February 17, 2020

People Column

2020 January-June Issue

January 2020

OPC SCHOLARS

2005 Emmanuel R. Freedman Scholar Marina Walker Guevara was named the executive editor of the Pulitzer Center. Previously, she was the director of strategic initiatives and network at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, where she managed the award-winning Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, and has written for The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and Mother Jones, among others. “I am very excited to join this innovative and ambitious team that supports brave journalists and underreported stories, and brilliantly bridges newsrooms and classrooms,” Walker Guevara said in a Pulitzer Center update. “There has never been a greater need around the world for the Pulitzer Center’s mission.”

A.J. Naddaff, who won the inaugural Richard Pyle Scholarship in 2019, penned a story for The Associated Press on Jan. 22 about the impact of Lebanon’s financial crisis and strict banking controls. The story grabbed attention from readers, rising to the AP’s top ten reads on the organization’s app. Amid protests and violent clashes, he wrote that the crisis had united “both rich and poor in anger against corrupt politicians who have brought the country to the brink of economic collapse, and a banking system they accuse of holding their deposits hostage.” Naddaff went to Beirut on an OPC Foundation fellowship with the AP.

2019 I.F. Stone Award winner Letícia Duarte profiled Olavo de Carvalho, a leader in Brazil’s far-right movement, for The Atlantic. De Carvalho is a former astrologist, former communist, and former journalist whose anger toward the far-left has inspired President Jair Bolsonaro. “A self-educated philosopher who never completed high school, Olavo has formed a new generation of conservative leaders in Brazil through an online philosophy course he has taught for 10 years,” Duarte wrote. “He estimates that about 5,000 students are currently enrolled in his program, and 20,000 people have watched his classes, including members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet.”

2016 David R. Schweisberg Memorial Scholarship winner Alissa Greenberg is now a contributing editor at Bay Nature, a magazine dedicated to the nature in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was previously a contributing writer at Pacific Standard, and has written for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

2012 I.F. Stone Scholarship winner Nizar Manek is now a consultant for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a private diplomacy organization based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was previously at Bloomberg News, where he was regional correspondent in Addis Ababa from 2017 to 2019.

Jacob Kushner, who won the Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship in 2013, wrote an op-ed for The New York times about the fate of a famous dancer and survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Fabienne Jean. She became a symbol of the international aid effort for media as American doctors had saved her life and amputated her right leg below the knee, the owner of a prosthetics company stepping in to help. But as Kushner writes, her encounter with American generosity was fleeting, and donors came up short in their assistance. He tracked Jean down but found that she’d died the month before he arrived from an epileptic seizure likely related to her injuries in the quake. “The story of what happened to Haiti is the story of what happened to Fabienne,” Kushner wrote, “America made big promises – and didn’t deliver.” Kushner also wrote an article for Reuters on Jan. 14 about the plight of farmers in Haiti awaiting compensation for land repurposed for an industrial park by a South Korean textile firm and international donors after the earthquake.

Rajiv Golla, 2017 Walter and Betsy Cronkite Scholarship winner, wrote a piece for Roads and Kingdoms about Sister Gracy, an Indian nun who spent the past 30 years providing aid in South Sudan. Golla traveled with Sister Gracy through Wau, South Sudan, where an attack displaced tens of thousands of people. “Sister Gracy put others before her own safety, health, and comfort. That was the easy part. What wasn’t so easy was that the whole endeavor, her entire mission, hinged on faith,” Golla wrote. “There was no way of telling whether she made any difference at all. Sister Gracy could never expect to see herself vindicated, especially in a place like South Sudan.”

2015 Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship winner Ben Taub chronicled the story of Omar Ameen, an Iraqi refugee falsely accused of being a member of an ISIS hit squad, for the Jan. 27 issue of The New Yorker, where he works as a staff writer. In Sacramento, Ameen was placed in a maximum-security cell at the county jail, where he shared a wall with the Golden State Killer. “How had it come to this?” Taub wrote. “All Ameen had ever wanted was to leave Iraq. That was why he had become a truck driver; each time he crossed the Jordanian border, he felt as if he were breaking out of prison. To be alone in nature – that was his feeling of America.”

2014 Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship winner Portia Crowe reported for Public Radio International on Ugandan farmers fighting back against French oil multinational Total SA, which plans to drill 400 wells across six oil fields and build a 900-mile pipeline to Tanzania. The projects could displace as many as 50,000 people. “The Tilenga suit alleges that Total’s subsidiary, Total Uganda, and the subcontractor it hired, Atacama Consulting, forced farmers to sign compensation agreements under pressure or intimidation and deprived them of access to their land before compensation was received,” Crowe reports. “They asked for about $5,700 per acre, but when a team of government ministers and gun-toting soldiers turned up in town several weeks later, Nyakato said some of her relatives were intimidated. They agreed to accept about a quarter of the payment they originally asked for in August 2018.” Read more about Crowe’s career in our Q&A feature on page 11.

Max de Haldevang, 2015 Reuters Fellowship winner, was one of 120 reporters to comb through 700,000 pages of documents, dubbed the Luanda Leaks, to expose how Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president, “siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars in public money out of one of the poorest countries on the planet.” De Haldevang has been reporting on the leaks for Quartz, where he works as a reporter, highlighting those who benefited from Dos Santos’s schemes, including Accenture and Dolce & Gabbana. “In the previous five years, the global consulting giant had done work valued as high as $54 million for three ventures in which dos Santos had either a minority or a controlling stake, according to leaked files seen by Quartz,” de Haldevang writes. “But instead of expressing horror at discovering his company may have helped legitimize and enrich an alleged kleptocrat, Trigo Guedes, then an executive director in Accenture’s Portugal office, appeared to shrug it off.”

AWARDS

OPC member Christiane Amanpour of CNN and PBS hosted the 2020 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards on Jan. 21. Michael Barbaro of The New York Times’ podcast The Daily served as her cohost. She told the audience during opening remarks that journalists and storytellers have been maligned, silenced, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for centuries, and that “shooting the messenger remains the favorite pastime of the rich, the infamous, the powerful.” she said. “We have the ability and we have the duty to rise above all this calumny and abuse that comes our way. We have the duty to stay calm and just carry on.” This year’s winners covered a range of issues including immigration, political corruption, and abuse of power, with three winning stories focused on sexual assault. Half of the 16 winners were from public media outlets, including six for PBS. For international stories, CNN won for its coverage of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, PBS Newshour won for reporter Jane Ferguson’s ground-level coverage of the human impact of war in Yemen, and PBS’s POV and American Documentary won for a documentary about the fight for justice for “comfort women” enslaved by Japanese troops in World War II.

UPDATES

Longtime OPC member Andy Katell, former correspondent for The Associated Press in Moscow and for the UN, is spending his retirement years conducting workshops on “Coping with Disinformation.” Working through the League of Women Voters, the News Literacy Project and others, Andy leads the sessions at public libraries and other venues in Westchester County, New York, with further outreach planned at schools and other regions. The schedule can be found at www.lwvw.org. In early January, Andy was interviewed about the program on a local public access TV station.

OPC Secretary and Bloomberg editor Paula Dwyer helped write the introduction to the 90th anniversary edition of Bloomberg Businessweek. “The first issue of this magazine appeared on Sept. 7, 1929. Its black, red, and gold art deco cover was free of news,” the introduction begins. “It featured a big triangle pointing down at an inscrutable photo — an overhead, nighttime view of an intersection in an unidentified big city. The editors obviously had no way to know that seven weeks later the stock market would crash, ushering in the Great Depression.”

OPC Governor and ProPublica reporter Derek Kravitz investigated the emails of a former chemical industry lobbyist turned senior Trump official, who reportedly shared information and crafted policy with her former colleagues. The report, co-written with Guardian reporter Emily Holden and published on January 14, shows how Rebeckah Adcock, former chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry trade group, used her new position in the Trump administration to further the interests of Dow. “The ethics agreement Adcock signed said she would not work on ‘the impact of crop protection products (including herbicides, fungicides and insecticides) on water’, and the emails reviewed do not show her doing so,” Kravitz and Holden write. “But the agreement did not specifically bar Adcock from working with trade groups like the Farm Bureau on Clean Water Act enforcement.”

OPC Governor and contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine Azmat Khan was a guest on the Dec. 20 episode of Democracy Now to discuss the foreign policy platforms of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Khan and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman talked about the legacy of Biden’s support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the “Biden Plan” of scaling back the ground troops in the Middle East. “What we’re seeing is a reality in which there is a belief, a mistaken belief, that ending the war comes down to removing troops on the ground, when the reality is that most of these wars are being carried out via airstrikes,” said Khan. “It’s not just about ground troops.”

An exhibit honoring the life of founding OPC member Sigrid Schultz opened Jan. 20 at the Westport Museum for History and Culture in Westport, Connecticut, where she lived for four decades. The exhibit, titled “Dragon Lady,” showcases Schultz’s legacy as a reporter and social justice activist. “Our hope is that this exhibit will honor Sigrid Schultz’s bravery and personal sacrifices to as many people as possible,” said the Westport Museum’s executive director, Ramin Ganeshram.

Ishaan Tharoor, OPC Governor and foreign affairs writer at The Washington Post, reported from the Davos World Economic Forum, which ran from Jan. 21 to 24. He reported on Trump’s address, the first speech at the forum by a major world leader, in which he rejected climate change. “Trump didn’t directly attack the forum or some of the outspoken climate activists in attendance,” Tharoor writes. “But the contempt behind his message was unmistakable.” Trump, Tharoor wrote, “told European partners that they should consider purchasing U.S. energy – never mind the serious measures being attempted in Europe to wean it off fossil fuels.”

OPC member Rebecca Fannin recently completed a round-the-world book tour that took in six countries, 18 cities and multiple talks timed to the release of her latest title, Tech Titans of China [Hachette’s Nicholas Brealey Publishing, September 2019]. Her stops included the Foreign Correspondents Clubs of Tokyo and Hong Kong.

OPC member Andrew Nagorski discussed his 30-year career with Newsweek, starting in Hong Kong and taking him to Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw and others, for a radio audience on Jan. 13 in St. Augustine, Florida. He recalled early days in Hong Kong in the late 70s and having the resources to charter a small plane to cover Vietnamese refugees running aground in Malaysia. “These days, if you tried to do that, you’d be fired,” he said to host Scott Grant on WSOS. He also talked about his latest book, 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War, which explores tactical blunders such as invading Russia and declaring war on the U.S., which he argues set the stage for Nazi defeat four years later. “1941 was the year Germany attacked the whole world. And if you attack the whole world, eventually things are not going to come out so well for you,” Nagorski said. He has written seven books, five of them relating to World War II, including The Nazi Hunters, which he discussed at an OPC Book Night in June 2016.

OPC member and former Treasurer Abigail Pesta wrote a piece for Notre Dame Magazine about former Congolese child soldier Heritage Munyakuri, and traced his journey from life on the battlefield to becoming a pastor in Rochester, New York. She wrote that he was abducted as a child soldier for rebel groups three times and forced to fight twice before he finally confronted his captors: “I told them to kill me, I won’t fight. I had found Jesus.” He was beaten for his refusal, and witnessed his village and loved ones being massacred by the rebels. But Pesta wrote that he discovered religion in Burundi and eventually fled to the U.S. on a UN resettlement program. He was ordained in 2015 and uses his personal experience to guide immigrants through practical and personal challenges. She wrote that Munyakuri “wants immigrants who come to America to know that they belong here, that they have a future.” Pesta formerly worked as an intern for Notre Dame Magazine.

2013 Lowell Thomas Award winner Leila Fadel was a panelist at UC Santa Cruz’s “Questions That Matter: Reporting the Middle East and the future of investigative journalism,” along with fellow veteran NPR journalist Hannah Allam. “This event will be an opportunity for members of the UCSC community and the Santa Cruz community at large to engage with what it means to do journalism in today’s world,” said Jennifer Derr, the panel moderator and founding director of the Center for the Middle East and North Africa at UCSC. “It will also be a chance for all of us to understand how the profession has changed and the challenges – in both the Middle East and the United States – that its practitioners confront.”

PEOPLE REMEMEBERED

Karl E. Meyer, longtime foreign correspondent and editorial writer for The Washington Post and The New York Times, died on Dec. 22 in Manhattan at the age of 91. Meyer covered Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion there, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, among other big stories of the 20th Century. He co-wrote a book about the Bay of Pigs, along with Times colleague Tad Szulc, entitled The Cuban Invasion: The Chronicle of a Disaster. After earning a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University in 1956, he began his career in foreign affairs at The Washington Post and served as the paper’s London bureau chief from 1965 to 1970, and then served as head of its New York bureau. He joined The New York Times editorial board in 1979, where he served until 1998 as the senior writer on foreign affairs, and later served as editor of the World Policy Journal quarterly until 2008. Meyer and his wife, Shareen Blair Brysac, who is also a journalist, wrote five books together, including Tournament of Shadows: The Race for Empire in Central Asia. He also authored The Culture Thieves about archeology.