July 7, 2020

People Column


Valerie Hopkins, winner of the Jerry Flint Fellowship for International Business Reporting in 2013, is now the Southeast Europe correspondent for the Financial Times covering Hungary, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. She is based in Budapest. Hopkins had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Belgrade. She speaks Serbian/Croatian, some Albanian, some Russian, basic German and basic Spanish. Her new role will make it necessary for her to learn Hungarian as well.

Ben Hubbard, who won the Swinton Award in 2007, was named the New York Times bureau chief in Beirut. An Arabic speaker, he has reported from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. He had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem, a posting that lunched his career, which lasted until he joined the Times as a correspondent in 2013.

Pete Vernon, the 2016 Theo Wilson scholar, wrote an article published on July 30 in the Columbia Journalism Review surrounding an off-the-record meeting between President Trump and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. The story recounts Trump’s claims over Twitter that the meeting included discussion of “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media.” Sulzberger responded that he had met with Trump “to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” That prompted tweets from Trump painting media as “unpatriotic.” Vernon wrote that Sulzberger had made a mistake in “expecting that Trump would both provide an accurate account of the meeting and change his approach to the media, two things he has shown no interest in doing.” Vernon’s article also examined Ronan Farrow’s latest campaign against high-profile sexual abusers, foreshadowing the New Yorker investigation into allegations against CBS chairman Leslie Moonves and 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager. Vernon completed an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Johannesburg.


Last month’s People column neglected to mention a notable accolade for past OPC President David A. Andelman, who won this year’s Deadline Club Award for Opinion Writing. Andelman is a columnist at CNN who regularly contributes opinion pieces on global affairs. He is a veteran foreign correspondent, author, and commentator. He was also recently elected president of the Society of the Silurians, a prestigious club of past and present staff members of newspapers and related organizations in the New York area. He succeeds Allan Dodds Frank, who is also a past OPC president. Andelman served as president of the OPC from 2010 to 2012.

Several OPC members received accolades from the Online News Association on Sept. 16. Work from OPC Governor Coleen Jose, Jan Hendrik Hinzel and late OPC member Kim Wall received a 2018 General Excellence in Online Journalism award in the “small newsroom” category. The award went to The Marshall Project, a multimedia report on climate change and nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. The project was published in Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, Mashable and other publications. OPC member Nicholas Kristof garnered an ONA award for Online Commentary, along with other New York Times colleagues. This year’s James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting went to OPC member Nicole Tung for “powerful coverage of social issues and conflict in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and her work as a dedicated advocate for freelancers’ rights and safety.” Tung is a freelancer based in Turkey.

OPC member and former Governor Abigail Pesta has won multiple awards this summer. She won third place in the National Headliner Awards for magazine feature writing on several topics she had covered in Mother Jones, Cosmopolitan and Texas Monthly. She also won a New York Press Club Award in sports feature writing for her article on Lindsay Lemke, who was one of the first gymnasts to publicly identify herself as a victim of abuse by Larry Nassar. Pesta also won a Clarion Award for magazine feature writing from the Association of Women in Communications for a profile in Texas Monthly of a young woman who escaped jihad in Syria and went on to de-radicalize herself in Texas. Pesta is working on a novel highlighting stories from hundreds of women who teamed up to take down Nassar. The book will be published next year by Hachette (Seal Press).

Three team members who worked on an OPC award-winning project are recipients of the McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism. Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza are members of the The Associated Press investigative team for Seafood from Slaves, which won the OPC’s Malcolm Forbes and Hal Boyle Awards in 2017. The fellowship will build on the award-winning project, which exposed human rights abuses in the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The project led to the release of more than 2,000 enslaved migrant fishermen and the seizure of millions of dollars in assets and revisions to U.S. law. The three team members will receive $15,000 to continue examining labor abuses and international supply chains.

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) announced that this year’s Gwen Ifill Award winner is Karen Amanda Toulon of Bloomberg News. Toulon serves as a board member for the OPC Foundation. The Gwen Ifill Award recognizes an outstanding female journalist of color whose work furthers Ifill’s legacy of supporting women journalists. The IWMF said in a release that Toulon received the honor for “developing and promoting the broadcast skills of Bloomberg journalists and researchers around the world, while helping to diversify Bloomberg’s global lineup.”


On Sept. 9, 2018, Leslie Moonves stepped down as Chairman of CBS on following several sexual abuse allegations against him. An investigative piece published in an August issue of The New Yorker included accusations of intimidation, sexual coercion, assault and misconduct from 12 women in incidents spanning from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Moonves’ resignation marks one of the most powerful media executives to face abuse allegations since the start of the #MeToo movement in October last year. After Moonves’ resignation, CBS announced it would donate $20 million to organizations to support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace. The Los Angeles Times reported that the CBS board plans to negotiate a severance settlement after the conclusion of an investigation by two prominent law firms. Joseph Ianniello, who has served as the company’s chief operating officer since 2013, has been appointed president and acting CEO. The chairman position will remain open until the company names a permanent CEO.

Only a few days later, CBS News fired longtime 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager, who was dismissed following a text message he sent to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan that warned her to “be careful” about a story she was working on about allegations that he had groped CBS employees at company parties. The text read “There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem.” Soon after Fager’s resignation, Quinnipiac University rescinded a Fred Friendly First Amendment Award that Fager had received at a luncheon ceremony in June.

OPC member and veteran CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour has started her new role as host of a talk show on PBS that has replaced Charlie Rose’s former slot. PBS launched “Amanpour and Company” on Sept. 10. Rose’s show ended nearly ten months ago after he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women. PBS began running Amanpour’s CNN International program in Rose’s slot soon after it went off the air. Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent, and served as a war correspondent for the network in the early 90s, covering conflict in the Persian Gulf, Haiti, Bosnia and Rwanda. She told Salon in an interview that despite her career as a show anchor, she remains a reporter at heart. “I’ve spent my whole career in the field. And I genuinely view my role as an anchor, almost like sort of drawing on all my experience in the field, bringing that into the studio and into the conversation.” The show is a co-production between WNET and CNN, and will continue to air on CNN International on weekdays. The show’s format includes three interview segments per night, with Amanpour on camera for two of them and the third done by a contributor. Amanpour has been a member of the OPC since 2009.

Former OPC Governor Chrystia Freeland, who now serves as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, sparked a row between Canada and Saudi Arabia in early August over comments about a jailed female civil rights activist in Saudi Arabia. Freeland, along with many other Canadian public figures, have voiced concern about the Saudi kingdom’s human rights violations. Human rights advocates have spoken out against the recent imprisonment of multiple activists in the country’s Eastern province. Freeland voiced concern for Israa al-Ghomgham, who was accused of “starting protests,” “filming protests and posting them on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters.” Freeland and other advocates are worried that Ghomgham could face the death penalty for her charges. Freeland started her journalism career as a stringer based in Ukraine for the Financial Times, The Washington Post and The Economist, and later served as Moscow bureau chief and then U.S. managing editor of the FT, global editor-at-large of Reuters, and editor of Thomson Reuters Digital. Freeland left journalism in 2013 to begin a career in politics.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt penned the cover story of TIME magazine’s Europe edition on Sept. 24 with a profile of Italy’s far-right nationalist Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini. He spearheaded a political movement that defeated traditional parties in Italy’s elections in March, mobilizing supporters with nationalist rhetoric, drumming up fear over the immigrant crisis and collapse of Syria, and criticizing the European Union. Walt wrote that his “rocketing rise over just six months has jolted Europe’s establishment and threatens to finally upturn a political system that has reeled under a populist surge for the past three years.” She wrote that former White House chief strategist and nationalist Stephen Bannon met Salvini in Rome on Sept. 7 to discuss creating a hard-line coalition across Europe ahead of E.U. elections slated for May next year. In an interview with Walt, Salvini he outlined a plan to change Europe from within the E.U., rather than push for a Brexit-like departure for Italy.

OPC member Beth Knobel will speak on a panel about her new book on watchdog reporting on Oct. 17. The book, The Watchdog Still Barks: How Accountability Reporting Evolved for the Digital Era, rejects a popular notion that investigative journalism is in decline, and presents a study of how the form came of age in the digital era at American newspapers. The evening will get underway at 7:00 p.m. at Book Culture near Columbia at 112th and Broadway. Knobel is a professor at Fordham and a former CBS News producer. Other panelists include OPC member Kim Murphy of The New York Times and Steven Waldman, Report for America co-founder. A reception will follow the panel.

OPC member and author Stephen Shepard will talk about his new book at the 92nd Street Y on Nov. 1. Rabbi Scott Perlo, with the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life will interview Shepard about A Literary Journey to Jewish Identity: Re-Reading Bellow, Roth, Malamud, Ozick, and Other Great Jewish Writers [Bayberry Books, January 2018]. The literary memoir explores a “golden age” of post-war Jewish writing in America, and how those writers influenced his sense of Jewish identity and faith. Shepard served as editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek magazine from 1984 to 2005, and as editor at Newsweek from 1976 to 1981. He is also the founding dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

OPC member Ruchi Kumar filed an article for Foreign Policy magazine on Aug. 29 about boys and teens forced to join the Taliban or ISIS. The article, “Afghanistan is Trying to Save its Child Bombers,” included interviews with boys ages 12 to 17 who faced threats and intimidation. They discussed lost childhoods and the desire for a better life and opportunities. Kumar wrote about challenges for Afghanistan’s new system in keeping up with the children and offering opportunities for reform and rehabilitation, and she highlighted the urgent need to fill gaps. Kumar called the story “difficult and heartbreaking” to report. She has been an OPC member since the beginning of this year.

A FRONTLINE documentary from OPC Award winner Marcela Gaviria and former OPC Governor Martin Smith aired on July 31. Separated: Children at the Border follows the story of immigrant children separated from their parents. Gaviria produced the film, Smith and Gaviria wrote it, and Brian Funck co-produced and edited the piece. The film explores the impact of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and compares the treatment of minors at the border under the Trump and Obama administrations. Gaviria was part of a team that won the 2009 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV interpretation or documentary on international affairs.

OPC member and former Governor Rukmini Callimachi told The Guardian in August that covering radicalization and the Islamic State for her New York Times podcast “Caliphate” sparks ambivalent feelings. The ten-episode series has been among the top downloads on iTunes since it was launched in April. Callimachi interviewed a young man who calls himself Abu Hufaiza, a Canadian and former member of Islamic State who recounted his experience in Syria. “Deradicalization is not some sort of neat process,” Callimachi told The Guardian. She also spoke about another source, Huzaifa, who was arrested by Canadian police the day after Callimachi first interviewed him. “I cover a bunch of killers, who vary in the level of disgust or empathy that they evoke in me,” she said.

Photojournalist, videographer and OPC member Stefania Rousselle took a road trip across France in 2017 on a quest to collect people’s deepest and most life-changing love stories. The result can be found in her article for The Guardian, “This is What Being in Love Looks Like.” Rousselle had been on a series of bleak and heart-wrenching assignments, including terror attacks and sex slavery, and launched the project to heal her despair. She shared the best love stories she heard on her Instagram page. Rousselle has been a member of the OPC since 2013, and was part of a New York Times team that won the 2015 David Kaplan Award for best TV or video spot news reporting from abroad.

OPC member Markos Kounalakis launched a new book in July warning that state-run media in China and Russia are overtaking Western media as the latter shrinks its foreign desks. The study, titled Spin Wars and Spy Games: Global Media and Intelligence Gathering, found that while the number of foreign correspondents around the world is growing, they are mainly from China and Russia. The book examines how this changing news landscape affects foreign affairs and policy. In an interview for The Washington Times, Kounalakis, a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at the Budapest-based Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University, said as Western news bureaus abroad are “supplanted by non-Western organizations with state-driven agendas, the information that we’re getting in the United States is becoming agenda-driven,” resulting in a less informed citizenry that is subject to manipulation by rival foreign powers. Kounalakis has been an OPC member since 2014.