April 21, 2019

People Column


The OPC Foundation’s 2014 Stan Swinton Fellowship winner, Sam Kimball, is working on a podcasting project dedicated to telling the personal stories of everyday Iraqis titled UNHEARD: The Voices of Iraq. Through a Kickstarter campaign that met its $6,000 goal, Kimball will begin training in storytelling and radio production and pass those skills on to local journalists who will help him to carry out his vision for the project. Kimball arrived in Iraq in January 2017 with an eye to reporting stories that go deeper than typical narratives about ISIS and jihad to reveal a more complete picture of how ordinary Iraqis are grappling with terrorism and government corruption. He will enroll in Transom’s Storytelling Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he’ll learn about audio equipment, editing, writing and other aspects of production.


NEW YORK: OPC Treasurer Abigail Pesta received two awards from The Newswomen’s Club of New York, one for her magazine feature “First Do No Harm” in Women’s Health Magazine and another for her Mother Jones essay, “My Daughter Was Murdered in a Mass Shooting. Then I Was Ordered to Pay Her Killer’s Gun Dealer.” “First Do No Harm” is an investigative report exposing sexual abuse by physicians. The article explores the aftermath of sexual assault and outlines resources to seek help. Pesta reported that in a 500-person survey, 27 percent of participants had been violated during a doctor’s visit. Pesta’s piece for Mother Jones recounts a story told to her by Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessi was killed during the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Phillips attempted to sue the person who sold thousands of rounds of ammunition to the gunman, but lost the suit and was forced to pay the defendant’s legal fees, rendering her bankrupt.

OPC Governor Bill Collins accepted a buyout offer and wrapped up a 28-year communications career recently with Ford Motor Co. Bill has been an active OPC supporter since joining the Board in 2002, publicizing the OPC Awards and contributing to the Freedom of the Press Committee. He’s recently joined the OPC Foundation Board. “In the next chapter, I’ll continue working on press freedom projects and PR consulting,” said Collins, a former journalist. He was honored in a farewell event at God’s Love We Deliver in New York on Oct. 12.

A small group of friends and family gathered Oct. 15 at the apartment of Patti Kenner to celebrate the spirit and accomplishments of longtime OPC member Ruth Gruber, who died Nov. 17 at 105. Kenner was a close friend of Ruth’s and the producer of the documentary “Ahead of Time: the Extraordinary Journey of Ruth Gruber.” Gruber joined the OPC in 1959 and remained a member until her death. A photojournalist and author, she also worked as a human rights advocate. “Acting for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she escorted nearly 1,000 refugees from 19 Nazi-occupied nations to a safe haven in the United States on a perilous trans-Atlantic crossing in 1944. They included the only large contingent of Jews allowed into America during World War II,” according to the memorial program. Gruber is one of ten women profiled in the book Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females, by Linda Stein. A tapestry made by Stein was displayed at the event, showing photos and scenes from Ruth’s life. Kenner closed the program with a quote from Gruber: “If something has to be done, just go ahead and do it. Don’t let obstacles get in your way.”

This year’s OPC Feature Photography Award winner, Meridith Kohut, was recently interviewed by Image Republiq on her experience working in Venezuela over the last decade. Recounting how her work there began, she recalled a 2006 phone call with David Furst, international picture editor at The New York Times and newly elected OPC Governor, who proposed that she travel to Venezuela to document the everyday lives of its citizens. She told Image Republiq that when she arrived she discovered a population in a downward spiral of starvation and inflation under authoritarian oppression from then-President Nicolás Maduro. Kohut recently presented her work at a panel co-sponsored by the OPC, the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Professional Prizes department. A video of her interview can be found on Image Republiq’s Facebook page.

NYU journalism professor Mohamad Bazzi was featured in The New York Times last month for his op-ed on his experience with the university’s Abu Dhabi campus. Bazzi was scheduled to teach a course at the site when he was denied entry into United Arab Emirates by the government. The university made an unsuccessful appeal. Bazzi suspects that the school made only a half-hearted attempt to solve the issue. He believes the root of the issue to be his background, being a Lebanese-born Shiite Muslim. Bazzi’s op-ed alleged discrimination and said NYU failed to adhere to principles of academic freedom upon which its New York campus was built. Bazzi spoke at an OPC panel at International House earlier this year about the crisis in Syria.

Kate Webb, a former correspondent for Agence-France Presse, has been featured on an Australian stamp. Webb, who died at the age of 64 in 2007, reported in Asia and is known for her coverage of the Vietnam War. In 1971, it had been mistakenly reported that she was killed following her capture in Cambodia by North Vietnamese troops who detained her for 23 days, prompting an obituary to be published on the front page of The New York Times. The honorary stamp is one of five in a set unveiled last month to recognize the roles played by women in conflict zones. The set was issued on Oct. 6.

SAN FRANCISCO: Elizabeth Dwoskin, who was part of a team that won this year’s Bob Considine Award, has continued ongoing work with The Washington Post about the presence of Russian ads on Facebook and other online platforms. Her reporting, part of a group project shared with colleagues, exposes that Russians have spent tens of thousands of dollars in advertising to spread disinformation on social media and across Google’s platforms, including Gmail and YouTube. The stories outline ways that disinformation focused on key voting states during the 2016 presidential election. Dwoskin’s byline also appeared in a Washington Post story last month detailing how some of the Russian-linked Facebook ads were directly intended to drive a wedge between racial and religious groups.

MEXICO CITY: Photographer Wesley Bocxe suffered serious injuries during last month’s earthquake in Mexico City when his apartment building collapsed. He is expected to survive and his 5-year-old daughter, Amara, was at school at the time and survived. But Bocxe’s wife, Elizabeth Esguerra Rosas, was with him and did not survive the collapse. A Gofundme page has been set up to assist Bocxe and his family. The page has generated more than $110,000 in funds, and around $30,000 of the $150,000 goal remains.

ROME: In September, former OPC Governor Yvonne Dunleavy received a tour of the Rome press club, Stampa Estera, by active officer Chris Warde-Jones. Occupying a spacious, multi-story building in the heart of the city, the club has comprehensive facilities for journalists, a bar and extensive exhibition space and an auditorium for conferences with newsworthy people “from the Pope on down,” Dunleavy said. She noted an irony: the premises were an inadvertent gift from dictator Benito Mussolini during his fascist regime in the early 20th century, as the government dismantled democratic institutions and created a law to consolidate and monitor the press from a single location. “Victim of his own megalomania and failed swaggering vows to return Italy to its ancient glory, Mussolini was executed in 1945 toward the end of the Second World War,” Dunleavy wrote to the Bulletin.


Former OPC member and longtime foreign correspondent Wilbur Landrey died on Sept. 29 in Largo, Forida from pneumonia complications. He was 93. Landrey joined the OPC in 1959, continuing a career shared by three family generations of newspapermen before him. Born in Kansas City on Nov. 16, 1923, Landrey embarked on his reporting career while in high school, writing for the Kansas City Kansan. During his time at the University of Kansas, he began working for the Kansas City Star, eventually joining the United Press International news service the year he graduated. Landrey spent the bulk of his career with UPI, traveling throughout the world in regions including Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Finally, he joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1975 where he worked for nearly 20 years. He is survived by his wife, Beverly Landrey.

Legendary Associated Press reporter Richard Pyle died in a hospital on Sept. 28 from lung fibrosis and obstructive lung disease, according to his wife, actress-writer Brenda Smiley. He was 83. Pyle’s 49-year career included top stories on the presidency of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, revolution in the Philippines and the 9-11 terrorist attacks. He covered Vietnam from 1968 to 1973, serving as Saigon bureau chief for the last few years of his tenure there. AP’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, told the wire agency that Pyle maintained “his passion for great stories and never lost his insistence on strong, probing journalism.” He authored the 1991 book, Schwarzkopf, on the 1991 Gulf War commander H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and co-authored Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else, which was published in 2007. He retired in 2009.

Diana Kaff, journalist and wife of past OPC member Albert Kaff, died on Sept. 22. She was 85. Diana had written for Chinese language newspapers and married Albert in 1960. Two years later, Albert, a longtime UPI correspondent, joined the OPC and was given honorary status in 1998 for writing the Bulletin’s People column. He passed away in 2011. Diana is remembered for her travel writing and human interest stories in Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily News and New York’s World Journal.