May 23, 2022

People Column


After a year reporting on cryptocurrency in countries around the world for CoinDesk, Sandali Handagama, the 2020 Jerry Flint Fellowship for International Business Reporting winner, is now focused exclusively on financial regulation with a special focus on Europe. In a story filed on Sept. 10, Handagama wrote about a new report from the European Securities and Markets Authority that framed cryptocurrency as a rising financial force, but also said it was volatile and a threat to sustainable finance due to increasing environmental costs from crypto mining.

Meg Bernhard, the 2020 Flora Lewis Fellowship winner, has an article in the September issue of Catapult on the impact of climate change on the wine industry. She wrote about her exploration of effects on wine in California’s Napa Valley, including rampant wildfires. “The quantity of grapes pressed for wine was down 40 percent, due to fires, the state’s drought, and smoke, which had damaged many surviving grapes,” she wrote. Bernhard is also writing a book about wine and power. The OPC supported her work with a micro-grant to offset hardships from COVID-19 earlier this year.

Tim Patterson, the Jerry Flint Fellowship for International Business Reporting winner in 2015, was one of nine veterans who John Ismay, the Flint winner in 2014, interviewed for a Sept. 8 story Ismay wrote for The New York Times about their experiences in Afghanistan. Patterson had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Mexico City, and Ismay had an OPC fellowship with the GroundTruth Project. Ismay is now a Pentagon correspondent in the Washington bureau, and previously covered armed conflict for The New York Times Magazine. He was part of a team of Times reporters awarded a George A. Polk Award in 2015 for their coverage of SEAL Team Six.

Alexander Saeedy, the 2015 Fritz Beebe Fellowship winner, is now a reporter with The Wall Street Journal covering bankruptcy and corporate distress. He was an OPC Foundation fellow in the Reuters bureau in Brussels.

Two OPC Foundation scholars, Jeff Horwitz, the Fred Wiegold Scholarship winner in 2009, and Georgia Wells, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2012, were part of a Wall Street Journal team that produced a news-breaking article and podcast in September describing Facebook’s knowledge of the harmful impact Instagram poses for some young women. Horwitz also broke a story on Sept. 13 about Facebook’s XCheck program that shields an elite group of users from Facebook’s abuse rules. Both are based in San Francisco. A Columbia Journalism Review article summarized the Journal’s “Facebook Files” investigation series here.

Simon Akam, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2009, shared the 2021 Feature of the Year Award for from the Medical Journalists Association for his article on how the NHS handled the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article appeared in The Economist’s 1843 Magazine. The judges wrote: “A compelling, moving, account of what it was like within the NHS in the first three months of the pandemic. Fear, guilt, anger, anguish, and at times even exhilaration. If anyone ever writes a better account, it is this they will have to top.” Akam is the author of The Changing of the Guard: the British army since 9/11. He had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Istanbul.

Sun Yu, winner of the S&P Global Award for Economic And Business Reporting in 2008 and an economics reporter for the Financial Times in China, recently wrote about how China uses an anti-fraud app to track access to overseas financial news sites, including the Bloomberg app.

Garance Burke, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2004, was one of the women the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley chose to honor to commemorate the 150th anniversary of women being admitted to the university. Burke is an award-winning global investigative journalist with The Associated Press. Her recent stories on the treatment of migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border were a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the subject of an Emmy Award-winning documentary film partnership between AP and FRONTLINE PBS.


Krithika Varagur, an OPC member and the winner of the OPC Foundation’s 2019 Sally Jacobsen Fellowship, won first place in the Arts and Entertainment Feature category for large circulation publications from the Society for Features Journalism, an organization that “promotes the craft of writing and innovation in lifestyle, arts and entertainment journalism.” Her story, “The Fight to Save A 44,000-Year-Old Painting,” about an Indonesian cave painting, appeared in 1843 Magazine, from the Economist. The judges wrote: “This standout piece features an awe-inspiring subject (the earliest known figurative paintings), immersive reporting (we would not have climbed that ladder) and a deep knowledge of the subject. And it’s all presented in an approachable style.” Varagur, who had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in New Delhi, writes the At Work column in The Wall Street Journal, about the quirks, realities and frustrations of the workplace today.


OPC Governor Farnaz Fassihi on Sept. 18 wrote a piece for The New York Times about Israel’s assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Co-written with colleague Ronen Bergman, the piece retraces a high-tech operation that deployed a remote control sniper gun fired by an assassin 1,000 miles from the site of the shooting. The account, described as a “straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened that afternoon and the events leading up to it,” was based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, intelligence officials and public statements from the victim’s family members.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt appeared on France 24 on Sept. 8 on the eve of the trial of 20 suspects in the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Three suicide bombers killed 130 people in the city’s northern suburb of Saint-Denis, and more than 400 more were injured. Walt, a correspondent for TIME and FORTUNE based in Paris, said during the segment that people in Paris feel more secure now than they did in the immediate aftermath, but need reassurance from the government. “Don’t forget that the November 13 Paris attacks came many months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Charlie Hebdo was an incredibly shocking event. It brought a million people out onto the streets of Paris. Leaders from all over the world came to Paris with one message – that this would never happen again. Ten months later, it did happen again, and worse.”

Anand Gopal, an OPC member and past award winner, filed a longform piece for The New Yorker’s Sept. 13 issue talking with women in rural Afghanistan about the era of occupation under the U.S.-led coalition and thoughts on the recent withdrawal after two decades. The piece outlines a pattern of collusion with warlords and strongmen who had previously terrorized the community, as well as civilian killings by U.S. forces and Afghan security forces. Gopal traveled to northern Helmand Province, writing that many in the area were relieved about the end of U.S. military presence and hoped for an end to perpetual civil war and violence. He said a random sample survey he conducted in the area revealed families lost an average of between 10 and 12 members of their family in the last two decades due to violence. Gopal won the OPC’s 2016 Ed Cunningham Award for reporting on ISIS for The Atlantic, the 2017 Cunningham Award along with OPC First Vice President Azmat Khan for their investigative piece “Uncounted” in The New York Times Magazine on underreported civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, and the 2018 Cunningham Award for coverage of Syria in The New Yorker. Gopal is scheduled to speak on a New Yorker panel on Sept. 30 about the future of Afghanistan. Read more in the Resources section below or click here.

OPC member Dana Thomas spoke on a panel for France 24 on Sept. 17 about the latest controversy surrounding Brexit after British retailer Marks & Spencer closed 11 stores across France amid supply chain issues and blame leveled against the British government. “It’s a bad sign for Britain’s economy and also a really bad sign for Paris, which already has a blight of empty stores after COVID,” Thomas said from Saint-Tropez. She made her comments on the program The World This Week. Thomas is a Paris-based style writer for multiple outlets and is author of the book Fashionopolis.

OPC member James Brooke wrote a piece for The Berkshire Eagle on Sept. 9 about his experience covering the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks from Kandahar, Afghanistan for The New York Times in 2002. He recalled filing a series of stories, venturing out into the city from his hotel with an interpreter to talk with Afghans in a market, visiting a U.S. base for a one-year anniversary ceremony, and then the next day flying by Chinook helicopter on a mission to supply a Special Forces unit in an isolated mountain village. That story, titled “FRONT LINES; U.S. Tasks in Afghan Desert: Hunt Taliban, Tote Plywood,” was on the front page.

Adam Ferguson, a photojournalist and OPC member who received an OPC freelancer micro-grant earlier this year to offset hardships from COVID-19, had several photos published in a piece for The Atlantic on Sept. 10 covering American service members’ reflections on their time in Afghanistan. “The movement that accompanies a firefight is exchanged for stillness in these images. Yet violence stalks them,” Ferguson wrote about the photos. “The quiet moments can be the loudest.”

OPC member Lila Hassan, who spent last year as a Tow Reporting Fellow at FRONTLINE PBS, is now a freelancer with a fellowship at Type Investigations as one of their 2021-22 Ida B. Wells fellows. She has been reporting on ICE arrests and accountability for the organization since the fellowships were announced in June.

Karen Toulon, secretary of the OPC Foundation, has written a children’s book illustrated by her husband, Eric Rhinehart that is set to be published in October. The ABC’s of Paradise Found is based on Toulon’s personal recollections of her Caribbean family and folklore. The publisher is Wordee, a Black, woman-owned company. The book features a forward by former UN Ambassador Andrew Young.