April 13, 2021

People Column

2021 January-June Issue

April 8, 2021

SCHOLARS

Tik Root, the 2017 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship winner, is joining the Climate and Environment team as a reporter for Climate Solutions at The Washington Post. Most recently, he was at Newsy, a live news channel, where he worked in the documentary unit. A veteran freelancer, his work has appeared many times in the Post, including as a lead author of the paper’s daily newsletter from the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. Root has written about climate solutions in the past, including a story about an effort to restore coral reefs in Belize for National Geographic and a piece about the pitfalls of individual action to fight climate change for The New York Times.

AWARDS

OPC member Sonali Prasad was named among the 2021 TED Fellows on March 30. In a release, the organization said TED Fellows are selected for “remarkable achievements, the potential impact of their work and their commitment to community building,” and said Prasad’s work as artist and environmental journalist “tells stories about loss, survival and resilience in response to environmental crises and natural disasters. She establishes new rituals and practices to help us mourn a world stricken by catastrophic climate events.” The TED Fellows program is in its twelfth year, and to date includes a network of 512 Fellows from 100 countries.

UPDATES 

OPC Governor Sandra Stevenson has accepted a new position at CNN as Associate Director of Photography. She previously worked as assistant photo editor for The New York Times, where she served in various roles since 2005. Separately, in March Stevenson was on a panel of judges that selected winners of this year’s Leica Women Foto Project Awards, the second year of a project that is part of “an ongoing commitment to diversity in visual storytelling to help empower the female point of view through photography.” At the OPC, Sandra was one of the judges for the freelance grant program that gave out $1000 grants to 92 journalists in March.

OPC member John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s magazine, was featured in a New York Times article for the Media section that chronicled challenges and turbulence in the magazine’s recent history. The article, titled “Inside America’s Most Interesting Magazine, and Media’s Oddest Workplace,” chronicles MacArthur’s beginnings as publisher in the 1980s when his family’s foundation rescued the magazine from bankruptcy, his hiring of editor Lewis Lapham and building a crew of excellent writers, navigating the dawn of the digital age, and turbulent conflicts between staff and management over the last decade. Most recently, the magazine drew a spotlight for publishing a letter last year signed by more than 150 writers and others that MacArthur characterized as “a public stand against political correctness and ‘cancel culture.’” The letter sparked outrage publicly and among many staff members who saw it as a rejection of protests against racism.

OPC member Sima Diab provided several photos from Egypt for a New York Times story on March 27 about the Ever Given container ship that ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week. Diab’s photos accompanied a story by Vivian Lee that outlined efforts to free the ship and profiled Manshiyet Rugola, a small Egyptian village on the banks of the canal near the grounding site where residents of the poor community watched in fascination. Diab’s photos depict the ship towering over the town, where Lee wrote that people were reluctant to talk to journalists because government security personnel “had passed through, warning residents not to take photos of the canal and generally spreading unease.”

OPC member Sudarsan Raghavan also covered the Ever Given crisis for The Washington Post. On March 31, he wrote an autopsy of the disaster along with colleagues Siobhán O’Grady and Steve Hendrix that reconstructed a timeline of the rescue effort and ripple effects across the world. In a followup on April 7, he examined how the effort from Egyptial salvage crews boosted national pride and provided a shift in the narrative of what Raghavan called “a low expectation of Egypt’s ability to fix its own problems.”

OPC member Rachel Donadio reviewed a book for The New York Times in March, her first since leaving the paper in 2017. Donadio wrote about Philippe Sands’ non-fiction work, The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive, which follows the story of Otto Wächter, a high-ranking Nazi official in occupied Poland who was indicted on a charge of mass murder after the war, but escaped. Donadio credits Sands for suspenseful storytelling and “his fiercely inquiring mind, his excellent researchers, the wealth of documents and his ability to make them come to life.” She has served as contributing writer for The Atlantic in recent years, writing about COVID-19 and a police campaign against crime syndicates in Italy last year.

OPC member Borzou Daragahi connecting dots in tactics used for disinformation campaigns from Syria, Russia and the Capitol Hill insurrection in January in a piece he wrote for the Independent in late March. He wrote about how the Syrian government’s campaign of violence against its own citizens and the its “machinery of lies that fuelled the conflict” was copied elsewhere. “One can trace a line between the barrage of Assad’s chemical weapons that struck the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta in 2013 and the hordes of American fascists who stormed the United States Capitol on 6 January,” Daragahi wrote.

The OPC heard from Dana Rowan, son of OPC Past President Roy Rowan, that Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York is maintaining an archive of his father’s work. Roy Rowan died on Sept. 13, 2016, at the age of 96. Dana noted that the archive includes references to Roy’s tenure as OPC President from 1998 to 2000, items about the OPC Foundation’s Roy Rowan Scholarship, photographs and more. Click here to see a detailed inventory of the Roy Rowan Manuscript Collection. There is also a website about his life and work at royrowan.com. OPC Past President William Holstein and other friends and colleagues contributed to an extensive remembrance page on the OPC website here.

 

March 25, 2021

OPC MEMBERS COVERING COVID-19

OPC member Keith Bradsher co-wrote a piece for The New York Times on March 21 with colleague Sui-Lee Wee about the ripple effects of China’s strict border closures and quarantine measures over the last year. To stanch the spread of coronavirus, China banned tourists and short-term business travelers, and ramped up restrictions for foreigners, even those who have lived there for years. Those moves resulted in separated families, disrupted businesses, and set thousands of international students adrift in uncertainty, the writers said. The story notes that the number of foreign business managers in China has declined, and an American Chamber of Commerce survey of 191 businesses indicates that the proportion of companies with no expatriates had surged to 28 percent, compared to 9 percent a year earlier.

OPC member Vernon Silver was part of a Bloomberg Businessweek team that reported on problems and blowback in the uneven distribution of the Pfizer vaccine. The March 4 story recounted panic and outrage over a Pfizer announcement in January that the company would temporarily cut vaccine supplies while its manufacturing facility in Belgium closed for an upgrade. Italy, one of the world’s worst-hit countries, threatened “unspecified action” against the company and accusations of incompetence. Silver, along with colleagues Stephanie Baker and Cynthia Koons, wrote that vaccine distribution was an “opaque process” involving “a mix of order size, position in the queue, production forecasts, calls from world leaders, the potential to advance the science, and of course the desire to make a profit.”

OPC member Jim Bittermann reported from France for CNN on new lockdown restrictions on March 19 as the country tries to bring a surge of COVID-19 cases under control. He said for the next month that in particular targeted sections around Paris and Nice, an estimated 110,000 non-essential businesses would be shut down. “Travel between parts of the country which are under restrictions and other areas will be forbidden,” he said in a video dispatch.

SCHOLARS

After her fellowship with Rest of the World ended, Mehr Nadeem, the Irene Corbally Kuhn Scholarship winner in 2019, was hired to stay on as a contributing writer covering all things tech in Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Persian Gulf. The OPC Foundation funded Mehr’s internship with Reuters in Pakistan.

Gabriela Bhaskar, the 2017 David R. Schweisberg Scholarship winner, has been named as member of the 2021-22 New York Times Fellowship class. A photojournalist based in New York, Gabbie’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and more.

AWARDS

OPC member Steve Stecklow was among the winners named in a Reuters’ 2020 Journalists of the Year Award in the category of Enterprise Reporting for the series on coronavirus response mismanagement called COVID Kingdom. The series also won a British Journalism Award for Best Science Journalism late last year.

OPC member and photojournalist Joshua Irwandi has been nominated for a 2021 World Press Photo Award. Irwandi is a photographer based in Jakarta for National Geographic. This year’s nominations include 45 photographers from 28 countries. Winners will be announced on April 15.

UPDATES

OPC member Evgeny Afineevsky is scheduled to participate in a panel tonight (March 25) at 8:00 p.m. following the screening of his film, Francesco, which features interviews with Pope Francis and provides “an intimate look at a global leader who approaches challenging and complex issues with tremendous humility, wisdom and generosity towards all.” The film is scheduled to premiere in theaters on March 26, and will be available on the Discovery+ service on March 28. Click here to RSVP for the virtual screening, which will begin at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Veteran freelance photojournalist Peter Turnley, who has been an OPC member since 1992, is among those slated to present his work during an online symposium on March 30 and 31. Hosted at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the School of Visual Communication, The Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media will focus on covering global crises. Turnley’s photographs have appeared on Newsweek’s cover 40 times, and he has worked in more than 90 countries and published eight books. Many other photographers, journalists and filmmakers are scheduled to speak, and the two-day event will also feature film screenings, including “The Nightcrawlers” about Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” and “Essential Journalists,” about journalists’ adaptations in covering COVID-19. Turnley’s presentation is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time on March 31.

OPC member Kathy Gannon of The Associated Press interviewed former Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March 11 to discuss a draft deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Karzai told Gannon that Afghans were “in a hurry for peace” and healing after decades of conflict. She wrote that President Ashraf Ghani would likely oppose portions of the deal that would diminish the president’s power during a transition government, and the Taliban would push back against liberal reforms and secular rule. Karzai served as president from 2001 to 2004 and has no formal role in negotiations, but is considered to be an important player behind the scenes, Gannon said.

Lucy Sherriff, an OPC member and freelancer based in California, wrote a longform piece for the Medium project Future Human on March 15 about a research project in Hawaii to translate forgotten archives of native-language newspapers for mining valuable climate data. She wrote that there were once more than 100 native language newspapers in circulation in Hawaii that chronicled daily life on the islands. That record was once thought to be lost, but in the early 1990s, Puakea Nogelmeier, a professor of language at the University of Hawai‘i, discovered that local libraries and museums had hoarded its old newspapers. He started the slow process of translating and digitizing each article. Sheriff said that data extracted from the weather reports “enabled meteorologists to track Hawaii’s extreme weather past, which, in turn, led to critical legislation protecting Hawaiians from similar weather in the future.”

OPC member and USA TODAY reporter Kim Hjelmgaard participated in an AMA (ask me anything) thread on Reddit on March 17 to discuss his recent reporting on the United States’ vast overseas military empire. Asked whether the Biden administration intends to reduce U.S. military presence overseas, Hjelmgaard said one key indicator of that intention would be a commitment to reform the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, or AUMF. “This is the legislation that has permitted the U.S. to wield military power all over the world while hunting for terrorists in places like Syria,” he said. “It was intended more narrowly for 9/11-related wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. The Obama admin also signaled it would reform AUMF. It never did.” Links to Hjelmgaard’s recent reporting on the issue, including a longform piece in February titled “A Reckoning is Near,” can be found in the introduction of the AMA thread.

Henry Peck, an OPC member and freelancer based in East Sussex, U.K., wrote about the UK government’s placement programs on the south coast for people displaced by conflict in Syria and Sudan for Open Democracy on March 17. The article explores a flagship government called the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), and examines how effective it has been in practice. Peck wrote that the program has offered one of the only safe routes to Britain for displaced people, but has been used to justify an antagonistic approach to asylum seekers crossing the English Channel. “Across the world, resettlement serves fewer than 1 percent of refugees, but as Europe grapples with fatal sea crossings, xenophobic politics, and overcrowded asylum facilities, the successes and shortcomings of the VPRS hold lessons for the wider region’s immigration policies,” he wrote.

OPC member Kathy Eldon recently traveled to Kenya for a tour and working vacation to visit old and new friends as well as check in on humanitarian aid programs. In a personal newsletter, she wrote about a visit to the Shining Hope for Communities project in a poor community of Nairobi that provides essential services to several local charities. Eldon also wrote about a stop at the nearby Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a haven for elephants and rhinos, a visit with an Empowered Women group, and more. A browser-friendly version of the email newsletter is available here, where you can also find a link to subscribe for future issues.

March 11, 2021

SCHOLARS

Meena Venkataramanan, winner of an OPC Foundation award this year, has been named a member of the 2021 class of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She is one of 24 U.S. students to receive full funding for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. The scholarship website says that criteria for selected students includes a demonstration of “outstanding intellectual ability,” “reasons for choice of course,” “a commitment to improving the lives of others,” “and leadership potential.”
Jimin Kang, also one of this year’s foundation award recipients, was one of three recipients of a Sachs Scholarship this year, one of Princeton University’s highest awards. The award is given to students to pursue postgraduate education. According to the Daily Princetonian, Kang plans to pursue two master’s degrees at University of Oxford’s Worcester College in comparative literature and critical translation as well as environmental studies.

Yi-Ling Liu, the 2017 winner of the Fritz Beebe Fellowship, landed an extensive piece for Wired magazine on March 9 about Chinese science fiction writer Chen Qiufan, who has risen to a level of cultural status she describes as oracular. She said he has now joined the ranks of many science fiction writers in China whose work has garnered acclaim in the tech industry in recent years.

Kimon de Greef, the 2020 winner of the David R. Schweisberg Scholarship, wrote about the effects of the pandemic on the underground realm of finch smuggling and competitions for a March 10 piece for Guernica magazine. He wrote about his reporting on the same story for his winning OPC Foundation essay and spoke about it during the Scholar Luncheon in 2020.

UPDATES

Fanne Foxe, who co-wrote an autobiographical book with OPC member Yvonne Dunleavy, died on Feb. 10 at the age of 84. Foxe, a stripper dubbed the “Argentine Firecracker,” became the center of one of the biggest sex scandals of the 1970s when she jumped from a limousine owned by Arkansas Representative Wilbur D. Mills into the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Foxe and Dunleavy co-write a book about the affair, titled The Stripper and the Congressman, which has been frequently quoted in Foxe’s obituaries.

OPC Governor Derek Kravitz is slated to speak on an online panel on March 18 about the fight for open government and access to public records. The program, hosted by the News Leaders Association and the First Amendment Coalition, will cover added challenges to public access during the pandemic, and journalists’ efforts to break through the barriers. Other speakers include Nancy Ancrum of the Miami Herald, Andrea Gallo of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, and First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder. Kravitz is a contributing reporter for ProPublica and works on data and FOIA projects for the Brown Institute. The panel gets underway at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The answer to a question from OPC member Edith Lederer, chief correspondent at the U.N. for The Associated Press, was cited widely in coverage of the arrest of AP journalist Thein Zaw in Myanmar. Lederer on March 4 asked Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General, for comment on the arrests of Zaw and anti-coup protesters. A video taken at the time shows Zaw photographing security forces arresting protesters before being placed in a chokehold and was arrested himself. Dujarric answered that the “video is extremely disturbing to anyone who sees it,” and said that harassment, arrests and physical attacks on journalists in Myanmar “must cease” and those who have been detained should be freed.

Meanwhile Barbie Latza Nadeau, OPC member and correspondent-at-large for The Daily Beast, has also been covering unrest in Myanmar and the military junta’s crackdown on free expression. She wrote on March 10 that at least two Myanmarese poets, Myint Myint Zin and K Za Win, had been shot and killed and dozens more poets and artists arrested for protesting the Feb. 1 coup. “The targeting of poets in Mynamar predates the recent military coup thanks to laws that control public speech,” Latza Nadeau wrote.

OPC member Ryan Delaney, education reporter for St. Louis Public Radio, has been covering the pandemic’s impact on students and families, including a feature in late February about how a year of online classes is starting to drag down students’ grades and “drain their love of school.” He wrote that school administrators around the country are reporting a sharp increase in the number of students failing classes, and many students have stopped logging on altogether.

Dexter Filkins, New Yorker writer and winner of multiple OPC awards, was a guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on March 4 to discuss the status of the war in Afghanistan as the Biden administration grapples with how to handle the Trump deal to withdraw troops by May 1. Filkins won the 2004 Hal Boyle Award and the 2005 Ed Cunningham Award for reporting in Iraq, and the 2008 Cornelius Ryan Award for his book The Forever War.

Feb. 25, 2021

SCHOLARS

Makini Brice, the Flora Lewis fellow in 2015, has a new role in the Reuters DC bureau.  She was covering breaking news but has now joined the Capital Hill team. Brice had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Dakar.

2013 Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship winner, Jacob Kushner, has  announced that he landed a deal to write a book slated to be out in 2024, entitled White Terror, about an anti-immigrant killing spree in Germany. The story follows the story of three radicalized neo-Nazi terrorists and a spate of assassinations and bombings they carried out against immigrants in the name of white nationalism. Kushner received support from the OPC in May last year with a micro-grant to offset the effects of the pandemic on freelancers.

Letícia Duarte, the 2019 winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory of I.F. Stone, co-wrote a story for the New Yorker on Feb. 16 with three colleagues on the impact of climate change on xenophobia. The piece opens with the story of undocumented migrants in the Bahamas who sought shelter in government camps after Hurricane Dorian struck in August 2019, only to be deported along with thousands of others. The piece, co-written with Cristina Baussan, Ottavia Spaggiari and Sarah Stillman as part of the Global Migration Project at the Columbia Journalism School, outlines key points from more than a hundred and fifty interviews with displaced people, climate scientists, government officials, and other experts discussing the “distinct dangers that extreme weather poses to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.” Duarte had an OPC Foundation fellowship with the GroundTruth Project. Duarte also received a micro-grant from the OPC in May last year.

AWARDS

A project led by OPC Governor Derek Kravitz has received a 2020 Free Speech and Open Government Award from the First Amendment Coalition (FAC). The Brown Institute for Media Innovation project, called “Documenting COVID-19,” has amassed a huge trove of public records on the pandemic and is used for investigative projects in partnership with 30 newsrooms. “This project is a shining example of the tremendous good that can come when journalists collaborate — with one another, with computer scientists and with open-records experts,” FAC Executive Director David Snyder said in a press release about the award. The project is a collaboration between Columbia University’s Journalism School and Stanford University’s School of Engineering. Kravitz serves as project lead, and was named on the award along with his colleagues Georgia Gee, Kyra Senese, Caitlin Antonios, Siddhant Shandilya, Qiaoge Zhu, Arusha Kelkar, Kanak Manhip Singh, Ivan Ugalde and Tim Robertson.

UPDATES

OPC member John Koppisch has joined Discourse as the assistant managing editor. Discourse is a new online magazine of economics, politics and society published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. It focuses on the U.S., but it has been running a series on India and will start ones in March on Taiwan and China and the challenges they pose for the Biden administration. Previously, Koppisch was a senior editor at the Asia edition of Forbes magazine for 13 years after stints at BusinessWeek magazine, the Asian edition of The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Mail in South Africa. He spent 12 years abroad, in Johannesburg and Hong Kong.

OPC member Kenneth R. Rosen published a new book in January investigating the trauma and aftermath of “tough-love” programs for young adults in the U.S. The book, titled Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment, follows four survivors of these wilderness boot camps and treatment programs across the country, where so-called troubled teens undergo therapies in a private industry that he argues are largely unregulated and leave children open to abuse. Rosen, himself a survivor of such a program, spent three years reporting and conducted more than a hundred interviews for the book. Troubled was named a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and garnered a New York Times Editor’s Choice accolade. The OPC supported Rosen with a micro-grant last year.

OPC member Kathy Eldon launched her new book on Valentine’s Day during an online celebration with a list of noteworthy guests. Hope Rising: A Musing to Help You Feel Better about Life, Love and the Future of Humankind, is a collection of poems, drawings, and “musings about love, parenthood, the pandemic, and what happens after wild and precious lives are over.” The event touted Hope Rising as the start of a movement for a more positive future, and featured appearances by Julian Lennon, Rain Phoenix, Diva Zappa, Sting’s son Joe Sumner and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku.

OPC member Kim Murphy has joined the leadership team for the The New York Times’ National Desk as deputy for investigations. The paper announced Murphy’s new role on Feb. 12, along with Monica Davey as a deputy and the No. 2 editor on the desk, Julie Bloom as a deputy, and Jamie Stockwell as head of “Race/Related,” a weekly newsletter focused on race, identity and culture.

OPC member and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky is set to premier his latest documentary, Francesco, on Discovery+ on March 28. The film examines Pope Francis’s leadership on many of the most important problems facing the world.

A Feb. 16 article in Los Angeles Magazine mentions several names of candidates in the search for an executive editor at the Los Angeles Times, including OPC member Sewell Chan. The piece mentions unnamed sources who cited up to 30 candidates are in a “Hunger Games” competition vying for the paper’s top job since OPC member Norman Pearlstine announced in October that he would step down. The piece outlines strengths and weaknesses for ten of the candidates they identified after “checking in with dozens of informed sources both inside and outside the paper.” Chan serves as editorial page editor for the paper, and previously worked as reporter and editor for The New York Times for 14 years. Others mentioned are Kevin Merida of ESPN, Janice Min of The Hollywood Reporter, Dean Baquet and Carolyn Ryan of The New York Times, Anne Kornblut of Facebook, and Julia Turner, Shani O. Hilton and Kimi Yoshino and Gustavo Arellano of the LA Times. In December last year, the paper announced that OPC vice president and head awards judge Scott Kraft would take over day-to-day operations at the paper along with Yoshino. Kraft’s name has also been mentioned in speculation about who would succeed Pearlstine.

OPC member Peter Gwin, National Geographic’s editor at large, recounted a trip to the Himalaya to track snow leopards for the Overheard at National Geographic podcast on Feb. 2. He joined explorer Prasenjeet Yadav on his search for one of the planet’s most elusive animals. During the episode, Gwin talks about how Himalayan communities have long regarded the snow leopards as threats to their livelihoods, and how conservation efforts and tourism are changing attitudes.

Robert McMahon, OPC member and managing editor for the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed challenges facing the Biden administration for the Feb. 19 episode of The World Next Week podcast. McMahon and co-host James M. Lindsay discussed the COVID-19 death toll approaching five hundred thousand in the U.S., as well as the Biden administration formally rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and addressing world leaders at the virtual Munich Security Conference.

OPC member and Harvard Business Review editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius interviewed Bill Gates for the Feb. 16 episode of the HBR Ideacast. Gates discussed his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need.

OPC member Dana Thomas told attendees at the Fashinnovation virtual forum on Feb. 11 that the fashion industry is damaging to the planet and humanity, and must find a more sustainable path. Thomas, author of a book titled Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, said that the industry reaches far corners of the world, and that “everywhere you turn fashion is somehow happening, it could be a farmer growing cotton or a seamstress sewing in a couture atelier or a model on a runway or a sales clerk ringing up the clothes you want to buy.” The OPC supported Thomas with a micro-grant for journalists suffering the effects of COVID-19 in May last year.

February 11, 2021

SCHOLARS

Jacob Kushner, the 2013 Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship winner, landed a major feature for National Geographic that he said in an email was made possible by an OPC micro-grant he received last year. The Jan. 29 story credits the OPC’s support. “Back when I had lost all my work due to COVID, I was able to make an initial reporting trip to Lake Naivasha to investigate rumors about hippo attacks, job loss, and the lake’s uncontrollable rise,” Kushner wrote to the OPC. Due to a 100-year flood at the lake and waning demand in Europe for flowers from Kenya, thousands of laid off workers resorted to fishing on the lake, putting them in closer range of the deadly animals. In addition, Kushner filed a story in January for the BBC about researchers in northern Kenya trying to prevent a dangerous coronavirus known as Mers from jumping from camels to humans again, as climate change causes greater challenges to that effort.

Simon Akam, the Emmanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2009, has just published his new book, The Changing of the Guard: The British Army Since 9/11. His controversial account of the Army’s two-decade long evolution was published on Feb. 11. In a piece published on Jan. 13 for the Book Brunch website, he talked about how his experience in 2003 and 2004 serving a one-year commission for the Army informed his reporting, as a “military insider-outsider“ who could “speak fluent Army.” He also wrote about facing considerable institutional resistance and inertia against the book’s publishing.

Alizeh Kohari, the 2016 Walter and Betsy Cronkite fellow, wrote about preserving a place for Urdu in the tech age for Rest of World City on Feb. 9. Urdu, spoken by nearly 170 million people in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora, is written in an alphabet derived from Arabic but uses a more ornate script. Kohari wrote about a developer who created an Urdu keyboard application in 2010, and is pushing for better software to help preserve the language, which is endangered as so much contemporary communication is in the digital realm. Kohari now divides her time between Karachi and Mexico City, where she had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau.

AWARDS

OPC member Simcha Jacobovici has been nominated for a 2021 NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Directing in a Documentary in Television or Motion Picture for his series Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The series, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, retraces 400 years of human trafficking from Africa to the New World, and includes the efforts of scuba divers to locate six sunken slave ships. The series, which premiered on EPIX last September, also recently won the Outstanding Achievement award from the Impact DOCS Awards. The NAACP Image Award winners will be announced on March 27 during a ceremony broadcast on several networks.

UPDATES

The New York Times announced on Feb. 9 that OPC member Rebecca Blumenstein, one of the paper’s deputy managing editors, will take on a newly created role and report directly to publisher A. G. Sulzberger. As deputy managing editor, she has overseen the paper’s website. Her new title will be deputy editor, publisher’s office. She joined the Times in 2016, and previously served as deputy editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, as well as China bureau chief, international editor, page one editor and managing editor of the Journal’s website. In a Times story about her new role, Blumenstein said she would miss the newsroom but wants to help the paper face challenges. “We have to do whatever we can to see around the corner of what’s coming and make sure The Times is the best place for our people and our journalists,” she said.

OPC member and Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung’s new film Captive is set to premiere on the TVO network on Feb. 16. For the documentary, she traveled with a crew into Boko Haram-occupied territory in Nigeria to interview some of the young girls who escaped after being held hostage in 2018. In an article about her film on the Toronto news website City News, she said the film in part is a personal reflection on her experience being kidnapped and held captive for 28 days in Afghanistan in 2008. She told City News that experience informed her reporting for the documentary and how she approached survivors but added that while she had access to mental health services to help process her trauma, for Boko Haram survivors in Nigera, trauma treatment is a luxury. Captive is a TVO network original and is set to premier on Feb. 16 at 9:30 Eastern Time but will be available to stream on the network’s website and YouTube Channel afterwards.

OPC member Anne-Elisabeth Moutet was a guest on the Jan. 28 episode of The Edition, the podcast of The Spectator magazine, to discuss a story about allegations of sexual abuse against French professor and political commentator Olivier Duhamel. His step daughter published a book earlier this year detailing abuse against her twin brother at the ages of 13 or 14, as well as a network of protective silence among the country’s academic elites. Duhamel resigned as head of a foundation that oversees the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris, among other posts. The book was among other sexual abuse and incest allegations that has sparked a mirror of the #metoo movement, marked with its own hashtag of #metooinceste. In her interview, Moutet described Duhamel as a powerful man in every way, “in French society, in his own family, within his circle of relations and the interlocking circles of power, that very obviously he felt that he could do anything, everything was possible.” To hear the segment featuring Moutet, skip to the 17-minute mark of the episode. She is a Paris-based columnist for The Telegraph.

OPC member Lila Hassan contributed to a ProPublica/FRONTLINE story tracking down more than 20 Boogaloo Bois members with ties to the armed forces. The Feb. 1 piece, with a byline shared among A.C. Thompson of ProPublica and Karim Hajj of FRONTLINE, examined case studies from the list and looked into previous domestic terror investigations of the identified members.

MEDIA NEWS

Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron on Jan. 26 announced plans to retire at the end of February. Baron has led the paper’s newsroom for the last eight years. Post publisher Fred Ryan said in a letter to employees that during his tenure Baron had “significantly expanded our coverage areas, inspired great reporting, managed an awesome digital transformation and grown the number of readers and subscribers to unprecedented levels.” Baron wrote to colleagues that “I am proud to have joined you in ambitious, high-impact work that is essential to a democracy. You stood up time and again against vilification and vile threats. You stood firm against cynical, never-ending assaults on objective fact.” Baron delivered the keynote speech at the OPC’s Annual Awards Dinner in April 2019, telling attendees that “while this is journalism we admire, even more important, it is work we need.” A video clip of his remarks can be found here.

January 22, 2021

SCHOLARS

Luca Powell, winner of a 2021 OPC Foundation Scholar Award and a graduate student at CUNY, wrote about the high toll COVID-19 has taken on Filipino nurses for a New York Times piece on Jan. 15. The article, titled “‘It’s Starting Again’: Why Filipino Nurses Dread the Second Wave,” cites a recent study that found close to a third of all the nurses who died from the virus in the U.S. were Filipino. Powell traces the history of Filipino nurses working in New York City hospitals in greater numbers since immigration reforms in the 1960s. Neighborhoods in Elmhurst and Woodside in Queens, an area now known as Little Manila, were hit particularly hard by the virus, he writes, “In June, a community group painted a mural in Woodside to fallen Filipino workers. It reads ‘Mabuhay,’ which in Tagalog means ‘May you live.’”

Caelainn Hogan, winner of the 2014 H.L. Stevenson Fellowship, wrote a piece for The New York Times on Jan. 15 about a system of institutions that Ireland created that separated mixed-race children from their mothers and placed them in so-called “reject wards.” Her article follows the story of singer Jess Kavanagh’s “search for answers and the barriers to justice that survivors still face.” Hogan’s book about the country’s institutionalization of unmarried pregnant women and forced separations, titled Republic of Shame, was published by Penguin in September 2019, and became available in the U.S. last October.

UPDATES

Many OPC members covered violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and its aftermath. OPC member Kim Hjelmgaard covered the attacks as breaking news for USA Today, writing on Jan. 6 about world leaders’ reactions “with a mixture of strong condemnations, shock and outright disbelief.” OPC member Linda Kinstler wrote about the siege for The Economist on Jan.7 in a piece titled “They Stormed the Capitol, then Posed for Selfies,” describing developments that day and providing on-the-ground color before, during and after the violence. “With water bottles in their holsters and guns at their side, they looked ready for battle, though it was unclear of what kind,” Kinstler wrote. OPC member Dalton Bennett was part of the Washington Post team that reconstructed a timeline and map for the attacks on Jan. 16, which used text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. OPC member Amy Mackinnon wrote for Foreign Policy magazine on Jan. 19 about how the Capitol assault dominated a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to consider Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence. She also faced questions from lawmakers on China, the Iran nuclear deal, and the SolarWinds hack of the federal government. OPC member Mort Rosenblum wrote on Jan. 9 about the siege on his blog “The Mort Report,” comparing the Trump administration’s strongarm handling of anti-racism protesters and journalists covering unrest last summer to the lack of response from law enforcement in D.C., on Jan. 6 while “the world watched, stupefied, as louts in battle costume swarmed into the Capitol unhindered.”

CBS News on Jan. 5 named OPC member Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews as executive vice president and Washington bureau chief. In her new post, she oversees the newsgathering and management of the division’s larges bureau. Ciprian-Matthews is a 25-year veteran at CBS who has served as an executive vice president since 2018 and held several senior management roles. She has won an Emmy Award and an Alfred I. duPont award for CBS News’ coverage of the Newtown tragedy. In 2016, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists presented Ciprian-Matthews with the Presidential Award of Impact.

OPC member Clarissa McNair, a foreign correspondent with World Radio Paris, has been named as an executive officer of the Association and the Club of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States (AFC-USA). The organization’s new board was announced on Jan. 15.

Danielle Keeton-Olsen, an OPC member, freelancer and editor for Tarbell.org who is based in Cambodia, wrote a piece for Global Voices on Jan. 14 about the revival of a Cambodian martial art that nearly disappeared after the Khmer Rouge regime executed many of its teachers and practitioners. She wrote that the discipline, called L’bokator, combines techniques like throwing elbows, knees and punches as well as using weaponry. Keeton-Olsen wrote about a 67-year-old master who is trying to revive the martial art and is pushing for L’bokator to be recognized as an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

OPC member Jane Ferguson, special correspondent for PBS NewsHour, spoke with host Amna Nawaz from Kabul on Jan. 15 to discuss the announcement that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has fallen to 2,500, the lowest since the U.S. first invaded in 2001. The move is part of a deal the U.S. struck with the Taliban in February last year. Ferguson said the withdrawal has increased pressure amid fighting and stalled peace talks, as well anxiety about whether the U.S. will adhere to the Trump plan that would have troops pulled out completely by the end of April. “That leaves the Afghan government and negotiators from Kabul in quite a weakened position,” she said.

Amberin Zaman, OPC member and senior correspondent for the news website Al-Monitor, will serve as occasional host for the site’s podcast, “On the Middle East,” which is usually hosted by Al-Monitor president Andrew Parasiliti. The podcast covers “the latest news and trends in the region, with additional commentary from Al-Monitor’s ‘on-the-ground’ correspondents.” Zaman was a guest on Jan. 12 to discuss the strained future of U.S.-Turkey relations, and then hosted the show on Jan. 19 with guest Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian scholar and a fellow at the Center for Global Policy, who talked about how a peaceful civilian uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad degenerated over the past decade into “a seemingly endless series of conflicts within conflicts.”

PEOPLE REMEMBERED

Chris Cramer, a senior Reuters journalist who once served, died on Jan. 16 at the age of 73. Cramer was a supporter of safety training and standards for journalists working in risky conditions, as well as mental health treatment after traumatic assignments. He was founding member and head of the International News Safety Institute (INSI). During his career, he also served as head of news gathering for the BBC, an executive at CNN International, and head of video production at The Wall Street Journal. He was taken hostage with 25 other people during the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980, an experience that inspired his dedication to journalist safety.

OPC MEMBERS COVERING COVID-19

OPC member Megan U. Boyanton wrote for Bloomberg Government on Jan. 19 about meatpackers calling for early access to the COVID-19 vaccine due to being at high risk in their work. Boyanton cited the Food and Environment Reporting Network, which estimates at least 53,620 meatpacking workers have tested positive for coronavirus and 269 had died as of Jan. 15. She wrote that the country’s largest meatpacking union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as well as some of the country’s meatpacking heavyweights, including Tyson Foods Inc., JBS SA, and Cargill Inc., are pushing to have their employees vaccinated quickly.

OPC Governor Derek Kravitz has also been following COVID-19’s links to the meatpacking industry as part of a team that includes the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. A piece filed on Jan. 18 recounts the Trump administration’s pressure to keep meatpacking plants open as an essential part of the food system in late April. The article focuses on a plant in northern Illinois at Rochelle Foods, a Hormel subsidiary, where officials were pushed to keep operations running despite an outbreak. In the fall, a second outbreak of infections “went unreported to anyone outside the company and the local health department. By mid-September, at least 137 COVID-19 cases had been reported at the plant in Rochelle,” the article reports.

OPC member Scott Gilmore wrote an op-ed for MacLean’s on Jan. 11 about the Canadian government’s shortcomings in handling COVID-19. “We need to be angrier,” Gilmore wrote as an opening line to the piece, in which he outlines what he calls a “strange lack of urgency” among leaders, with delays in distributing vaccine doses despite a national death toll of 16,000 and a rising number of cases.

OPC member Kristen Chick wrote a piece for National Geographic on Jan. 8 about COVID-19 in the aftermath of a six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that killed more than 5,000 people and displaced tens of thousands more. She traces the roots of the conflict, which stretch back more than a century to the end of the Ottoman and Russian empires, erupting in the late 1980s until a ceasefire in 1994. Chick wrote that when the conflict flared up again in September last year, more than half of the 150,000 residents in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh fled to Armenia. Those who remained took refuge underground, where they were more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

 

January 8, 2020

SCHOLARS

Eilís O’Neil, winner of the 2015 Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in memory of I.F. Stone, filed a story on Dec. 16 for KUOW public radio in Washington state about the impact of COVID-19 on an Indigenous community in the north-central part of the state. She reported on a town on the Colville Reservation that had kept the pandemic at bay through isolation and extra precautions but had an outbreak in December after a group of about 10 people visited a packed restaurant in a nearby town that seeded an outbreak on the reservation. O’Neil has been a reporter for KUOW since 2016.

Christopher Harress, the Emanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2013, wrote about the mental burden of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis for Reckon, a news site dedicated to issues facing the American South. Harress, now based in Alabama, battled the disease for two weeks starting in June last year. Though his physical symptoms were comparatively mild, his brush with the virus triggered bouts of anxiety and mental health struggles, he wrote, saying that “at my lowest points, I trembled as obsessive thoughts whirled around my head. The feelings of dread were seemingly inescapable.” Harress wrote that he learned recovery and letting go of negative thoughts takes “time and conscious effort.”

UPDATES

OPC member James Blue has taken a new post as senior vice president and head of The Smithsonian Channel. Blue had previously served as producer for PBS Newshour. The niche cable network is backed by ViacomCBS and the Smithsonian Institution. Blue replaces Tom Hayden, who founded the platform in 2006 but departed in April amid restructuring at ViacomCBS. He will also oversee content for MTV Entertainment Group, which encompasses MTV, VH1, Paramount Network and Comedy Central, among others. In an interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Blue said “I look forward to leveraging my expertise and experience to help shape and implement MTV Entertainment’s strategic vision for Smithsonian and other news, factual and non-fiction content across, and even beyond, the Group’s platforms.”

OPC Past President David Andelman had a review of his new book featured in the Washington Post’s book section on Jan. 3. David Bosco, an associate professor at Indiana University’s school of international studies, said A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That Might Still Happen explores “the phenomenon of red lines, track their past and present use, and distill some understanding of when they work and when they fail.” He called the book a “competent and thorough primer on conflict or potential conflict zones around the globe from North Korea to Iran to the eastern provinces of Congo.” Andelman wrote for CNN Opinion this week about Wednesday’s events from an international perspective on Jan. 7, commenting on reactions from Boris Johnson, NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, Heiko Maas, and others, writing that “sentiments of support and friendship seem thin gruel to bridge the huge gulf that seemed to be opening between the United States and so many of its allies and friends abroad and that, as difficult as the last four years have been for many, seems only to have broadened suddenly in the recent days.” RSVP to join Andelman and Deb Amos tonight, Jan. 8, for an OPC discussion about the book.

In the same book section printed on Jan. 3, OPC member Andrew Nagorski reviewed Mussolini’s War by John Gooch, a British historian whose specializes in the Italian military. He wrote that many histories of fascism and World War II treat Mussolini’s role in the war as an afterthought, but called Gooch’s book “a painstakingly detailed, long-overdue chronicle of the attempts by the smaller Axis power to play an outsize — and unrealistically ambitious — role in the global conflict.” Nagorski most recently authored a book about World War II titled 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War.

OPC Past President Bill Holstein, who served from 1994 to 1996, got an update during an email exchange over the holidays with OPC Past President Dick Stolley, who served from 2004 to 2006. Stolley, who is known for his coverage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and for creating People magazine, has sold his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has moved to Evanston, Illinois, where two of his four adult daughters live. “[Northwestern University] is where I went to college, so it’s familiar to me,” Stolley wrote. “I am pleased to know that the OPC is hanging in there.”

OPC member Alexandra Petri made a special guest appearance on the year-end episode of Slate’s Culture Gabfest on Dec. 24 as the hosts tackled what they billed as “listeners’ most perplexing conundrums.” Comments from The Washington Post columnist begin about 23 minutes into the episode. She answers ethical conundrums about imperiled baby squirrels and asks the hosts conundrums like “would you rather read War and Peace and never be able to tell anyone, or read Atlas Shrugged and be forced to tell everyone?” Petri’s column is described as a “lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.” Her most recent piece is titled “We love you. You’re very special. Go home.” – a reference to a quote from Trump’s video response to violence on Jan. 6.

OPC member and Flora Lewis Award winner Trudy Rubin wrote an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer on Jan. 6 calling for Trump’s removal for sedition. “The president incited this unprecedented attack,” Rubin wrote. “Asking him politely to stop it is like asking an arsonist to put out a massive forest fire he deliberately set, match by match.” Rubin won the OPC’s 2018 award for best commentary for a series of articles titled “Stress test for Democracies: Populism, Autocrats, China and Trump.”

After a bidding war among more than 15 media companies in December, Blumhouse Productions acquired screen rights to a New York Times piece by OPC award winner Azam Ahmed. The 2019 Spiers Benjamin Award winner wrote an article on Dec. 13 titled “She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One,” which follows the story of Miriam Rodriguez, a mother whose 20-year-old daughter was kidnapped in 2014 and never returned despite numerous ransoms given to captors. Variety magazine reported that Ahmed will produce the project alongside Caitlin Roper, the Times’ executive producer for scripted projects, and Blumhouse’s Jason Blum. Ahmed, the paper’s bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, won the Spiers Benjamin Award for his deeply reported series on the drug-fueled homicide crisis gripping Latin America. The OPC hosted a discussion with Ahmed about his work on Dec. 17, which is recapped with video clips here.

OPC member Kristen Chick filed an extensive investigation piece for the Columbia Journalism Review in December about how Magnum Photos has turned a blind eye to the alleged sexual abuse of one of its members, photographer David Alan Harvey. She reported accounts from 11 women who described inappropriate behavior from Harvey over a span of 13 years, “ranging from suggestive comments to unwanted sexual advances to masturbating without their consent on video calls.” Chick wrote that his behavior was reported to Magnum as early as 2009, but the agency sat on the information for more than a decade. Magnum suspended Harvey in August last year after allegations surfaced publicly, and in October announced he would be suspended for one year, referencing a single “historical allegation” that it did not describe.

OPC member David Friend is one of the editors of Vanity Fair’s new book, Women on Women, published by Penguin Books in October 2020. The book distills Unlike 35 years of classic Vanity Fair profiles, essays and columns by women about women. The book includes profiles from Gail Sheehy on Hillary Clinton, Ingrid Sischy on Nicole Kidman, Jacqueline Woodson on Lena Waithe and Leslie Bennetts on Michelle Obama, among many others. Friend co-edited the book along with Radhika Jones.

OPC member Donna Bryson, who is based in Denver, got a shout out in a year-end review in the Colorado Sun for her piece about challenges and insights covering people who are experiencing homelessness. In a piece titled “Crazy,” she talks about interviewing people who decide not to sleep in shelters that feel like a “jail, a barracks or a warehouse,” preferring risks on the street over those found in shelters or temporary housing. “It’s crazy, or at least unconstructive, to focus on the stereotypes that can make it seem that homelessness cannot be solved,” Bryson wrote. She is a housing and hunger reporter at Denverite, and author of nonfiction books It’s a Black-White Thing and Home of the Brave.

2016 OPC Bob Considine Award winner Emily Rauhala has been named as the Brussels bureau chief for The Washington Post. Rauhala will take the post this coming summer. An announcement on Dec. 23, cosigned by OPC Second Vice President Douglas Jehl, who serves as foreign editor for the Post, said the six-year Post veteran is a tenacious reporter who “can do just about anything,” adding that she “writes with voice and empathy.” Rauhala shared her OPC award with Simon Denyer and Elizabeth Dwoskin for the Post team’s coverage of China’s campaign to censor and control cyberspace.

PEOPLE REMEMBERED

Neil Sheehan, Vietnam War correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who obtained the Pentagon Papers for The New York Times, died on Jan. 7 at his home in Washington, DC at the age of 84. Sheehan was 25 when he started covering the Vietnam War in 1962, remaining there until 1966 for United Press International and the Times. His book A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer in 1989. Sheehan never spoke publicly during his lifetime about how he had obtained the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst, but he agreed in 2015 to tell his story to the Times on the condition that it be published only after his death. That story was published on Jan. 7 and is available to read here.

OPC MEMBERS COVERING COVID-19

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt on Jan. 4 wrote about shortcomings in France’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and how flaws in health and political systems could “prolong the pandemic, cause thousands of unnecessary deaths, and threaten the reelection chances of President Emmanuel Macron in just over a year.” She contrasted Britain’s count at the time of 944,000 people who received vaccinations with that of France, where 515 people had gotten their first of two doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. “That figure is not missing any digits,” she added. Walt also wrote that a higher proportion of French citizens, 4 in 10, are highly reluctant to be vaccinated compared to most other Western countries. She outlined several regulatory and bureaucratic barriers in the nation’s health system.

OPC member Michelle FlorCruz wrote a piece for the December issue of Asia Society Magazine about survivor’s remorse and mental health aftermath of her battle with COVID-19 on March 24. She recounted barely making it on foot to a clinic in New York where doctors found severe pneumonia in her lungs and sent her via ambulance to a hospital in full pandemic crisis mode. FlorCruz remained for a harrowing three days and was nearly placed on a ventilator. During quarantine and the weeks after her release, she suffered panic attacks in which she would “sob uncontrollably for 20 minutes, the kind of crying that makes you struggle to catch your breath,” feeling “like a live wire,” isolated from family and friends and suffering insomnia. “I felt immense survivor’s guilt. That somehow my small and inconsequential life was spared instead of that belonging to a front line doctor, or the father of three young children that I would read about in the news,” FlorCruz wrote. “I hated myself for getting sick and for inflicting this on other people. She wrote that she continues to grapple with intrusive thoughts and memories but has learned to cope with post-traumatic stress with help from mental health professionals and “candid conversations with my family.” FlorCruz serves as social media and digital content manager at the Asia Society in New York.