May 21, 2019

People Column


OPC scholar Jad Sleiman, who won the Schweisberg award in 2013, has joined Agence France Presse as a video journalist and is currently based in Cyprus. Jad spent a year with Stars & Stripes reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan before attending the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Leah Finnegan, the Swinton winner in 2010, in now a senior editor at The Outline where she covers the media. She has also written for Gawker and The New York Times. While working in the Cairo bureau of The Associated Press, Finnegan was an OPC Foundation fellow.


NEW YORK: Masha Gessen, who won this year’s OPC award for Best Commentary for her piece, “Trump, Russia and the Reality of Power” in The New York Review of Books, has been named a finalist in the 2017 National Book Awards in the nonfiction category for The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia [Riverhead Books /Penguin Random House]. Gessen was also featured in The New York Times in September for her op-ed, “Immigrants Shouldn’t Have to Be ‘Talented’ to Be Welcome.” In response to President Trump’s decision to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Gessen said it is wrong to lament Trump’s revocation of DACA only because it will result in the deportation of dedicated workers. “The problem is that it’s inhumane,” wrote Gessen. “As long as politicians consider it necessary to qualify the victims as ‘hardworking’ or ‘talented,’ they fail to stand up to the administration’s fundamentally hateful immigration agenda.”

OPC Governor Rukmini Callimachi was featured by Poynter’s head media writer, James Warren, last month for her on-the-ground reporting on ISIS and Al Qaeda. Warren called Callimachi “one of the most astute reporters of perhaps the biggest story of the era.” He recalled the start of her career as an intern at a local Illinois newspaper, a path that ultimately lead her to garner three Pulitzer nominations. He touted Callimachi’s ability to go beyond traditional sources in her award-winning reporting on terrorist groups, including the search for evidence in trash cans and other sleuthing to reveal “that the movement leading to ISIS was far more nuanced than most reporters – indeed, most of the world – had assumed,” Warren wrote. She delved into secret terrorist communication networks, managing to obtain invitations to encrypted apps and chat rooms, scoring an insider’s look at jihadist activities. Warren cited “her ability to smartly capitalize on the endless space of the Internet” and her pursuit of a “laborious and even outright exhausting” mission to uncover terrorist operations.

Newly elected OPC Governor Paula Dwyer made the cover of the July 24 Asia edition of Bloomberg Businessweek with her piece, “Should America’s Tech Giants Be Broken Up?” Dwyer’s coverage explores whether Big Tech has become too big, looking at companies that dominate markets with near monopolies. She notes that together, Google and Facebook have seized control over more than half of mobile ads, while Amazon is responsible for the majority of the e-book market and almost one third of U.S. e-commerce overall. “Economists have noticed these monopoly-size numbers and drawn even bigger conclusions: They see market concentration as the culprit behind some of the U.S. economy’s most persistent ailments – the decline of workers’ share of national income, the rise of inequality, the decrease in business startups, the dearth of job creation, and the fall in research and development spending,” Dwyer wrote.

David Rohde has taken a job as Online News Director at The New Yorker magazine. Previously he was National Security Investigations Editor at Reuters. David won the 1995 Hal Boyle Award while at  The Christian Science Monitor for a story on the Srebrenica Massacre and the 2015 Joe and Laure Dine Award for an investigation of Gauntanamo Bay for Reuters.

BOSTON, MA: The Harvard Business Review, of which OPC member Adi Ignatius is editor-in-chief, had one of its most successful years ever, boosting circulation to an all-time high according to a report released by the Alliance for Audited Media. Talking New Media featured HBR in a recent article, citing its push to go digital, expanding online content for subscribers and cutting its print issues from 10 to 6 editions per year. The repot said HBR has embraced the digital age by creating its own Slackbot, an online virtual assistant for office advice, in addition to hosting Facebook Live shows, management tips on Amazon’s Alexa and launching HBR Ascend, a platform focused on India’s young professionals. “Our goal is to publish ideas that improve how companies operate and how people manage their careers,” Ignatius said. “Every day, we push ourselves to find ever greater ways to expand our impact, to make sure these ideas have the greatest possible reach and influence.”

Raney Aronson-Rath and Andrew Metz, two of this year’s winners of the David. A. Andelman and Pamela Title Award, have launched The FRONTLINE Dispatch, a new podcast which first aired on Sept. 14. The program will focus on both domestic and international stories featuring narration from reporters around the globe. “At FRONTLINE, now and always, we are committed to in-depth, transparent journalism, and we care deeply about reaching audiences wherever they are, with stories that are vital and authentic,” said Aronson-Rath to WGBH. “Extending our storytelling into the podcast realm, in a native way that brings all the depth and quality our audience expects from FRONTLINE’s documentaries, is a natural next step.”

WASHINGTON, DC: Hannah Dreier, who was this year’s Hal Boyle award winner for her coverage of political turmoil in Venezuela, was featured as a guest last month by The Global Politico podcast with host Susan B. Glasser, who spoke with Dreier about her work abroad. Dreier may be the last U.S. journalist to be granted a work visa to stay in Venezuela. “I felt like I had walked across a bridge as it was burning behind me,” she told Glasser. Dreier entered Venezuela in 2014 when she realized it might be on the edge of collapse. “I had no idea that it was going to become the mess that it is today,” she said, adding that she was unsure whether she would have gone if she had been aware of the country’s ultimate decline. This was Dreier’s first experience reporting abroad. Her groundbreaking reporting included an early and intimate view of poverty, corruption and government oppression that has become part of ordinary life in Venezuela. Dreier worked as an Associated Press correspondent and has since joined ProPublica to cover immigration.

OPC Governor Molly Bingham has announced the launch of Orb Media’s investigative environmental report, “Invisibles: The plastic inside us.” Through a partnership with one of the field’s leading scientists, Orb used tap water tests from five continents to reveal a high level of contamination from micro plastics in a significant amount of the world’s fresh water resources. The report showed that more than 80 percent of the nearly 160 tests indicated plastic fibers were present in drinking water. The story made it to the Guardian’s front page, and was published in more than a dozen additional media organizations, with findings shared across 13 countries in 32 languages. “Our most important take away is that these findings are a call for national and/or international research bodies to conduct in-depth studies to establish the source, distribution, prevalence and potential human health effects of micro plastics in drinking water,” Bingham said.

DENVER, CO: Longtime OPC member Michael Moran has launched his own media production, analysis and risk firm,, based in Denver, Colorado. His current projects include work with the World Policy Institute, several political risk and blogging projects and a documentary on US-Russian relations funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Moran spent 23 years as a foreign affairs journalist for a variety of outlets, including the BBC, MSNBC and ultimately as executive editor of the Council on Foreign Relations website, He is a former OPC board member, a frequent judge of the OPC Awards, and in 2011 a two-time OPC Award honoree for his Crisis Guide documentaries on Iran and Pakistan.

HOUSTON, TX: OPC member Ben Taub, who joined The New Yorker as a staff writer last May, gave extensive coverage to Hurricane Harvey survivors in several articles for the publication. His piece, “The Matisse that Hurricane Harvey Spared,” followed the story of a Houston family packing up what was left of their flooding home, mulling over which items to keep and which to let go. Taub bears witness to the heartbreaking devastation brought to the area by the storm while also exposing the humorous and tough demeanor of the family fleeing. In a powerful moment, Mary, the mother, says being able to make light of such a disaster is a necessary coping mechanism. “Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate between economic classes. And she always wins,” she remarked. At one moment, both Taub and his cameraman fell under water while covering the story, showing the risks journalists have taken to cover Harvey’s impact. His other articles explore relief efforts and profile the storm’s victims who have suffered record flooding and damages that will likely require years of recovery.

LONDON: Only three years after receiving a Pulitzer Prize, The Guardian has established its own nonprofit to support reporting on critical issues including social justice, global development, women and the environment. Its new website,, will raise funds from sources such as think tanks, philanthropic organizations and corporate foundations. According to the nonprofit, its mission is to “advance and inform public discourse and citizen participation around the most pressing issues of our time through the support of independent journalism and journalistic projects at The Guardian.” President Rachel White said the organization will focus on overlooked topics. “There’s an awakening to this concern that some of the issues that they hold dear are not getting coverage or there’s not enough information in the public sphere,” she said to The New York Times. The Times estimates philanthropic partnerships account for nearly $5 million of The Guardian’s revenues over the last fiscal year, which totaled about $276 million.


Swedish journalist Kim Wall, an OPC member, was discovered dead last month after embarking on a submarine trip for an assignment to profile the vessel’s Danish designer, Peter Madsen. Madsen has been charged with her murder. Madsen has been accused of mutilating Wall’s body before scuttling the submarine in an apparent suicide attempt. Wall was an accomplished freelancer who’d written for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper’s and TIME. She reported on a broad range of topics during her career, including climate change, tourism in Haiti and torture in Uganda. Police say Madsen’s accounts of events have been contradictory, and he remains under strong suspicion. He is slated to appear in court again on Oct. 3 and could serve up to life in prison if convicted.

Longtime OPC member Rachael Bail died on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the age of 94. Bail began her journalism career at the Tampa Daily Times, then moved to New York City to cover the cosmetics industry for Women’s Wear Daily. She married concert violinist Herbert Baumel and the couple moved to Caracas, Venezuela and then Rome, Italy, where she covered the country’s film industry in Cinecitta. After divorce, she worked as reporter and editor for Gannett in White Plains, New York, the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville, Florida and the St. Petersburg Times before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1975 where she was Supreme Court correspondent and editor at Voice of America. In a message to the OPC, her daughter Susan Baumel described her mother as a woman with “unique and brilliant intellect, with elegance and beauty whose passion for travel, the arts and news led her around the world.”

Renowned photo editor and longtime OPC member John Morris died at age 100 on Friday, July 27, at a hospital near his home in Paris. Morris had a storied career that began as photo editor for Life magazine in World War II, when he oversaw coverage of D-Day in 1944, editing the historic photographs of Robert Capa. He also served as picture editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, executive editor of Magnum Photos, assistant managing editor for graphics of The Washington Post and picture editor of The New York Times. He moved to Paris in 1983, as the European correspondent of National Geographic. He is survived by his partner, Patricia Trocmé; four sons from two marriages, John II, Chris, Kirk and Oliver; and four grandchildren. To learn more about Morris, browse the OPC website for an archival interview in 2014, and read about his 100th birthday celebrations in Paris earlier this year.

Eugene Risher, a former Saigon bureau chief and longtime White House correspondent for United Press International, died Aug. 30 at the age of 83. Risher served in the U.S. Army for two years and launched his journalism career as a reporter for the Charleston Evening Post.