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Kip Fellow personally familiar with Greek financial crisis

Reprinted with permission by Nikolia Apostolou.  This story appeared in USAToday, Nov. 15, 2016.


ATHENS — When President Obama stood in the shadows of Acropolis and talked about the crippling impact of austerity measures on Greece, I thought, wow, I could have told you that.

After all, my grandparents were collateral damage. And my father is next.
My grandparents’ story starts five decades ago — like thousands of Greeks who left the country in the 1950s and ’60s to find work after the devastating Greek civil war, my grandparents went to Brazil.

In Brazil, they worked hard and eventually opened a coffee shop and a clothing store. They were doing well but didn’t want to stay there forever. After seven years, they moved back to Greece.

In Athens, Grandpa sold children’s toys from a stand in Omonia Square, until he found a job selling watches and clothing in a shop. By the 1970s, my grandparents had earned enough to become their own bosses again, opening a small coffee shop near the Acropolis.

Grandpa paid his pension contributions. According to the law at the time, he couldn’t cover his wife, so Grandma never had her own pension. When they reached their mid-60s and closed their café to retire in the early 1990s, they lived off his benefits.

In the beginning it was OK. They didn’t travel much. Nor did they eat out.

Then, in the mid-1990s, like thousands of Greeks, Grandpa decided to invest some of his savings in the Athens stock market. Politicians were urging Greeks to invest and take advantage of the growing economy. Stockbroker offices opened up in neighborhoods and villages throughout the country.


Nikolia Apostolu with a Syrian refugee child. Apostolu has been covering the Greek financial crisis and the Syrian refugee plight for more than two years now.

It was a heady time that turned into a frenzy. People sold their houses to play the stock market. Then in 1999, the bubble burst. Millions of people lost money, and the public pension funds went into the red. Allegations of fraud and insider trading were rampant. But nobody was charged with misdoings.

In 2001 when Greece adopted the euro, we were excited, though we thought the currency exchange wasn’t equal. Why should 1 euro have to be 340 drachmas, while 1 euro was 0.5 German marks? We weren’t economists.

Before the euro, a newspaper would cost 100 drachmas, or 30 euro cents, the U.S. equivalent of 33 cents. After the euro, the paper cost 1 euro, or $1.12. The same happened with potatoes, tomatoes and so on. We didn’t need to be economists to see the consequences of bringing together widely disparate economies adopting a single currency as part of the eurozone.

Grandpa, a proud man, never complained to me. But his habits slowly changed. He started attending anti-government protests. While watching the news, he’d curse the government.

He also stopped buying newspapers. That was something I couldn’t accept. A man who had worked for more than 45 years wasn’t able to afford a newspaper anymore. From then on, I’d always bring him a paper so he could indulge in one of his few pleasures.

In 2004, Grandpa was diagnosed with four brain tumors. A week later, we watched the Athens Olympics together. We wondered how much the spectacle cost taxpayers. Such an extravaganza seemed out of place in a small, troubled country like Greece.

More than $11 billion was spent on stadiums that now sit unused. Other funding went to much-needed infrastructure, however, like the subway and a new Athens airport.

A few months after the impressive opening ceremony, my grandfather passed away in his bed, surrounded by family. Grandma moved to an apartment across the street from my parents. She received 80% of her late husband’s pension and could just make ends meet.

Since the Greek fiscal crisis a few years ago, my grandma had been afraid the government would cut her pension. We dismissed her worries, assuring her that she received one of the lowest pensions in the country. Nobody would dare touch it, we said.

But, year after year, everything got more expensive, eating away at Grandma’s purchasing power. Taxes increased. New taxes hit heating oil, cigarettes — Grandma still smoked — telephone bills and so on. In July, Greek lawmakers cut my grandma’s benefits. Hospitalizations decimated her savings.

Thankfully, she didn’t really know about her financial situation. My mother used to go to the ATM for her and, with my aunt, covered much of her expenses before she died this fall.

I’m happy my grandfather isn’t around to see the current state of things. He would have been humiliated and depressed at not being able to survive financially after working hard for 45 years.

But my father isn’t likely to be spared that feeling. He just retired, and more pension cuts are looming.

Correspondent Apostolou is based in Athens

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Kiplinger announces 2017 Fellows

Twenty-one veteran journalists from newsrooms around the globe will make up the 2017 class of Kiplinger Fellows at Ohio State University.

The 2017 class includes national, large-market television and radio anchors and producers, leadership at three wire services, reporters from major daily newspapers as well as general assignment reporters from thriving community publications.

Six fellows will visit from outside the United States, hailing from Canada, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Australia and Afghanistan.

Nearly 500 journalists applied for the fellowship program, which will take place April 23 – 28 at the Ohio State campus in Columbus and the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens.

“This year’s pool of applicants continues to signal to the Kiplinger Program that we are a much sought-after fellowship,” deputy director Kevin Z. Smith said. “We continue to be amazed at the caliber of journalists, domestic and foreign, who apply. It’s always a difficult and lengthy process to select the few who come. Each year’s class is unique and well representative of today’s journalism profession.”

Smith said the goal is to return the Kiplinger Fellows to their newsrooms armed with a new set of digital skills and the motivation to train others and improve the level of journalism.

The international 2017 Kiplinger Fellows are:

  • Anuj Chopra, Agence France-Presse, Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Eduardo Fernandez Diaz, El Mundo TV, Madrid, Spain
  • Stephanie Gomez, El Vocero, Puerto Rico
  • Nelissa Hernandez, Publicitas Content, Singapore
  • Declan Hill, The Star, Toronto, Canada
  • Lauren Novak, News Corp, Adelaide, Australia


The U.S. 2017 Kiplinger Fellows are:

  • Michelle Theriault Boots, Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage
  • Deblina Chakraborty, Scripps-KMGH, Denver
  • Joe Danborn, The Associated Press, Denver
  • Monica Davey, The New York Times, Chicago
  • Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Dalia Hatuqa, freelancer, Chevy Chase, Maryland
  • Andy Hurst, KUOW Public Radio, Seattle
  • Kyle Iboshi, KGW, Portland, Oregon
  • Jess Mador, NPR-WYSO, Yellow Springs, Ohio
  • Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • JP Olsen, HBO, New York City
  • Lee Powell, Washington Post, DC
  • Claudio Remeseira, Dow Jones, New York City
  • Fernanda Santos, The New York Times, Phoenix
  • Larry Seward, KHOU, Houston


The Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism is in its 44th year at Ohio State. It has evolved since its founding, transitioning from a nine-month master’s program to a digital media fellowships in 2011. In addition to the weeklong fellowship, the program offers workshops and training across the globe. In 2016, the Kiplinger Program training reached nearly 1,800 journalists. Full information about the Kiplinger Program is available at

The Kiplinger Program was endowed at Ohio State in 1973 by Austin Kiplinger in honor of his father, W.M. Kiplinger, one of the university’s first journalism graduates in 1912. W.M. Kiplinger pioneered a new kind of journalism when he became publisher of The Kiplinger Letter and later Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. He has been described by his son as “a dedicated journalist, a muckraker and an inspiration to young journalists… a very original thinker.”








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Grief porn overwhelming Jamaican public

The photo on the front of the Jamaican Gleaner was a shocking precursor to the inside, double-page spread.  A mother, gripped in agony at her son’s funeral, greeted the reading public that morning.

The memorial service played out inside the daily tabloid with full-color, up-close-and-personal photos that included the minister, the casket procession and more tear-streaked faces of family and friends. It was not what someone of an American readership would expect.

This funeral seemed to be a galvanizing moment for a nation that sports the fifth highest homicide rate in the world. Fourteen-year-old Nicholas Francis was stabbed to death in Mid-October over his cell phone in a very public display of a senseless murder. The media made its presence felt at every chance, both in print and on the airwaves, culminating now with his funeral.

As much as the people of Jamaica have grown weary of the violence, they have also shown an evaporating tolerance for the media’s portrayal of the violence and its aftermath, like this funeral. They’ve dubbed this gawking “grief porn.”

Why must the victims and the family be showcased on the pages of the paper? Why must every death be complete with blood pools and explicit details of the deaths? Why does the public need to be guaranteed that body bags and wailing family members are important parts of most story?

smith talk

Kiplinger Deputy Director Kevin Z. Smith speaks to an audience in Jamaica about the ethics of covering tragedy.

I spent four days in Jamaica at the request of the U.S. Department of State and the Jamaican Embassy to talk about the ethics of reporting on grief and tragedy. Admittedly, I’d never heard the term grief porn, but I understood immediately what it meant.

What I didn’t understand was why it was so prevalent in the Jamaican press. In America, we’ve come (for the most part) to understand that graphic images and salacious details of murder and mayhem serve little public good. It’s usually viewed as sensationalism.

The attitudes on this island are divided.

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Trump presidency will benefit from Sessions’ approach to the media

The appointment of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to U.S. Attorney General will make it difficult for journalists covering the Donald Trump presidency to use confidential sources. Sessions will take full advantage of the absence of a federal shield law to wield a heavy hand with the media when it attempts to report from inside the administration.

How do we know this? His history of obstructing a Free Flow of Information bill for the past decade and his disdain for the American press.


For the better part of two weeks the American media has been wallowing in angst over the impending Donald Trump presidency, uncertain what coverage of the Oval Office will look like the next four years.


U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions

There was speculation this week that President Trump will do away with the press pool that covers the office, sparking 14 news organizations to object to that plan for the sake of government transparency.

This, of course, comes on the heels of a very acrimonious relationship with the media that began on Day One of the Make America Great Again campaign. Trump has taken every opportunity to vilify the press, blaming them for his negative coverage when it went so far to point out his inaccuracies and the inconsistencies of his viewpoints.

Throughout the campaign he whipped up his base’s hatred for many groups, including the press. It didn’t happen without concerns from journalists. Reporters and photographers were physically threatened at worst and subjected to the sad, old refrains of “bias” at the least whenever Trump was challenged.

So, it stands to reason that there would be some serious hand-wringing once Trump takes office. Then came Friday’s announcement.

If you want to get a full measure of what the press may be in for, look no further than the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama) as the new U.S. Attorney General. Sessions is absolutely no friend of the press. In fact, the GOP senator made a habit of trying to stifle the press for years from his vaulted seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I was president of the Society of Professional Journalists from 2009-10 and it was the fourth straight year SPJ and a coalition of journalism groups were working to enact a federal shield law. The protective law, under the title Free Flow of Information, would grant journalists reporting on the federal government many of the same protections afforded reporters covering state government, which is to say, they could not be forced to reveal condidential sources unless there was compelling evidence to do so by a court.

Sessions and fellow GOP senators led an opposition to the shield law that lasted for years, and in particular, in 2009, he took it to extremes by openly and repeatedly mischaracterizing the bill’s language and intentions.

Sessions primary concern was national security. Understandable. But, no version of Free Flow of Information Bill was without exemptions for that. Journalists don’t want to aid and harbor enemies of the state with their reporting, so every version of the bill that came to the Senate Judiciary Committee in those years, made an exemption.

Still Sessions used his bully pulpit to try to convince his constituents that allowing source protection meant journalists would hide rapists, terrorists, child molesters from public scrutiny. It was a brazen scare tactic that resonated only with his fellow Republicans.

In another argument against the shield law, Sessions cited a grossly inaccurate statistic – that under the George W. Bush administration, only one reporter had been subjected to a federal subpoena for his sources. The accurate figure was 175. In fact, the increase in subpoenas of reporters was the very reason there was pressing need to enact a shield law.  SPJ and others were working hard to get the protection from undue interference by the judiciary which impacted First Amendment rights to report and inform the American public.

As attorney general, Sessions will unleash a torrid assault on the press from his new office. If you think President Trump wants to suppress the American press in its coverage of the federal government, then you have to believe that he has his greatest foot soldier in Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

It’s not unreasonable to expect that the number of subpoenas for reporters’ notes and material will increase dramatically. If you want to keep a press at bay, keep a legal hammer over its head in the form of lengthy, costly legal battles. Sessions will be the one to orchestrate that. I have little doubt that he will use the powers of his office to exert a heavy hand over the press.

With newsrooms shrinking and their  resources stretched thin even large and powerful voices in the press will find it hard to constantly defend themselves in court proceedings when federal court officials come calling with subpoenas, demanding to know at every turn who the confidential source is in a story.

There will be no better, legal way to muzzle the press during a Trump administration than operating a mission of suppression from the U.S. Attorney General’s office.

And, Sessions is up to the task.


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Journalists need to step up verification in hoax-filled cyber world

A leading expert in verifying stories and photos shared on social media believes most people have some basic motivations for sharing fake images.

He also believes it’s possible for journalists to discover newsworthy eyewitness images and steer clear of hoaxes and old pictures from unrelated events.

Often people pass along jaw-dropping photos because they get caught up in the moment. Some of them don’t know how to tell what’s real and what’s not on social media. Sometimes people are joking, but the photos are shared with people who aren’t in on the joke.

Job # 160172 Kiplinger Program Steve Myers APR-8-2016 The Ohio State University Photograph by Kevin Fitzsimons

Steve Myers talking at Ohio State University Photograph by Kevin Fitzsimons

And then there are people who use images as a form of rhetoric, sharing ones that validate their beliefs, said Steve Myers, a former Poynter Online editor who just completed a stint as professional-in-residence in Texas Christian University’s journalism department.

Myers routinely shares his work during Kiplinger Fellowship Week at Ohio State University.

“People see something that is too good to ignore and without spending the time to verify it, they do the natural thing, which is to comment and pass it along,” Myers told Kiplinger Fellows at a recent presentation. “Other times, even when the message or image seems out of place, it validates what they believe about a topic, so it seems perfectly fine to share.”

Myers showed an image of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was alleged to have been vandalized during riots in Baltimore. Some people posted the photo with racial slurs aimed at the looters. The image actually was from a looted restaurant in Karachi, Pakistan. Continue reading

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