June 17, 2024

People Column


Iqra Salah, the Walter and Betsy Cronkite Scholarship winner for 2022, spoke to attendees at the Pulitzer Center’s Washington Weekend event on Oct. 27 about her project about statelessness in Zimbabwe and efforts to recognize undocumented people. Salah is a reporting fellow with the center, where she covers human rights stories. She said during a panel presentation that many people are born in Zimbabwe with no identification due to a history of discrimination in granting citizenship by ancestry.

Sophia Jones, the Reuters Fellowship winner in 2012, is now with the Human Rights Watch Digital Investigations Lab, where she will be conducting open-source investigations into war crimes and human rights violations around the world. Jones has had an award-winning career covering mostly the Middle East and was the executive editor and an investigative journalist at Starling Lab, a research center at Stanford University and the University of Southern California, exploring issues of disinformation and data integrity. She is based in Barcelona. The OPC Foundation funded her internship in the Reuters bureau in Ramallah.


MuckRock, a nonprofit journalism group where OPC Governor Derek Kravitz serves as investigations editor, has received the 2022 Community Champion Award from the Institute for Nonprofit News for the “Uncounted” COVID-19 project. The award was shared with reporting partner USA TODAY and the Documenting COVID-19 project that Kravitz founded. The investigation found that death certificates, long prone to error, had gotten worse during the pandemic and resulted in thousands of uncounted COVID-19 deaths. The project also won first place in the 2022 National Headliners Awards for online pandemic coverage or project and was shortlisted as one of the top data projects by the international competition Sigma Awards.

Italian director and OPC member Benedetta Argentieri received the Phoenix Award at the Cologne Film Festival for her documentary The Matchmaker on Oct. 27. She dedicated the award to the “brave people of North and East Syria.” The film follows Tooba Gondal, a native Londoner alleged to have recruited teenage girls to become the wives of ISIS fighters. News site Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê interviewed Argentieri about her film at the International Women’s Conference on Nov. 5 in Berlin. She said she dedicated her award to Syrians because the Ukraine war has crowded out coverage of other conflicts in the world and she hopes to draw attention to conflict in Syria as well as other violence, including recent chemical attacks by the Turkish government against Kurdistan Freedom Forces.


OPC member and former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz has been named as the Philippines ambassador to China. FlorCruz retired from CNN in 2014. He covered key events in China including the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the death of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the 1997 Hong Kong handover, and the 2008 Olympics, among others. He was an anti-Marcos activist who was exiled in China under the President’s father and namesake, the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, in the 1970s. He was appointed on Oct. 17.

Patricia Kranz, executive director of the Overseas Press Club, and 29 other women who were on the University of Michigan’s original six women’s varsity sports teams were honored on Nov. 11 and 12 at a series of events in Ann Arbor. The programs recognized the impact of 50 years of Title IX on women’s varsity athletics. Title IX is the most used name for the federal civil rights law that was enacted in 1972 and prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding. Kranz played on the first varsity women’s tennis team, winning a letter in 1974. The “Team One” athletes and hundreds of other letterwinners viewed their names on the new Letterwinners Wall in the Crisler Center that lists everyone who earned a varsity letter at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus since 1866. A story about the first efforts to recognize Kranz and other Title IX athletes at the University of Michigan appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Bulletin, which you can read here.

A documentary based on OPC Governor Charles Graeber’s book, The Good Nurse, premiered on Netflix on Nov. 11. A dramatized version of the book became a Netflix feature film this September with actor Eddie Redmayne portraying serial killer and nurse Charles Cullen and Jessica Chastain as his colleague and whistleblower, Amy Loughren. Graeber is among the sources interviewed in the documentary, titled The Killer Nurse. Graeber shared his thoughts about how the high rotation of hospital staffing set the stage for Cullen’s abuses. “People come and go and being transient is somewhat expected. The institution of private, for-profit health care, the business of health care, is one that Charlie Cullen was perfectly suited for. You become invisible. And he was, to many, a man without a face.” Graeber also spoke to Newsweek for a story on Nov. 3 that focused on Cullen’s claims that he was a “mercy killer” ending the suffering of patients, but “the murders had everything to do with what he needed at that moment and what worked for him, and absolutely nothing to do with those people,” Graeber was quoted as saying in the piece.

OPC member Amanda Florian wrote a piece for Foreign Policy magazine on Nov. 7 about how public health policies are using anti-foreign language and stirring xenophobia. She wrote that the head epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Zunyou Wu, announced in September that citizens should avoid contact with foreigners to stop the spread of monkeypox. Florian said amid the country’s zero-COVID policies, disease stigma and mistrust have become commonplace over the last two years.

Mary Kay Magistad, a veteran public radio correspondent and OPC member who now works with the Asia Society, traveled to Greenland in September to report on climate issues for a CBS News piece that aired on Nov. 3. She reported that temperatures are rising four times faster than the global average, threatening ice sheets that stabilize global temperatures. This year marked the warmest September on record in Greenland, Magistad said.

OPC member Kathy Gannon spoke on stage at the Shorenstein Center on Nov. 15 during a program about the role of media in democracy. Gannon is serving as a Joan Shorenstein Fellow at the center this fall session. Brian Stelter, who covered media for CNN, also participated in the discussion. Gannon is an international correspondent and bureau chief with 30 years of experience, and was news director for Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Associated Press until May this year. She said that she bristles at the notion that journalists are responsible for preserving democracy. “It’s not my job. My job is to inform,” Gannon said. “My job is not about going out there with the intention of holding the powerful to account. If I’m going out for a specific purpose or bandwagon, you actually undermine democracy by the very fact of losing your independence to promote a system of government.”

A story for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog written by Ruchi Kumar, an OPC member and freelance journalist, got a surprising postscript on Nov. 1 from an editor who worked on the piece. Pierre Kattar served as visuals editor for Kumar’s article, which focused on 16-year-old girl Marzia Mohammadi, one of 53 people, mainly girls, killed in a suicide bombing attack on Sept. 30 in Kabul. Kumar’s story last month used excerpts of Mohammadi’s diary, provided to NPR by her uncle, to explore her goals and dreams. Kattar wrote that soon after working on Kumar’s story he attended a protest in Rome where he is based, and ran into Mohammadi’s teacher, who was holding a poster displaying a photo of Mohammadi and her friend. The teacher, Hamidullah Hussaini, said he had taught the two girls math for seven years. Hussaini himself had narrowly escaped the Taliban later in October when members showed up at his school and questioned him about a lecture they had seen in which he told students the economy had worsened since the Taliban banned women from getting an education or working. He fled Kabul the next day and ended up in Rome. “My main dream is that one day the Taliban will be removed from Afghanistan, and I’ll go back and teach the young women in my school,” Mohammadi said.


OPC member Amberin Zaman, the UK-based senior correspondent for the Al-Monitor news website, has faced a wave of online harassment and death threats by Turkish public figures and others. The Association of European Journalists said in an alert on its website that Turkish pro-government newspapers and other influential media have “spread malicious misinformation, falsely calling her a supporter of terrorism, inciting popular hostility. The widespread dissemination of death threats and explicit warnings of rape and sexual violence, accompanied by lurid and unfounded attacks on her reputation, raise acute fears for the journalist’s personal safety.”