March 21, 2023

People Column

This issue, catch up on OPC Foundation scholars Fatima Bhojani and Anders Melin, as well as updates about OPC community members Charles Graeber, Evgeny Afineevsky, Benedetta Argentieri , Mehr Sher, Alice Driver, Lynsey Addario and Katie J.M. Baker.


Fatima Bhojani, the 2015 Theo Wilson scholarship winner, wrote a piece for Foreign Policy on Sept. 15 about the devastating effects of climate change in Pakistan. She wrote that monsoon floods in 2022 have submerged an area about the size of Italy, describing a cycle that begins with deadly heat waves and drought, then “more water than usual evaporates from the Indian Ocean and is eagerly embraced by a warmer atmosphere. When the seasonal monsoon hits, it hits hard, with rainfall three times the national average of the past three decades.“ Bhojani said developing countries like Pakistan bear the brunt of climate crises caused by industrialized wealthy nations, exacerbating fragile situations such as food insecurity and political power struggles. Despite recent pledges from G-7 nations, “it’s not clear that the even loftier needs of climate mitigation and adaptation will be met for the countries, like mine, most in need.

Anders Melin, an OPC member who received a Reuters internship in 2013 from the OPC Foundation, moved from the U.S. to Malaysia in August to write for Bloomberg Wealth and Businessweek. On Sept. 20, he tweeted that he’d filed his first byline out of Kuala Lumpur with a story about Southeast Asian governments floating new plans for visa programs that target professionals, retirees or other affluent people. “Several started taking applications, calling on tycoons, ‘rainmakers’ and digital nomads to consider a new harbor,” he wrote. A native of Sweden, Melin spent his 2013 internship in the Reuters bureau in Brussels.


After years of development, a movie based on a book by OPC Governor Charles Graeber premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Sept. 11. The film, based on Graeber’s book The Good Nurse, follows the story of a serial killer, Charles Cullen, played by Eddie Redmayne, who as a nurse murdered dozens – if not hundreds – of patients. It also stars Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren, a nurse who helped police catch Cullen. Graeber attended the opening for The Good Nurse with his father, and tweeted photos with him and with Loughren and her daughter, saying “It’s surreal for them, me too.” The film, directed by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, will open more broadly in theaters on Oct. 19, and on Netflix on Oct. 26.

Evgeny Afineevsky, a filmmaker and OPC member, showed his documentary at this year’s TIFF. The film, Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, is Afineevsky’s follow-up to his 2015 Oscar-nominated Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. A Hollywood Reporter piece covering TIFF highlights said the new film “proved to be the definitive portrait, thus far, of the ongoing Russian atrocities — and remarkable resistance to them — in Ukraine.” It premiered on Sept. 7 at the 79th Venice International Film Festival. Freedom on Fire is still seeking U.S. distribution.

OPC member and filmmaker Benedetta Argentieri also premiered her documentary The Matchmaker at the 79th Venice International Film Festival this year. The film follows Tooba Gondal, a native Londoner alleged to have recruited teenage girls to become the wives of ISIS fighters. Argentieri interviewed Gondal in Syria before she was deported to France at the end of 2019.

OPC member Mehr Sher, an investigative journalist, has joined Report for America as a corps member and is now reporting on environmental issues at the Bangor Daily News in Maine. She has been working at the paper since August, filing stories on shortcomings of bottled water testing in the state, the ongoing drought crisis, and most recently on Sept 15 on the impact of climate change on small scale wild blueberry farmers who lack access to a consistent water supply.

OPC member Alice Driver spoke as guest lecturer at Arkansas State University on Sept 12 about immigration and femicide along the U.S.–Mexico border, a topic she has frequently covered over the last 10 years. Driver, a native of the Ozarks Mountains of Arkansas now based in Mexico, was supported by an OPC micro-grant in 2021 to help weather effects of the pandemic and to help her at the time to continue reporting on deaths of meat processing workers. She wrote a book about femicide in Mexico in 2015 titled More or Less Dead for the University of Arizona press, and a new book on labor rights and immigration, titled The Life and Death of the American Worker, is in the worksIn a 2019 Q&A feature for the OPC, she urged correspondents to “learn languages or take the time to understand the cultural context of events when they are reporting outside of their home country.”

Photojournalist and past OPC Award winner Lynsey Addario has won a 2022 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). She will be honored along with other awardees at the IWMF’s ceremony on Nov. 9. Separately, an exhibit of her work is currently on exhibit at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Chelsea Gallery through Oct. 29. Addario, who has also won a MacArthur Genius Grant and Pulitzer Prize for her work, began her 20-year career in 1996, and has covered conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Somalia, Syria, South Sudan and Ukraine. She won the 2010 Olivier Rebbot Award for her series on Afghan women for National Geographic, a Citation for Excellence for the same year in the Feature Photography category for covering maternal mortality in Sierra Leone for TIME, and in 2017 received a citation in the Kim Wall category as part of a team from TIME following a refugee family from Syria. The SVA event is part of the school’s annual Masters Series Award and Exhibition, and was originally planned for fall of 2020. Admission is free and open to the public. SVA also hosted a conversation on Sept. 9 with Addario and Kathy Ryan, the director of photography at The New York Times Magazine.

Katie J.M. Baker, 2019 Whitman Bassow Award winner, has joined The New York Times as a correspondent covering social and cultural conflicts that divide the U.S. She previously worked as senior reporter on BuzzFeed News’s national desk. Baker took part in an OPC program in December 2020 about her award-winning reporting on a rights abuses exacerbated and ignored within the largest conservation organization in the world, the World Wide Fund for Nature.