Overseas Press Club

Overseas Press Club Foundation
Encouraging the next generation of foreign correspondents

40 West 45 Street, New York NY 10036 USA| foundation@opcofamerica.org

Kathy Gannon, Senior correspondent, AP, February 26, 2016

Sebastian junger, award-wining author, journalist AND

Kimberly Dozier, Intelligence Writer, AP

David Rohde, Foreign Affairs Columnist, Reuters


2013 Scholarship Luncheon with David Rohde, Foreign Affairs Columnist, Reuters

February 22, 2013

by Aimee Vitrak                

The Yale Club Ballroom was filled to capacity for the OPC Foundation Scholarship Luncheon on February 22. This year’s event launched the Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship and the GroundTruth Fellow­ship. OPC Foundation board member and Global Post co-founder Charles M. Sennott introduced the $10,000 GroundTruth Fellowship for freelance correspondents who have more than three years of experience and pro­pose a reporting project in the Middle East
The Foundation awarded a combination of scholar­ships and funded internships to 14 graduate and Rohdeunder­graduate students from a wide range of academic insti­tutions and from every region of the country.

The David R. Schweisberg Memorial Scholarship winner Jad Sleiman began his reporting career as a com­bat correspondent for the U.S. Marine Corps. He said that the call to be a journalist is “a mandate to humanize people oceans away.” OPC Foundation President Wil­liam J. Holstein quipped that Sleiman hadn’t had a hair­cut since leaving the marines.

OPC Foundation board member Roy Rowan men­tioned that at 93 he was proud to have made it to the podium to introduce Stephen Kalin, who received this year’s scholarship in Rowan’s name. Kalin said he has a passion for journalism and the Middle East. His grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1920 and no one in his family had returned to the Middle East. September 11 motivated Kalin to seek out his roots and identity in the Middle East. “I’m inspired by correspon­dents who learn the language and the region,” he said.

Kalin and Harper’s Magazine Scholarship winner Mateo Hoke took the opportunity at the podium to ask for work and networking opportunities in a room full of prominent media brokers like CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager who was last year’s keynote speaker.

H.L. Stevenson Internship recipient Tom Finn re­layed his introduction to journalism when he received an offer from the Yemen Times about a copy editor posi­tion: “Our copy editor has a problem with her bowels, can you be here in three weeks?” Once the audience laughter settled down, he explained that the job gave him the opportunity to wear many hats in the newsroom and that after his OPC Foundation internship with the Reuters bureau in Cairo this summer, he’s headed back to Yemen.
Lunch and speeches ran a little late, but those who stayed — and that included most people — heard David Rohde deliver a heart-felt keynote address. He began by saying to the scholarship winners, “I don’t know you, but I love you.” He urged patience and persistence and “ground truth,” hitting the same theme as the luncheon’s beginning announcement of the GroundTruth Fellow­ship.
“You will have a front row seat to history,” Rohde said. “There will be moments of despair and setbacks but don’t give up.”

Yale ClubOne might assume that this well-decorated journalist who has been held captive twice has lived a charmed existence, but Rohde’s fight to become a journalist was self-directed and began with several desk jobs at the Philadelphia Inquirer, ABC News and The Christian Science Monitor. It was at ABC News where he decided to quit and go to Lithuania to pursue his passion of be­ing a field reporter. That experience first sent him to a copy editing slot at The Christian Science Monitor and then as an Eastern European correspondent to cover the war in Bosnia for the magazine.
Rohde urged the scholars to ask questions and re­member that every story was founded by a team effort. “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, our strongest team mem­bers were the Afghan and Pakistani local journalists,” he said.

He stressed that journalism has changed since he be­gan in the 1990s. “In Bosnia then, all sides saw us as journalists. In Afghanistan, I was seen as part of the U.S. war machine and therefore useful.” Rohde said. “It’s not fair, but you’re a target.”

He advised that it’s critical to weigh the risks of in­terviews and stories. “Ask yourself, will the story be there tomorrow?” He said he stood by his decision in Bosnia to follow the story about the mass graves; he was held captive for 10 days. In Afghanistan, however, where he was kidnapped and held for seven months and 10 days, just two months after getting married, he con­fessed that he let competition get the best of him. “If you take a risk,” he said, “it will be your family and editors who will suffer.” His voice became choked with emo­tion when he mentioned his wife and their two-year-old daughter. “We’re paid to explore and learn. I urge you to pursue the ground truth. That is an honor.

The award winners were feted to a reception the night before at Reuters honoring them and former OPC Foundation scholars. After the luncheon, they met with foreign editors and toured The Associated Press headquarters in New York City. 

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