported that Ayyub has been told to appear for questioning in the case on April 1. Press freedom advocates and supporters have been calling for her release under the hashtag #LetRanaFly. Ayyub won the Flora Lewis Award for her commentary writing about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s systematic persecution of the Muslim minority.

OPC Governor Marjorie Miller, vice president and global enterprise editor at The Associated Press, has been named administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. In a March 31 announcement Lee C. Bollinger, the President of Columbia University and a Pulitzer Prize board member, said Miller “has spent her long and successful career covering the complex and consequential forces shaping our global society,” and added that he “cannot think of a better steward for the Pulitzer Prizes.” Miller said that she would will take pride in “helping to safeguard the prizes at a time when truth, facts and books are under assault.” Her new post will be effective April 11.

OPC Governor Sandra Stevenson of CNN was named as one of three judges for The Alexia’s 2022 student and professional photography grant competition. Stevenson, associate director of photography for CNN, will join Todd Heisler of The New York Times and Jehan Jillani of The Atlantic, in a selection weekend that starts April 1 in Syracuse, New York. The recipient of the The Alexia professional grant will receive $20,000 to produce their proposed project, and the student recipient will receive $1,000. This year’s grant submissions come from 50 countries around the world. The Alexia was created to celebrate and remember Alexia Tsairis, a student at Syracuse University who was killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. She was one of 35 Syracuse students on that flight.

OPC member Dexter Roberts, the author of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, spoke to Voice of America for a piece on March 9 about China’s role in response to sanctions against Russia in support of Ukraine. In a piece concluding overall that China could not do enough to offset sanctions by the U.S. and other allies, Roberts was quoted as saying that China’s economic support for Russia has limits, but that the two countries would maintain ties as key trading partners, “I do think longer term we’re likely to see a continued growing trade relationship and investment relationship between China and Russia,” he said. “For Russia it really matters.” Roberts participated in an OPC book night in April 2020 to discuss China’s future in light of the pandemic, which was still in its early stages at the time.

OPC member Markos Kounalakis co-wrote an opinion piece on March 28 for the San Francisco Examiner that highlights the plight of refugees fleeing Venezuela. The piece, written with colleague Leopoldo López, draws links between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and social and government collapse in Venezuela, naming a so-called global Axis of Autocracy that includes countries that Russia supports such as China, Iran, Turkey, Cuba, Nicaragua, Hungary, North Korea. “Why is America trying now to wedge itself between Russia and Venezuela? In part because this Axis not only facilitates Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine, but also because it supports the democratic and civilizational erosion of Venezuela,” the authors wrote. Kounalakis is author of several books, including a new book published in February titled Freedom Isn’t Free, and Spin Wars and Spy Games: Global Media and Intelligence Gathering, published in 2018, that warned state-run media in China and Russia were overtaking Western media as the latter shrinks its foreign desks.

Kim Hjelmgaard, an OPC member and USA TODAY world correspondent, has been reporting from the Polish border and Lviv in western Ukraine. With a half dozen bylines in March alone, Hjelmgaard has filed stories about the flow of refugees over the border with Poland, Ukraine’s governmental response to war, the most prized possessions of refugees on the move, the struggles of a Polish border city welcoming newcomers, and families in Ukraine divided by the invasion.


The Los Angeles Times named Sara Yasin as a managing editor. Yasin, who is currently managing editor for BuzzFeed, will join Scott Kraft, an OPC vice president and the head judge of the OPC’s Annual Awards, along with his colleague Shani Hilton on the team of managing editors. The paper’s executive editor, Kevin Merida, said that Yasin will oversee the daily news operation as well as photo, data and graphics teams, beginning April 18.


Dirck Halstead, a past OPC Award winner and photojournalist who covered landmark stories over a 50-year career United Press International, TIME magazine and other news outlets, died on March 25 in Boquete, Panama at the age of 85. Halstead won the OPC’s 1975 Robert Capa Award for his coverage of the Vietnam War for TIME. OPC member and photographer David Hume Kennerly, a longtime friend and colleague of Halstead’s, said in a statement quoted in The New York Times that he “covered history in an intelligent way” and was “cool under fire” when the two were covering conflict. “One time in 1972 we were pinned down by North Vietnamese regulars near Loc. South Vietnamese soldiers were dying left and right around us, mortar rounds were exploding, we were taking heavy machine gun fire from the tree line, when Dirck looked at me and said, ‘Can’t wait to have a drink at the Melody Bar tonight.’”