14 Journalists Awarded Vietnam Fellowships

San Francisco – The Renaissance Journalism Center has chosen 15 top journalists for a reporting fellowship program that will enable them to investigate the toxic legacy left in Vietnam by the use of the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Reporting Project Fellowship is designed to use the power of journalism to raise public awareness about the health and environmental problems that continue to affect Vietnam and its people.  During the war, the U.S. military defoliated millions of acres of forest and farmland by spraying Agent Orange.  The herbicide contained dioxin, a highly toxic organic pollutant linked to cancers, diabetes, birth defects and disabilities.

“Even though the war ended 35 years ago, the toxic impact of Agent Orange lives on, damaging the lives of millions of people,” said Jon Funabiki, executive director of the Renaissance Journalism Center, which is based at San Francisco State University.  “Journalists can put a human face on this all-to-forgotten tragedy and help the general public to understand the full dimensions of the problem.  Unfortunately, many news organizations are so financially strapped that they can’t afford to send reporters to the scene.”

The fellows represent newspapers, television, radio and the online news sector.  The group is cross-cultural and intergenerational with representatives from the mainstream, independent, Vietnamese American and college media. The reporting fellows include:

  • Sean Connelly, photo editor/multimedia producer, Los Angeles Times
  • K. Oanh Ha, reporter, KQED Public Radio
  • Duc Ha, editor and senior correspondent, OneViet.com
  • Tara Haghighi, journalism student, San Francisco State University
  • Catherine Karnow, independent photographer
  • Ed Kashi, independent photojournalist and filmmaker
  • Henry Liem, columnist, VTimes
  • Katy Newton, video journalist, Los Angeles Times
  • Nguyen Qui Duc, independent radio and television journalist
  • Connie Schultz, columnist, The Plain Dealer
  • Nick Ut, photographer, Associated Press
  • Thuy Vu, reporter/anchor, KPIX TV
  • Laura Waxman, student journalist, San Francisco State University
  • Yumi Wilson, assistant professor of journalism, San Francisco State University

Collectively, the group has garnered many journalism awards, including three Pulitzer Prizes.  Ut received the Pulitzer in 1972 for his iconic photograph of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc  after being badly burned in a napalm attack during the war. Schultz received a 2005 Pulitzer for columns that provided “a voice for the underdog and the underprivileged.

The journalists will receive training, travel support and other resources to help them produce in-depth articles, essays and columns, television and radio reports and web-based multimedia packages. The products will be distributed by their news companies, featured on a special project website and distributed to interested news outlets, including Vietnamese American media.

The Renaissance Journalism Center was created to stimulate and test promising new practices in journalism.  The center also sponsors the Media Greenhouse, which offers mini-grants to community and ethnic news media outlets; and the New Media Lab & Incubator, which is incubating new nonprofit media models. The center is operated in partnership with ZeroDivide.

The Vietnam Reporting Project was developed in collaboration with Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and is funded by the Ford Foundation.

According to the Vietnam Red Cross, an estimated 3 million Vietnamese suffer health problems linked to Agent Orange and 150,000 children have serious birth defects. About a dozen “hot spots” are contaminated by dioxin. In the U.S., Agent Orange also has been linked to serious health problems widely reported by American veterans.


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