September 19, 2021

People Column

2021 July-December Issue

August 5, 2021

Matthew Reysio-Cruz, the winner of the S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting in 2021, has been named to the Pulitzer Center’s Class of 2021 Post-Graduate Reporting Fellowship Program. He will report on the present-day consequences of the U.S. “Secret War” on Laos and will investigate failures to assist the survivors of accidents involving leftover U.S. bombs.

Rose Gilbert, the 2021 Stan Swinton Scholarship winner, has a reporting internship with Tennessean covering Nashville and Middle Tennessee news. She recently wrote about how Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and his wife are trying to ways to ensure a future for the Tennessee Tutoring Corps, which they founded in the spring of 2020 to address summertime learning losses exacerbated by classroom closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annie Todd, the winner of the 2020 S&P Global Award for Economic and Business Reporting, is now a breaking news and community reporter for Argus Leader Media in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She has been covering the story of Rosebud Sioux funeral ceremonies for the remains of Indigenous children whose bodies were uncovered at the Carlisle Indian Reform School in Carlisle, PA, and returned to their native tribal lands in South Dakota. In her winning essay for her OPC Foundation award, Annie wrote about a memorial in Sarajevo for victims of the 1995 massacre whose bodies were identified and moved to the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial.

Dake Kang, the Fritz Beebe Fellowship winner in 2016, was the first Western reporter to get inside one of the largest detention centers in China, perhaps the world, in Xinjiang, home to the Uyghurs. He recently wrote for The Associated Press about the facility, which is twice the size of Vatican City and can hold at least 10,000 inmates, the AP estimates. Kang, an OPC Award winner this year, had an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in Bangkok. Kang, an OPC Award winner this year, had an OPC Foundation fellowship with AP in Bangkok.

Valerie Hopkins, winner of the Jerry Flint Internship for International Business in 2013, had her first page-one story in The New York Times. She wrote about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who she described as an “unlikely pro-democracy leader from Belarus” now building what she called a “phalanx of Western opposition” from exile. Before recently joining the Times, Hopkins spent several years with the Financial Times in Budapest. She had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Belgrade. Hopkins also recently co-wrote a piece for the Times on Aug. 3 about an international scandal centering on Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, whose delegation forcibly tried to send her home after she criticized coaching staff on social media.

Simon Akam, the Emmanuel R. Freedman Scholarship winner in 2009, was recently interviewed by the Guardian regarding the problems he encountered when Penguin Random House (PHR) won the rights to publish his book, The Changing of the Guard. Later published by Scribe, the book is a critical study of the British army’s time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and details the army’s extensive efforts to shut down criticism directed at it. Akam recalled how PHR made unreasonable demands. Calling it “a terrifying precedent,” he described a situation in which a publisher could make exceptional demands of investigative journalists, including making writers submit their books to their sources for approval, effectively allowing them to edit themselves – and claim the writer has broken their contract if they refuse to do so. Akam had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Istanbul.

Maria Repnikova, the Alexander Kendrick Scholarship winner in 2009, was interviewed by The Washington Post on ways China is trying to influence other countries’ governing models. A political scientist and communication scholar at Georgia State University, Repnikova has written a new book on Chinese soft power that will be published soon, and she is completing a longer manuscript on Chinese soft power in Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia.

Ben Hubbard, the Stan Swinton Scholarship winner in 2007, was one of two New York Times reporters targeted for hacking by Pegasus, the Israeli spyware maker. Now the Times bureau chief in Beirut, Hubbard was also an attempted hacking target in 2018 by an operator linked to Saudi Arabia after he investigated rights abuses and corruption in that country. He also wrote a recent biography of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Hubbard had an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem.


A VICE News story by OPC member Amanda Sperber surrounding the toll on survivors of civilian victims from U.S. airstrikes in Somalia sent ripples to Washington last month. For her piece on July 22, she spoke with three of the four families of casualties that the U.S. has taken responsibility for during 14 years of airstrikes that started in 2007. The day after it was published, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar cited the story in a letter to U.S. President Joseph Biden. The letter, as reported by The Intercept, said the administration had failed to make reparations promised to the families, and challenged the administration’s justification for its airstrike on Somalia in July, the first since Biden took office. The Pentagon claimed that attack targeted suspected members of al-Shabab.

OPC member Abigail Pesta wrote a tribute for Olympic gymnast Simone Biles for TIME magazine’s commemorative issue on the games, chronicling how Biles survived trauma of abuse by Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, and highlighting the “profound disappointment in the organizations that failed to protect her, all while training in the isolation and uncertainty of a pandemic.” Pesta is author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.

OPC Governor Vivienne Walt wrote about the ups and downs of the International Olympic Committee’s Refugee Olympic Team for TIME magazine on July 8. The first IOC refugee team competed in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This year the team had 29 members, nearly three times as many as in 2016. But Walt wrote that some athletes struggled with expectations, tensions over their training, and “dissatisfaction with a system that, to them, appeared to deny them opportunities to create lives outside the program.” Six of the refugee team’s strongest athletes quit the program from 2017 to 2019.

OPC member John Daniszewski, the vice president and editor-at-large for standards for The Associated Press, was elected co-chair of Pulitzer Prize board. He will serve with Katherine Boo, a Washington, D.C.-based author and journalist, and Gail Collins, opinion columnist for The New York Times.

In a July 5 piece for The New York Times, OPC Governor Farnaz Fassihi wrote about a brutal murder case that has gripped Iran, in which an Iranian couple confessed to killing their son, daughter and son-in-law over the course of a decade. She wrote that the parents, 81-year-old retired army colonel Akbar Khorramdin, and his wife, 74-year-old Iran Mousavi, do not appear remorseful. Khorramdin stated in a television interview from jail that he “killed people who were very morally corrupt.” Fassihi wrote about the case’s wider context as the country grapples with generational conflict over traditional values, so-called honor killings and calls to reform the country’s penal code, which exempts fathers and grandfathers from the death penalty in murder charges against their own children or wards, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The online news magazine Discourse has gained a footing during the last half year under the editorial leadership of OPC member John Koppisch. Stories published over the last month have covered healthcare and COVID-19, the legacy of James Balwin, news media’s relationship with advertisers and consumers, Critical Race Theory and mainland Chinese identity in Hong Kong. Discourse launched late last year and focuses on economics, politics and society. It is published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Koppisch, a longtime business journalist, was named assistant managing editor of Discourse in December 2020. Previously, he 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.

Freelance photographer Adriana Zehbrauskas, who spoke on an OPC panel in September 2016, was named a recipient of a 2021 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on the Americas on July 21. This year for the first time all of the Cabot Prize winners are women. Zehbrauskas, a U.S.-based Brazilian photojournalist and documentary photographer, was honored for “illuminating portraits of people in desperate circumstances” showing intimacy and empathy and greatly contributing “to our understanding of the Americas.” She participated in an OPC panel with three other accomplished female photojournalists at the Columbia Journalism School in 2016. Read a recap and watch an archive video of that program here. She also wrote an article for the OPC’s Dateline magazine in 2019 about her project to photograph family members of missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Other Cabot Prize winners this year are Adela Navarro Bello, director of ZETA in Mexico; Mary Beth Sheridan, correspondent at The Washington Post; and Eliane Brum, an independent journalist in Brazil.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) on Aug. 4 named Sharon Moshavi as the organization’s nex president. Effective Sept. 7, Moshavi will replace Joyce Barnathan, who is retiring after more than 15 years in that post. She is currently serving as ICFJ’s senior vice president of new initiatives, and according to a release she has “played a pivotal role in the organization’s tremendous growth and impact during a time of both massive upheaval and new opportunities for news media across the globe.” Barnathan announced her retirement in early 2020 but remained to help the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 and a 2017 OPC Citation for Excellence, was killed in Afghanistan in mid-July while covering clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban. He was 38. Siddiqui was an Indian national and Reuters staff journalist. He was embedded with members of Afghanistan’s elite special forces in the former Taliban command center of Kandahar. Siddiqui was killed when the soldiers came under Taliban fire during a mission retake a border district near Pakistan. He had been a Reuters journalist since 2010 and covered events across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared his 2017 OPC citation with a Reuters team for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.


July 9, 2021


Luca Powell, the 2021 Roy Rowan Scholarship winner, has been chosen as a 2021-2022 Report for America corps member. He will spend the year as an investigative data journalist reporting for the Traverse City Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan. His focus will be using data to tell stories of local and state issues and trends. Powell joins two other OPC Foundation scholars who are members of the current Report for America corps: Anna Kaiser, the 2021 Sally Jacobsen Fellowship winner, who is part of a team focusing on economic mobility in Dade County for the Miami Herald; and Annie Rosenthal, the Jacobsen winner in 2020, who is the border reporter at Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas.

Jack Stone Truitt, the 2021 Schweisberg Scholarship winner, has landed a digital internship with Nikkei Asia in New York City. Nikkei Asia is published by Nikkei Inc., the world’s largest financial newspaper with a daily circulation exceeding three million.

Genevieve Finn, the 2020 Richard Pyle Scholarship winner, is one of 12 journalists chosen to attend the 2021 Date Institute, an intensive virtual workshop from the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica and OpenNews on how to use data, design and code for journalism. The program will run from July 12 to July 16. Finn has an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Associated Press bureau in Mexico City which she hopes to begin after a master’s program at Trinity College, Dublin.

After more than four years at the Fuller Project, Sophia Jones, the 2012 Reuters Scholarship winner, is joining the Starling Lab, a new research center based at Stanford and the University of Southern California, as executive editor of a new journalism program. The program will explore how innovative tech can support investigative journalism on human rights violations and war crimes. She will continue to be based in Barcelona and will work with tech experts, investigative journalists and newsrooms as they build out and utilize tools in the field to securely capture, store and verify sensitive digital records. The OPC Foundation funded Jones’ fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Ramallah in 2012.

After nearly 12 and a half years as correspondent for Reuters in Budapest, Marton Dunai, the Roy Rowan Scholarship winner in 2003, has joined the Financial Times as a correspondent in Hungary and Southeast Europe. His hunting area, he noted, will involve some of the most interesting corners of 11 countries, small and large power collisions in Europe.


OPC member Jaime FlorCruz, who worked as a foreign correspondent in China for about 40 years, was named one of ten laureates of the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding (APPCU) for 2021 on June 29. The ten recipients, one of which is Imelda Marcos, are awarded for their efforts to promote mutual understanding between the two nations across various means, including mass media. FlorCruz, identified in a release as founding president of the Peking University Overseas Students’ Alumni Association, was awarded for his “major contributions.” The awards will be given in a ceremony on Aug. 6.


Pete Hamill, a newspaper icon and former OPC member who died last August at the age of 85, was honored on June 23 in his birthplace of Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a ceremony to name a street in his memory. The event marked what would have been his 86th birthday with street signs carrying his name at 12th Street and 7th Avenue. Hamill was a prolific journalist and author who worked in various roles at the New York Post, New York Daily News and Newsday. He was an OPC member from 1999 to 2009. His wife, Fukiko Aoki Hamill, is a member.

OPC member Judith Matloff filed a story for The Daily Beast on June 19 cautioning those who find themselves in violent situations to rely on the advice of the Hippocratic Oath and “do no harm.” In the piece, titled “Don’t Be a Good Samaritan Unless You Know What You’re Doing,” Matloff recounts a recent experience getting caught in a fog of pepper spray from thieves while shopping in Manhattan. Out on the street, a well-intentioned bystander offered milk to wash away the irritant, and another offered seltzer – both of which Matloff says can increase irritation or risk of infection, or damage the eyes. The incident reminded Matloff, who teaches conflict reporting at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, that untrained Samaritans can do a lot of harm. She listed the following advice to amateurs: don’t apply the Heimlich maneuver to choking victims, smack them on the upper back instead; don’t try to use a belt as a tourniquet without proper training; and don’t put a severed finger directly on ice – put it inside plastic and then surround it with ice on the outside.

A documentary directed by OPC member and filmmaker Madeline Gunderson was released on Vimeo for rental on June 24. A Valley Divided centers on the fruit-growing region of Yakima Valley in eastern Washington state, where populations are increasingly majority-Latino, but elected representatives are still overwhelmingly white. A summary of the film says that a 2020 lawsuit against Yakima County alleges its voting system dilutes the agency of Latinos, violating the state Voting Rights Act, and calls for ranked-choice voting to better reflect constituents. The film uncovers decades of political discrimination and “holds up a mirror to the larger story of a changing United States.” The film was screened at the NYU News and Documentary Student Film Festival on May 8, at a Yakima Parks event on May 16, and at the Gesa Power House Theatre in Walla Walla on June 23.

On July 2, OPC member Kenneth R. Rosen launched a newsletter titled “War, U.S.A.,” which he said is “about conflict in the broadest sense: the difficulties we face at home and the ones we engage with abroad.” In an email to the OPC, he said he hopes to learn and share more about changes in the United States “as we draw down our military engagements abroad.” Rosen is also calling for contributors and suggestions for coverage. Subscribe to the newsletter and find out more here.

Aurora Almendral, an OPC member and award winner based in Southeast Asia, wrote a piece for The New York Times published on June 24 about the climate impact of cargo ships, and efforts to use wind power to reduce their carbon footprint. She wrote that global shipping produces 2.9 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions, almost equivalent to that of South America. Almendral spoke with a trade association with 40 member companies now working on wind-propulsion, or “modern sail” technologies.

OPC member Jessica Obert wrote a piece for The New Humanitarian on July 5 about COVID-19 in Haiti, one of only a handful in the world that has not started a vaccination program. Despite a recent fourfold uptick in weekly coronavirus deaths, Obert wrote, Haiti is still awaiting its first vaccine delivery from the international COVAX program, an effort meant to provide equal access to coronavirus treatment worldwide. She contrasted that with the Dominican Republic, the other half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, where vaccines have reached nearly 35 percent of the population.

Megha Rajagopalan of Buzzfeed News, one of the winners of this year’s Kim Wall Award, was a guest on the Longform Podcast on June 30 to discuss her coverage of Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang, China. That reporting, carried out with colleagues Alison Killing and Christo Buschek with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, won the Kim Wall Award as well as a Pulitzer Prize. Rajagopalan details the reporting process during the interview, which involved the use of satellite images and 3D imagery to uncover a massive industrialized internment system.


An article for the Columbia Journalism Review by OPC member Kristen Chick on July 6 details a pattern of complaints against New York Times international picture editor David Furst before his departure from the paper in April. Chick’s piece references a 2018 human resources probe into employee complaints, among other incidents, and spoke with photojournalists who described unusually hostile and capricious behavior, particularly toward freelancers. Furst served as governor of the OPC from 2017 to 2019.