October 27, 2020

People Column


Following Daphne Psaledakis’s OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Brussels this summer, Reuters has offered her a job on the foreign policy team in its Washington bureau. Psaledakis is the winner of the 2019 Flora Lewis Fellowship. She graduated from the University of Missouri in May with a dual degree in journalism and international studies. Psaledakis interned with Reuters in both Washington and Brussels, Belgium, where she returned for the OPC fellowship after graduating. She starts her new Reuters post in the last week of October.

Echo Wang, the Reuters Fellowship winner in 2019, has been hired full-time by Reuters in their mergers and acquisitions area. Wang had an OPC Foundation fellowship in Reuters’ New York bureau.

Suman Naishadham, 2018 winner of the H.L. Stevenson Scholarship, is now a contributor for Bloomberg Tax, where she covers Mexican tax policy and cross-border trade. Previously, she was an intern at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered immigration and business news. Since joining, she has filed stories about Mexico’s plan to tax digital services.

Tik Root, 2017 winner of the H.L. Stevenson Scholarship, wrote a story for TIME about ghost forests, one of the consequences of climate change. Ghost forests, Root writes, are “swaths of dead, white, trees are created when salty water moves into forested areas, first slowing, and eventually halting, the growth of new trees.” The story was published in partnership with Newsy, who made a short documentary to pair with it.

Marina Villeneuve, winner of the 2013 Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship, is now the New York State government and politics reporter for The Associated Press. She was previously their Maine statehouse reporter, a position she held since May 2016. Since starting her role in September, she has filed stories about the state budget, public finances, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Ginger Thompson
of ProPublica, winner of the OPC’s 1995 Eric and Amy Burger Award, won the 2019 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. The Columbia School of Journalism announced the award on Sept. 26. Thompson shared the OPC award with Gary Cohn in 1995 for their reporting on “Battalion 3-16,” a Honduran army unit responsible for carrying out political assassinations and torture during the 1980s.


VICE acquired Refinery29, the female-focused culture and lifestyle publisher, in early October. The price was not disclosed, but according to CNN, sources say the deal is a mix of stock and cash worth less than $500 million. “This is an expansive moment for independent media. VICE Media Group and Refinery29, two of the strongest independent voices in the industry, will continue to build a scaled global and diversified media company,” said VICE CEO Nancy Dubuc in a statement. Both outlets have faced financial difficulties in recent years, resulting in several rounds of layoffs.

Vox Media, owner of Vox and tech website The Verge, acquired New York Media, the parent company of New York magazine, in an all-stock transaction late September. The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed. Earlier this year, New York magazine laid off 16 full-time employees and 16 part-time employees, about 5 percent of their staff. Pamela Wasserstein, the chief executive of New York Media, and Jim Bankoff, the chief executive of Vox Media, both say that the deal was not done out of financial necessity. “We see a lot of mergers that are done for the wrong reason: because one or two companies might be desperate, or for financial engineering,” Bankoff said to The New York Times.

OPC Governor Martin Smith served on the panel of Colby College’s 56th annual Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, which honored 66 journalists and media workers who lost their lives in 2018. As part of the award ceremony, Smith screened his PBS Frontline documentary The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

OPC member and former Treasurer Abigail Pesta wrote an op-ed for TIME on Oct. 10 about the USA Gymnastics abuse scandal and the #MeToo era. Pesta, who recently released a book about the scandal called The Girls, talked to 25 of Larry Nassar’s abuse victims about the trauma they faced and the lack of help they received. “If anyone had listened,” Pesta wrote, “hundreds of women could have been spared.”

OPC First Vice President Deborah Amos, who covers the Middle East for NPR News, wrote a piece late September about Syrian war crime cases in Europe. One of the people she profiled was Omar Alshogre, who was tortured as a political prisoner in Syria. Alshogre was arrested in December 2012 at age 17 for protesting against the regime of President Bashar Assad and sent to Branch, 215, a military intelligence prison in Damascus notorious for “gruesome torture techniques.” When he was released in June 2015, he weighed 75 pounds. His mother didn’t recognize him. Now, he’s a Syrian refugee in Sweden who’s outspoken about the torture he endured. In the past few years, Europe has become the epicenter of prosecuting Syrian war crimes, especially in Germany, who has 800,000 Syrian refugees.

OPC Governor and New York Times international correspondent-at-large Rod Nordland wrote a new piece for the Times on Oct. 24 related to his recent diagnosis of a brain tumor. He talks about Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, who despite serving a life sentence in prison wrote a book titled “I will Never See the World Again” that was smuggled out of the prison and published. Nordland interviewed Altan before his diagnosis by secreting questions and answers past jailers. He wrote that while recently editing the interview he “recognized an affinity that I hadn’t felt initially. We are both terminal cases – his life sentence, my brain tumor – and writing brings both of us solace, for different reasons.”

Nordland also filed a story with Fatima Faizi about Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors, with photos by OPC member Jim Huylebroek. Ghafari was elected as mayor of Maidan Shar in July 2018 at age 26, but her first day was filled with so much chaos that she had to leave and return nine months later. “After she arrived for work that July day, her office was mobbed by angry men brandishing sticks and rocks,” writes Nordland. “She had to be escorted out by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security, which sent a squad of paramilitary officers to her rescue.” She still faces death threats, protests, and street harassment. The latter was Nordland’s first story since his Aug. 31 essay about discovering he had a malignant brain tumor while reporting on the monsoons in India.

OPC member Azad Essa and photojournalist Sorin Furcoi have turned their 2017 Al Jazeera project, “Killed For Their Bones: On The Trail Of The Trade In Human Body Parts,” into a book, titled Out Of The Shadows. Partnering with Amnesty International, the book will be used as an advocacy tool in hopes of raising awareness about the attacks on people with albinism in Southern and Eastern Africa. The book launch took place on Oct. 18 in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Cara Tallo, winner of the 2003 Lowell Thomas Award, is the new executive producer for All Things Considered, NPR’s flagship news program. She has been with NPR for 20 years, working her way up from a Washington desk intern in 1999. Her Lowell Thomas award was for her work on NPR’s “History of the Middle East” series.

OPC member Robyn Dixon, winner of the 2016 Madeline Dane Ross Award for her reporting on South Sudan, has been named the Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post. She had been at the Los Angeles Times since 1999, where she served as the bureau chief in Beijing and Johannesburg. She begins her work in Moscow in November.