Krithika Varagur, the Sally Jacobsen Fellowship winner in 2019, won the 2020 Marie Colvin Award for Foreign Correspondence from the Newswomen’s Club of New York. Varagur had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the New Delhi bureau of The Associated Press. In an email to the foundation, she credited her award “in part to the stories I got to write at the AP in New Delhi as an OPC fellow. (It’s for a body of work over the past year.) Thank you for making it possible!” An OPC member, Varagur spoke at a club program in May about her new book, The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project, with former OPC Second Vice President Christopher Dickey, who died in Paris in July.
Micah Danney, the Theo Wilson Scholarship winner in 2018, won an award for a video he shot for ReligionUnplugged.com on “Guns and God: Why American Church Goers are Packing Heat.” The video won a 2020 Eppy for Best News or Event Feature Video with under 1 million unique monthly visitors. Now a freelance reporter for Alabama Political Reporter, Micah had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The GroundTruth Project in Jerusalem.
Republic of Shame, a book and deep-dive investigation into Ireland’s institutionalization of unmarried pregnant women and forced separations by Caelainn Hogan, winner of the 2014 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship, is newly available in the U.S. The book tracks the legacy of a joint effort between the Catholic Church and the Irish government to operate a network of institutions for the concealment, punishment and exploitation of so-called fallen women. The book’s cover is adorned by an endorsement by Margaret Atwood, who said: “At least in The Handmaid’s Tale they value babies, mostly. Not so in the true stories here.”
Sara Dadouch, the 2017 Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2017, wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 19 about reports indicating two senior U.S. officials visited Damascus in August for secret talks about the fate of missing American journalist Austin Tice. She wrote that according to the Syrian newspaper Al Watan, “U.S. Ambassador Roger Carstens, an envoy for hostage affairs, and Kash Patel, a top White House counterterrorism adviser, met with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s intelligence agency, in his office in Damascus.” The visit coincides with increasing White House pressure to release Tice. Tice is a freelance journalist who was abducted in Syria in 2012, believed to be detained by the Syrian government or its allies.
After a successful year as a member of the first class of New York Times fellows in 2019-2020, Amelia Nierenberg, the Flora Lewis Fellowship winner in 2018, is now a full-time newsletter writer with the New York Times newsletter division. Currently, she is writing the Coronavirus Schools Briefing and contributing to others. Nierenberg had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press in Dakar. The photo on the right shows Nierenberg at the 2018 OPC Foundation Scholar Awards Luncheon with longtime OPC member Jacqueline Albert Simon, who died on Aug. 10 at the age of 98.
Max de Haldevang, the Reuters Fellowship winner in 2015, is now based in Mexico as a reporter for Bloomberg covering economics and politics. He was formerly with Quartz in New York City. De Haldevang had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Mexico City.
2015 Stan Swinton Fellowship awardee Miriam Berger has been covering COVID news for The Washington Post, recently with an Oct. 13 article on a WHO statement about how trying to reach so-called herd immunity is unethical. At an Oct. 12 media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.” Berger joined the Post’s foreign staff in August 2019.
Uliana Pavlova, the Theo Wilson Scholarship winner in 2017, has moved to Moscow where she will be freelancing for the Bloomberg Industry Group, among other outlets. After graduating from the University of Missouri, Uliana had an internship with Bloomberg as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Politico Europe. Most recently, she was a reporter for a regulatory news wire called MLex on the trade and financial services desks.
Kantaro Komiya, the Stan Swinton Fellowship winner in 2020, has signed on as a part-time editorial intern at Rest of World. Kantaro had an internship this summer with Dow Jones before returning to DePauw to complete his last semester. After graduation, he plans to return to Japan to do his OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Tokyo.
Claire Parker, the Stan Swinton Fellowship winner in 2019, wrote about Tunisians leaving Europe in The Washington Post. Parker, who also had a summer internship with Post, had an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press bureau in Paris. She was freelancing in Tunisia when the pandemic hit.
Makini Brice, the OPC Foundation’s 2015 Flora Lewis Fellowship winner, was part of a team that filed an article for Reuters on Sept. 27 on families mourning elders lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. The piece reported that as the country passes 200,000 deaths from coronavirus, about 70 out of every 100 people in the U.S. death toll are aged 65 or over. She posted on Twitter that “It was an honor to report on this story and talk to people about their parents and grandparents. Their absences will be felt for a long time.” Brice had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Dakar.
TIME magazine on Sept. 22 named Syrian filmmaker and Peter Jennings Award winner Waad al-Kateab among the world’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Al-Kateab and Edward Watts, who directed the Oscar-nominated film For Sama, will speak to the OPC on Oct. 7. The film is named after al-Kateab’s daughter who was born and raised during the siege, and tracks her work as she documents the Syrian revolution as a mother and a citizen journalist. Separately, on Sept. 30, Amnesty International announced during its Media Awards that For Sama won this year’s award in the documentary category.
A former Taliban commander accused in the November 2008 kidnapping of three people, including OPC member and award winner David Rohde, has been arrested and transferred to the United States to face six federal charges including kidnapping, hostage taking, conspiracy and using a machine gun in furtherance of violent crimes. A federal indictment against the former commander, Haji Najibullah, was unsealed on Oct. 28. He faces life sentences for each of the six charges if convicted. Rohde, who was working for The New York Times at the time, was abducted at gunpoint in Afghanistan along with Afghan journalist Tahir Ludin and Asadullah Mangal, their driver, and held for more than seven months. Rohde and Ludin escaped from a Taliban compound in June 2009. Mangal fled five weeks later. Rohde, who is now serving as the online news director for The New Yorker, won the OPC’s 1995 Hal Boyle Award for reporting on the Srebrenica Massacre for the Christian Science Monitor, shared the 2015 Joe and Laurie Dine Award along with Charles Levinson for reporting on the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention facility for Reuters, and also received the OPC’s President’s Award in 2015. He also received an OPC Citation for Excellence in 2009 for writing about his ordeal in Afghanistan.
OPC member Calvin Sims has started his new post at CNN as executive vice president of standards and practices. Sims is a veteran journalist with three decades of experience in news, foreign affairs and philanthropy. He most recently served as president and CEO of International House, a non-profit program aimed at cross cultural understanding and peace. He has also served in senior positions at The New York Times, the Discovery Times Channel, the Ford Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations. Sims will replace CNN’s outgoing head of standards and practices, Rick Davis, who is slated to retire in January next year. “I look forward to building on the great legacy of CNN’s news standards and ethics established by my predecessor Rick Davis and forging new and innovative ways to tell the truth with zeal and fidelity,” Sims said in a CNN release. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to return to my professional passion – quality journalism, especially at a time when it’s needed most and at a network that is as essential as CNN is today.”
OPC Governor Vivienne Walt wrote for TIME magazine on Oct. 21 about political and cultural implications of the brutal murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in France. Paty, a middle-school history and civics teacher, was attacked on his way home in the Paris suburbs on Oct. 16. He was stabbed to death and then decapitated. The murder was reportedly retribution for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Walt wrote that the murder “cracked open a deep schism, that is rarely far from the surface in France,” and that it raises questions about “how the country’s 5.7 million Muslims – the largest Muslim population in the European Union – assimilate, or not, in a country whose constitution is based on an unyielding principle of secularism and which has seen multiple terrorist attacks by jihadists since 2015.”
OPC members David Burnett and David Hume Kennerly are among the photographers who will be honored at a virtual celebration hosted by the Los Angeles Center of Photography on Oct. 24 during the center’s 5th annual fundraising gala. Guests at the ticketed event will have access to a virtual gallery of over 100 photographs from artists, galleries and institutions, with audio clips of artists talking about their work. Photo, right, David Burnett; below left, David Hume Kennerly.
OPC member Sima Diab’s photographs documenting people living in Egypt’s Nile Delta accompanied an Oct. 15 story for The Washington Post, part of which was written by OPC member Sudarsan Raghavan, about the massive Renaissance Dam project in Ethiopia. The story, which Raghavan co-wrote with colleague Max Bearak, said while the project could set Egypt on a path to lift millions out of poverty, “downstream in Egypt, where the Nile meets the sea, a starkly different picture emerges: The dam is a giant, menacing barrier that could be used to hold back the source of nearly all the country’s water.” Several of Diab’s images accompanied the long-form story, depicting farmers in a village about 60 miles north of Cairo who fear the project will hamstring irrigation for their crops.
OPC member Alice Driver contributed to a CBC radio story on Oct. 26 about Harrison, Arkansas and its struggle to escape a reputation as “the most racist town in America.” Driver contributed tape and photos for the sound-rich feature story. The town has a long history of white supremacy, and still has billboards promoting racist websites. The Ku Klux Klan headquarters is about 15 miles away in Zinc. Harrison drew attention over the summer with a viral video of residents shouting hostilities at a person holding a Black Lives Matter sign.
OPC member Mort Rosenblum’s new book, Saving Our World From Trump: Mort Reports, was published last month in time for election-season reading. Rosenblum wrote about Trump’s authoritarian tactics and how they mirror that of other democracies that have slid into dictatorship. “Today, a grasping megalomaniac sees the map as a Monopoly board and cons his cultists into believing that he dominates it,” he wrote. “Americans who oppose him focus on crisis at home, with scant attention to his global depredations that threaten human survival.” Rosenblum formerly served as editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris and spent four decades with The Associated Press based in Kinshasa, Lagos, Singapore and Buenos Aires. He was the AP’s chief international correspondent for 21 years.
OPC member Judith Matloff filed a story on Oct. 5 for The Daily Beast about a segment of so-called preppers that are stockpiling firearms and ammunition as the country faces a fresh wave of pandemic lockdowns and rising fear of political violence. She cited several examples of preppers posting incendiary comments about the need to defend against antifa and leftist mobs if the country descends into “times of desperation and social unrest.” Matloff reported that on the 25 most popular prepper websites, she had seen a significant uptick in articles about purchasing firearms during a pandemic and “more warnings than usual of ‘SHTF’ (Shit Hits the Fan.)” Matloff teaches crisis reporting at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her latest book, How to Drag a Body and Other Safety Tips You Hope to Never Need, covers survival tips gleaned from her career working in conflict zones.
Norman Pearlstine, the executive editor for the Los Angeles Times and sponsor of the OPC’s Hal Boyle Award, announced on Oct. 5 that he would soon resign, staying on until the paper finds a replacement that a Times story said “could chart a digital future and unite a newsroom that has been torn by controversies.” Pearlstine became executive editor in June 2018 in the wake of layoffs and mismanagement under Tribune Publishing, and worked to stabilize the newsroom with a hiring spree and boosts to technology. Over the last several months, the paper was beset with a series of controversies, including allegations of ethical breaches and management missteps, as well as a failure to diversify its staff during the surge of hiring in recent years.
Hannah Allam of NPR, a 2005 OPC award winner and head judge of this year’s Madeline Dane Ross Award, reported on Oct. 8 about the alleged plot to violently overthrow the government of Michigan and kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Allam, who covers extremism for NPR, told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish that the FBI had confidential informants and undercover personnel involved in the investigation from an early stage this summer, which gives reporters “a fascinating window into this alleged plot through group chats and audio recordings that are in the court papers.” The group ultimately planned to abduct Whitmer, take her to Wisconsin, and stage a mock trial. Allam said among militias “there is infighting right now on the use of violence, how much to partner with organizations that are more explicitly racist and explicitly violent than some of the more self-described constitutionalist militias.” Allam was part of a team that won the Hal Boyle Award in 2005 for coverage of the Iraq war.
OPC member Elena Becatoros wrote for The Associated Press on Oct. 7 about a Greek court’s landmark decision calling the right-wing Golden Dawn party a criminal organization. The court handed down guilty verdicts for dozens of defendants with ties to the neo-Nazi group that gained a political foothold\during the country’s recent financial crisis. Seven were found guilty of leading a criminal organization, and the rest were guilty of participating in that organization.
OPC member and VOA White House bureau chief Steve Herman was investigated for anti-Trump bias despite laws protecting the govt. funded broadcaster from political interference or influence. The move is the latest in a string of episodes pointing to the politicization of VOA since Trump appointed Michael Pack as CEO of its parent agency. NPR wrote on Oct. 4 that Trump appointees compiled a “confidential” report on Herman claiming he had been unfair to Trump in his social media posts and “likes.”
Meanwhile, Herman got a name check in one of the month’s most shared and trending news stories, as he asked President Trump on Air Force One about security breaches connected to the new Sacha Baron Cohen mocumentary, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The film includes a scene involving Trump attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in a hotel room with an actress pretending to be a Russian journalist. The actress was later shown interviewing Donald Trump Jr. at the White House. Herman asked Trump if he was worried about security breaches, to which he responded “I don’t know what happened, but years ago, you know, [Baron Cohen] tried to scam me and I was the only one who said no way. That’s a phony guy and I don’t find him funny,” according to Herman’s recounts on Twitter, which were widely quoted in articles from the Los Angeles Times to Hollywood Reporter.
For The Associated Press in Islamabad, OPC member Kathy Gannon wrote on Sept. 28 about Pakistan’s Supreme Court decision to accept an appeal from the family of slain Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl seeking to keep a British-born Pakistani man on death row for Pearl’s murder in 2002. The appeal is against a lower-court acquittal of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. On Oct. 7 a government order said he would remain in jail for another three months. Judges have adjourned the appeal hearing until Oct. 21.
OPC member Kim Hjelmgaard was among the team of experts on USA Today staff assigned to provide live fact check checking during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7. Hjelmgaard posted the morning after on Twitter that “folks overseas who did not stay up to watch the #VPDebate are asking me who won and I’m telling them, uh, well, the fly.” He was referring to a fly that upstaged Vice President Mike Pence when it landed on his hair and stayed stubbornly for two minutes during the program. Also on Oct. 7, Hjelmgaard filed a story analyzing whether the U.S. should be concerned about a slide into authoritarianism under President Trump, comparing his moves to that of other countries like Hungary, Poland and Turkey that “quietly” crept into authoritarian regimes.
OPC Third Vice President Scott Kraft, managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, spoke on a panel titled “The Journalistic Reset” on Oct. 1 as part of the International Press Institute’s virtual World Congress. The panel was billed as a discussion of what organizers called “the great journalistic reset driven by the momentous social movements of our time: from moral clarity to deep context.” The panel also included Khadija Patel of IPI, Joe Davidson of The Washington Post, and Sarah Ward-Lilley of BBC News. An IPI tweet said Kraft spoke about managing diversity within the newsroom at the Los Angeles Times, with staff “going through [an] internal process of reconciliation, we need to look at ourselves and apologize about wrongdoings.”
OPC Treasurer Deborah Amos of NPR News received an honorable mention at the 2020 Dart Awards on Sept. 24 for “Syria Torture Survivors Seek Justice,” a series of stories about people testifying in European courts against a regime accused of war crimes. Judges called the series “a case study in thorough, humane, and complete reporting.” They applauded Amos for “swiftly and skillfully relating the background and current situation of each person she profiles, describing but not lingering on the traumatic situations they have endured, and then focusing on their resilience and the action to which their personal histories have spurred them.” During the program, a tweet from the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma quoted Amos as saying “Are these tragic victims or are these resilient survivors? I always kept it in my head that these are resilient survivors.”
OPC member Stéphanie Fillion wrote a piece written for PassBlue and published in Ms. magazine in September citing a lack of women’s voices speaking at the United Nations General Assembly this year, with only 11 women out of 196 speakers. Fillion wrote that among the first-day speakers were leaders from Brazil, the United States, France, Chile, China, Turkey, Cuba, Russia, Iran, Qatar and South Africa, and “nary a woman in the mix.” She added that several diplomats spoke about the need for more gender equality and were working to change the speaker lineup at the assembly, but did “not want to use their names for fear of looking self-promotional.”
OPC member Stefania Rousselle’s reporting on border issues last year was featured in a video published on Sept. 29 on the site Mission Local, originally a project launched at UC Berkeley’s Journalism School. The video follows two undocumented women facing the threat of deportation, who while “living in a perpetual state of uncertainty, these domestic workers and activists continue to help others like them by refusing to stay silent and invisible.” Mission Local’s multimedia editor Mimi Chakaorva also worked on the piece.
OPC member Amberin Zaman, senior correspondent for Al-Monitortalked on a panel on Sept 23 at the Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights about religious minorities being targeted in Turkey. The panel discussed religious freedom of Christians in Turkey, the Turkish government’s systematic deprivation of the rights of Christian institutions, as well as organizations representing other religious minorities. Panelists included Elizabeth Prodromou of Tufts University, author and activist Raffi Bedrosyan, and former pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for several years by the Erdogan regime for his activities on behalf of Christians in Turkey.
OPC MEMBERS COVERING COVID-19
OPC member Keith Bradsher wrote for The New York Times on Oct. 18 about China’s surging economy as the country reins in its COVID-19 infection rates with almost no local transmission. He reported that the Chinese economy “surged 4.9 percent in the July-to-September quarter compared with the same months last year,” according to the country’s statistics bureau. That restores growth to nearly the same rate it had before the pandemic, which was 6 percent. He said the country’s recovery would not ripple out to the rest of the world as much as it has in the past because imports have not increased as much as exports, and the recovery is linked to huge domestic infrastructure investments.
OPC member Chriss Swaney continues to cover worker’s rights and infringement in the era of COVID-19, with a piece for WorkersCompensation.com on Oct. 23 about the families of employees at a meat processing plant in Greely, Colorado owned by JBS USA, who are fighting for worker’s compensation following the deaths of several plant employees who fell ill during the course of their work. According to the Food and Environment Report Network, which has been tracking outbreaks, more than 44,000 meatpacking workers have tested positive for the virus, and more than 200 have died.
OPC member Wudan Yan wrote a piece for the October print issue of Spectrum, a trade publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), about the state of research into a “here-and-now” COVID-19 test. Yan, along with colleague David Schneider, wrote a deep dive into research around the world on the development of better coronavirus tests, and the prospects of breakthroughs that would identify asymptomatic infections and keep people from inadvertently spreading the virus. The piece examines the science behind several kinds of tests, identifying some of the most important recent innovations.
Meghan Sullivan, winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2020 Walter and Betsy Cronkite Scholarship, continues to cover COVID-19 stories in Alaska with a focus on Indigenous communities. She wrote for Indian Country Today about an increase in coronavirus cases in a remote Siberian Yupik village in Alaska. The village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea had a total case count of 19 in a town of only 681 residents. The stakes of even small outbreaks are high in remote areas, she reported – it costs around $500 to fly to the nearest hospital in Nome, which only has about 10 respirators to serve more than a dozen villages. The outbreak also has knock-on effects as those exposed to people who test positive have to shut down essential facilities, such as the town’s general store being closed while managers wait for their own test results.
OPC member Lori Valigra has been reporting on COVID-19 in Maine extensively for articles in the Bangor Daily News, with a focus on the effect on businesses and the economy. Recent pieces include an Oct. 22 piece reporting that prices for the state’s home sales jumped 20 percent in September as out-of-state buyers search for a safe haven to ride out the pandemic. The trend is driven by low interest rates and a glut of buyers, according to a state realtors’ association. Maine’s viral load so far is among the lowest in the country, hovering in the bottom five for number of deaths per million population. Valigra also reported in September on the pandemic’s effect on two iconic state retailers, L.L. Bean and Renys, amid an uncertain holiday season and some supply manufacturers shutting down. In September she also reported Maine economists and retailers concerns about “federal stimulus uncertainty, ongoing pandemic, recession, November election, the regular flu season and cold weather that will force businesses that had expanded outside to move inside.”
OPC member Alice Driver wrote a personal piece for The Guardian on Oct. 3 on how upheaval from COVID-19 affected her work as a freelancer, and how she coped during different phases of 2020. “In the first month of the pandemic, there were days when I worried about my livelihood disappearing, and I did cry imagining the end of my career as a freelance writer,” Driver wrote. She wrote that she kept herself buoyant by helping other writers on social media and was encouraged by their successes. She is currently reporting a story in rural Arkansas with funding from the National Geographic Society Emergency Fund for Journalists.
For a health website titled The Doctor Weighs in, OPC member Judith Matloff wrote on Oct. 6 about ways to stay psychologically strong as the “next wave” of COVID-19 infections continues to rise. She provides tips and reminders about how to plan ahead and weather what is likely to turn out to be an isolating winter. She recommends avoiding complacency about exposure to the virus, planning ahead to ease anxiety, and curating social support. “Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Distance yourself from anyone who has a toxic effect,” she wrote. Matloff is an award-winning veteran journalist who has taught crisis reporting at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for two decades. She is the senior safety advisor of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.
OPC member Emily Schultheis on Oct. 6 reported on the effect of the pandemic on the Central European University in Vienna, which was just finding its footing after being forced out of Hungary in 2017. The George Soros–founded institution opened classes in late September, a “culmination of years of uncertainty and legal battles with authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s anti-Semitic political vendetta against Soros,” Schultheis wrote. The article was written for the Institute of Current World Affairs in DC, and republished on Slate’s website.
OPC member Nicholas Kristof took part in a video project for The New York Times posted in the op-ed section on Sept. 29 examining shortcomings in U.S. handling of COVID-19, despite 15 years of preparation for a possible pandemic disaster. The piece, “How America Lost 200,000 Lives to Covid-19,” constructs a timeline and compares viral surges in the European Union against that of the U.S., showing soaring rates in America as case numbers decline elsewhere. “I’ve always felt that I come from the country that helped invent public health,” Kristof told Times colleague Johnny Harris during the interview, “and now my own country, arguably the most powerful country in the history of the world, has taken a challenge that we kind of knew what to do with, and just blowing it in ways that have cost so many lives.”
OPC member Peter Turnley had a photo exhibition titled “The human face of COVID-19” presented at the international photojournalism festival Visa pour l’image in Perpignan, France. Turnley spent time in lockdown in New York after he returned from Cuba. He told Euronews that he was stunned when exploring the city with his camera. “This is the first world war of our lifetime,” he said. “We have never experienced in our lifetime a moment that affected every single person on a planet like this moment. This is a war with an invisible enemy.” His photos, many of which are shown in the Euronews article, capture a spectrum of emotions during the crisis.
OPC member Borzou Daragahi reported on Sept. 29 for the Independent on COVID-19 from Turkey, with a focus on the deaths of thousands of medical personnel who “succumbed to the disease they are on the frontline of treating.” Amnesty International reported earlier in September this month that at least 7,000 healthcare workers have died of COVID-19 around the world, though those numbers could be much higher. Due to fear of contracting the virus, he said that in Turkey, 200 to 300 physicians have either applied to retire or stopped showing up for work.
OPC member Valerie Hopkins wrote about record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Hungary for the Financial Times on Sept. 18. Hungary had reported record daily numbers of infections, with active case numbers surpassing 11,000 that week. A virology research center told Hopkins that Hungary is second only to France in epidemic prevalence in the population. She wrote that as a second wave of cases swept across Europe at the end of August, Hungarian premier Viktor Orban “closed the borders from Sept. 1 to foreigners, making an exception for business travelers, and imposed quarantine restrictions on citizens.” But Hopikins added that as recently as the end of August, the country’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, spurned requests for employees to work from home, saying “I have never allowed that and will never do so.”