April 15, 2024

People Column


Daniel Shailer, the Walter and Betsy Cronkite Fellowship winner in 2023, had an item in the Aug. 21 New Yorker about a long-distance swimmer’s record-setting swim around Staten Island. The piece is titled “Tits Out under the Verrazano.” Shailer, also a long-distance swimmer who once swam the English Channel, is just completing an internship with the Tucson Sentinel. He heads to Mexico City soon for an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Associated Press.

Zane Irwin, winner of the 2023 Flora Lewis/Jacqueline Albert-Simon Scholarship, has been covering breaking news for The Associated Press from Senegal, including the deadly capsizing of a boat carrying more than 100 migrants bound for Europe in late August. On Aug. 22 he cowrote a story with colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue about a few dozen survivors who were reunited with their families in Senegal, a week after they were found adrift off the Atlantic archipelago of Cape Verde. Irwin previously covered Cameroon as a Pulitzer Center reporting fellow in 2022.


Mellissa Fung, an OPC member and filmmaker, has been nominated for a Golden Panda Award for Best Director of a Documentary for her film Captive. The film follows Fung as she talks with the teenage girls who were held captive by Boko Haram, and reflects on her experience being abducted by Afghan rebels while on assignment in Afghanistan. This is the inaugural year for the Golden Panda Awards, which is organized by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.


OPC Governor Vivienne Walt co-wrote a piece for The New York Times on Sept. 2 investigating how retailers and manufacturers whose food products are marketed for weight loss could see ripple effects from the rise of drugs like Ozempic. The story, written with colleague Lauren Hirsch, includes insights from executives of companies such as Medfast, which makes weight loss products like shakes and protein bars. “On several earnings calls in August, chief executives reassured investors that the Ozempic revolution had not left them in the dust, and that they could somehow share in the blazing success of new diabetes and weight loss drugs,” Walt and Hirsch wrote.

Laurie Hays, an OPC Governor and founder of a consulting firm, has been publishing a Substack, titled “Boardroom Confidential, aimed at providing insights into “important business news” and to help readers “see around the corner for what’s coming next.” Her most recent post on Sept. 6 examines United Auto Workers (UAW) talks and what employee demands mean for the future of workplaces. Hays is managing partner and founder for Laurie Hays and Assoc. and advises on strategic, financial and corporate governance communications.

OPC member Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff, an author, New York University instructor, and communications consultant specializing in global sports, published her second book, Basketball Empire: France and the Making of a Global NBA and WNBA, on Sept. 7. The book, published by Bloomsbury, explores why so many French basketball players have joined the NBA and WMBA, and what this has meant for the league and generations of players since 1950.

OPC member Barbie Nadeau reported from Rome for CNN on Aug. 28 after more than 4,200 migrants and refugees landed on Lampedusa island, a record number that overwhelmed migrant facilities and send the Italian government scrambling for an emergency plan. Nadeau said during an on-camera dispatch that before the incident, the Italian government had sequestered three rescue boats from NGOs, which officials alleged had violated new rules put in place to prevent the organizations from rescuing migrants. “That’s why these numbers are so big. That’s why the photos and images are so astonishing,” Nadeau said. Most of the refugees had set sail from Tunisia.

Kathy Gannon, an OPC member and longtime former correspondent and news director for The Associated Press who covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for 35 years, spoke on an online Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) panel in August to mark two years since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and discuss the Taliban’s authoritarian rule and human rights violations. During the program she said when looking at what has changed since 2020, it’s important not to oversimplify ideas like hope and quality of life for Afghan people. Gannon cited a 2018 survey indicating barely 3 percent of respondents said they had hope for the future at the time. “The poverty level was 50 percent, 85 percent of the money in Afghanistan came from outside, all of which stopped once the Taliban took power.” She said former President Hamid Karzai and other officials told her in interviews that if President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had stayed in Kabul in August 2020 and allowed for a negotiation with the Taliban, the situation would be dramatically different today. “Poverty was excruciating in many parts of the country before the Taliban arrived, and it has been exacerbated, of course,” she said.

Two OPC members have continued their coverage of issues in Morocco with a story about the country’s decisive action and success in its response to COVID-19. Jacob Kushner wrote the story, which was supported by the Pulitzer Center, with photos and additional reporting by Kang-Chun Cheng. Jaouad El Bakili also contributed to the piece. The story compares the country’s early vaccination rates of 10 percent by early March 2021, when countries in North America and Europe were still struggling to procure doses. “Though many experts agree that the country’s decisive response to the pandemic is a case study of success,” the authors wrote, “some say it was at the cost of civil liberties and the country’s autocratic regime may have underreported COVID-19 deaths.” Kushner was the winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2013 Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship.