Image by Dado Galdieri/Hilaea Media. Brazil, 2021.

Video by Daniel Vasta. 2021.

Image by Eli Hiller. United States, 2021. 

As 2021 came to a close, we had the opportunity to gather in celebration of the Pulitzer Center’s first 15 years. That we managed to do so with no COVID-19 consequences was a minor miracle. A bigger miracle is the Pulitzer Center itself, an initiative that has grown so much bigger—and more essential—than the two of us imagined when we first discussed this idea in fall 2005.

In the past five years alone, we’ve grown at a dizzying pace.

In 2016 we had a staff of 16, all based in Washington, D.C., supporting just over 100 projects, and almost all of those projects focused on reporting overseas. Today we are supporting twice that number of reporting projects, many now focused on critically important issues here in the United States, with a staff of nearly 50 that now includes colleagues based in Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and New Haven—and also in Brazil, Portugal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

We have built a far bigger presence in the United States, in partnership with regional news outlets and also with schools and universities. At the same time, we have seen an ambitious expansion of our work overseas—with the creation of cross-border collaborative reporting networks and an emphasis on elevating the voices of journalists who live in the communities on which we report.

In the pages that follow, you’ll see the range of reporting, education, and outreach that we have helped facilitate—and the difference it has made in the lives of so many.

It is a privilege to work with so many talented people dedicated to getting our country and the world out of the ruts we’re in. Those ruts are deep, as you know. Getting us back on a more sustainable, more productive path is likely to be the work of many hands and many years.

In setting about that task, we can’t imagine better or more inspirational company than the mutually reinforcing communities that make up the Pulitzer Center: our grantees, our news media and educational partners, the donors who sustain our work, and—not least!—the readers and viewers who follow our work and make it part of their own engagement as active citizens, in the United States and across the globe.

Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Chair
Jon Sawyer, Executive Director

Image by Irina Werning / The Guardian. Argentina, 2021.


Over 200 global reporting projects supported in 2021

Reporting supported by the Pulitzer Center this year struck down bad laws, helped end harmful government programs, and bore witness to events and atrocities that would otherwise be hidden from public scrutiny. Grantees used the power of data, art, and collaboration across borders to bring critical and engaging reporting projects—227 of them—to local and global audiences. In 2021, we supported 332 journalists reporting from 84 countries.


reporting projects





Image by Marco Garro. Peru, 2021.

Here’s a sampling of some of our best projects:

Illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty/The Wire. 2020.

A series for The Wire exposed astonishing discrimination against India's marginalized groups behind bars—low-caste, transgender people, and women. The reporting triggered the abolition of caste-based labor in prisons in the state of Rajasthan.

Image by Paula Bronstein. Afghanistan, 2021.

As U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan and panicked civilians fled Kabul ahead of Taliban fighters, PBS NewsHour’s Jane Ferguson and Eric O’Connor were there, as they have been for years, to chronicle the last days of America’s longest war.

Illustration by Coralie Cross/Bangor Daily News. 2021.

A dozen-plus projects with regional news outlets, part of our Bringing Stories Home initiative, shed light on racial inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines and on the glaring gaps in police accountability.

Image by Duber Rosero/OjoPúblico. Colombia, 2021.

A series coordinated by OjoPúblico— comprising 15 journalists and eight Indigenous artists from Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador—used art to show the devastating impact of the pandemic on Amazonian people. "Visions of Coronavirus" gathered a fragment of Indigenous memory in paintings, masks, and ceramics.

Image courtesy of PBS Newshour. Mexico, 2021.

With opioid deaths skyrocketing, Monica Villamizar and Zach Fannin gained extraordinary access to members of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel for a PBS NewsHour series that tracked the flood of fentanyl from Mexico into the U.S.

Image by Lauren Petracca/The Post and Courier. Greenland, 2021.

What does a giant iceberg off Greenland’s coast have to do with the Lowcountry of South Carolina? A lot—and none of it good. The Post and Courier took readers on a vivid tour of Greenland’s melting polar ice to explain the threat it poses for low-lying communities like Charleston 3,000 miles away. The Charleston project was part of Connected Coastlines, our reporting initiative on climate impacts on every U.S. coast.

Image by Victor Moriyama/New York Times. Brazil, 2021.

The launch of the Rainforest Investigations Network brought together 20 journalists from 10 countries who used data, mapping, and shoe-leather reporting to follow the criminality and the supply chains responsible for the destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests. A New York Times exposé tracked leather from cattle raised in illegally deforested Amazon land to luxury SUVs in the U.S.

Illustration by Sophie Morse/WBUR. 2021.

Our new Artificial Intelligence Accountability initiative supports stories that investigate the impact of new technologies on communities around the world, such as an Associated Press probe into a gunshot detection algorithm that sent an innocent man to prison, the misuse of surveillance and facial-recognition technology in Baltimore and Florida, and a piece in .Coda about government surveillance of health care workers in India.

Image by Sharon Castellanos/Mongabay. Peru, 2021.

Our Impact

Judicial impact

Following a Pulitzer Center-supported story by The Wire exposing egregious treatment of incarcerated people from marginalized backgrounds—including lower-caste people, transgender people, and women—the high court of Rajasthan, India, ordered an overhaul of the state’s prison manual that abolished caste-based labor assignments that had stood for more than 70 years.

Student-powered impact

Inspired by the Pulitzer Center-supported project Report Card, students at The San Francisco School collaborated with Mission Local grantees to produce their own visual storytelling projects chronicling their pandemic experiences. The students’ pieces were eventually published alongside the grantees’ reporting that examined COVID’s disparate effects on students, particularly Latinx and undocumented individuals.

Academic impact

The recipient of a 2021 George Polk Award for Education Reporting and a Sigma Data Journalism Award, the ambitious High Country News piece Land-Grab Universities tracked the 11 million acres of Indigenous tribal lands redistributed to U.S. colleges through the 1862 Morrill Act. Indigenous scholars extensively cited and responded to the project’s open-source data set, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) published a full journal issue dedicated to the findings.

Community impact

Projects at local outlets Southerly and WBEZ embraced service journalism to provide local pandemic resources, with Pulitzer Center support. Southerly produced a mental health guide and hosted a community forum for southern Louisiana residents reeling from the dual crises of COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura, while WBEZ translated its COVID coverage into Spanish and held pandemic Q&A sessions attended by almost 4,000 Chicagoans.

Environmental impact

Rainforest Investigations Network Fellow Manuela Andreoni’s reporting for The New York Times was quoted in a Brazilian court hearing that found a law dramatically shrinking the size of the Jaci-Paraná reserve in the Amazon to be unconstitutional. A state attorney used Andreoni’s story to help demonstrate the extent of the illicit cattle trade within the Jaci-Paraná. The thousands of cattle illegally kept on the reserve help meet the increasing demand for leather for American luxury vehicles.

Image by Ivan Armando Flores/Texas Observer. United States, 2021.


Over 50 awards and citations received in 2021

In 2021, reporting supported by the Pulitzer Center received more than 50 awards and citations, including two Pulitzer Prizes, two News and Documentary Emmys, a Peabody Award, a George Polk Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, four Online Journalism Awards (OJA), four Overseas Press Club (OPC) Awards, and three Sigma Data Journalism Awards. Grantees were honored for their projects on issues ranging from COVID-19, gender equality, and racial justice to climate change, Indigenous rights, and migration.

Illustration by Amanda Miranda/The Intercept Brasil. 2021.

Highlights include:

Image by Bruno Federico. Panama, 2019.

Extra-Continental Migration: The Longest Journey to America (PBS NewsHour and The California Sunday Magazine) by Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, a News & Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a Newscast, and a Peabody Award in the News category, among other honors. 

Image by Meridith Kohut. Guatemala, 2020.

Abrahm Lustgarten and Meridith Kohut’s Refugees From the Earth series (New York Times Magazine and ProPublica) won the Overseas Press Club’s Whitman Bassow Award, honoring the best reporting in any medium on international environmental issues; the inaugural Covering Climate Now Journalism Award for Special Coverage, Series, or Issue; and the Society of Environmental Journalists’ (SEJ) 2021 Nina Mason Pulliam Award, honoring a first-place SEJ winner considered to be the “best of the best.”

Photo by Eric Lafforgue, China, 2012.

BuzzFeed News’ Built to Last received several prestigious honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and a Sigma Data Journalism Award. Survival in Xinjiang, a New Yorker interactive series that also chronicled the plight of Uyghur detainees in China, took home the Online Journalism Awards for Excellence in Immersive Storytelling and Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling.

Illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty/The Wire. 2021.

Sukanya Shantha’s Barred: A Prisons Project story (The Wire) won a Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Award for Editorial Excellence, regarded as the “gold standard” for Asia’s best journalists and publishers. The piece also received the Asian College of Journalism’s 2020 K. P. Narayana Kumar Memorial Award for Social Impact Journalism.

"Having the Pulitzer Center as an institution backing my work gave me much more legitimacy in my reporting as a 23-year-old freelancer and helped people to take me and my work more seriously.”

Jack Brook, Pulitzer Center grantee

Image by Rodrigo Abd. Guatemala, 2021. 


Nearly 20,000 students and teachers reached in 2021

The Pulitzer Center’s K-12 education programs grew to include grant programs for educators and administrators; strategic marketing of curricular resources and virtual-journalist visits that center stories of resilience and underreported stories impacting historically marginalized communities; and an expanded teacher professional development program, all of which combined reached nearly 20,000 students and teachers across over 600 events.




virtual classroom visits


lesson plans

Highlights include:

Graphic by Nora Bauso. 2021.
Graphic by Nora Bauso. 2021.
Graphic by Maryel Cardenas. 2021.


Thirty-one educators from 13 states and 12 Chicago neighborhoods participated in the 2021 Teacher Fellowship program as part of two cohorts: “Stories of Migration and “Journalism and Justice.” Units developed and facilitated by our spring 2021 Fellows served approximately 1,875 students in grades 4-12.

A total of 26 Teacher Fellows from 10 states and Washington, D.C., were selected from over 100 applicants to join the 2021-2022 Fellowship, which educators will participate in for a full year. Their units will be shared with their students and the public in spring 2022.


Virtual-visit program

Distance learning fueled the growth of the virtual-classroom program, with the number of events more than doubling in 2021. In nearly 400 virtual visits, this program has reached over 12,000 students from 29 states and six countries.

Workshops for students

In our 12th year partnering with Free Spirit Media, grantees Eli Hiller, Noreen Nasir, Melissa Noel, and Ashonti Ford served as coaches to 12 students who produced short documentaries on underreported issues affecting Chicago communities.

Over the summer, the Pulitzer Center supported My City Summer: Citizen Journalism, a program developed by Northeastern Illinois University and GEARUP Chicago, by connecting a cohort of high school and college students with grantee Mariah Woelfel and Pulitzer Center Executive Editor Marina Walker Guevara.

A total of 2,455 students in 17 states, Washington, D.C., and three countries participated in workshops in preparation for our Local Letters for Global Change and Fighting Words writing and poetry contests.

Over 200 students from 10 D.C. public schools participated in reporting workshops as part of the first year of the Underreported D.C. program for high school students and the fifth year of the Everyday D.C. program for middle school students.

Video by Miguel Ramirez, Laurel Peralta, Neavia Taylor, Andrew Williams/Free Spirit Media. United States, 2021. 
Graphic by Hannah Berk. 2021. 
Graphic by Nora Bauso. 2021.


By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the Pulitzer Center staff and guest contributors published 77 new lesson plans on a range of underreported issues, including migration, health, racial justice, Indigenous communities, climate change, and more. Lesson plan partners included National Geographic, PBS, The New York Times, CNN, and more.

The 1619 Project

The inaugural 1619 Project Education Network cohort of 41 teams will complete its work in February. The teams are creating and teaching 56 unit plans altogether, drawing from different elements of The 1619 Project in subjects ranging from history to music to visual arts.

In October, the Pulitzer Center launched, a new website showcasing educator engagement with The 1619 Project. Visitors to the site will find searchable curricular resources, student work, project updates, and event information.

The 1619 Project Law School Initiative also launched. It includes curricular resources crafted by law school students and their professors to introduce The 1619 Project and spark frank conversations about the legacy of slavery.

Image by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times. Iraq, 2021. 


Focused on online connections with a return to in-person

The Pulitzer Center began 2021 with our Campus Consortium partners as we had ended 2020: with a focus on online connections among journalists, students, and educators through photography workshops, intimate classroom conversations, and campus-wide presentations.


Campus Consortium & Post-Grad Reporting Fellows





Image by Lawrence Andrea, University of Wisconsin Reporting Fellow. Greece, 2021.

By the end of the year, we were mixing these virtual conversations with a return to in-person campus events. At Syracuse University, Elon University, Swarthmore College, William & Mary, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Richmond, we brought directly to students our reporting from Afghanistan, Chile, Eastern Europe, the U.S., and other places around the globe.

We also organized a virtual series with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, focused on religion and populism, bringing together scholars and journalists, including grantee Megha Rajagopalan, a Pulitzer Prize winner for BuzzFeed’s Pulitzer Center-supported reporting on China’s mass internment camps.

Reporting Fellows

This year’s 48 Campus Consortium Reporting Fellows and 14 Post-Grad Reporting Fellows from Columbia’s and Medill’s journalism schools are covering a wide range of topics, from challenges faced by the Rohingya and South Sudanese diasporas in the U.S., to survivors of unexploded ordnance in Laos and female imams.

More than 130 Reporting Fellow stories, field notes, and multimedia from 2021 appear on the Pulitzer Center website, and many were also published in more than 30 other outlets, such as the Miami Herald and The Guardian.

Graphic by Lucille Crelli. 2021.

Video by Daniel Vasta. 2021.

Our Reporting Fellows met twice this year to share their work virtually—once in the spring for a mini-conference and once in October. This Washington Weekend Highlights video provides a glimpse into the excitement and energy of the weekend. Professional journalists and editors participated in a five-session orientation and 12 virtual workshops and training sessions.

"At a time when the pandemic had brought our lives to a standstill, the support from the Center was godsend in not just providing funds to make traveling easy, but the name recognition of it being a Pulitzer Center project helped, too." 

Ranju Dodum, Pulitzer Center grantee

Image by Sarahbeth Maney. United States, 2020.


Special Events





Illustration by Kate Deciccio. 2021.

In 2021 and 2022, the Pulitzer Center is producing the End of Isolation Tour (EIT), a national adaptation of grantee Sarah Shourd’s critically-acclaimed play The BOX, which exposes the harsh realities of solitary confinement in the U.S. EIT hosted nine sold-out performances in San Rafael, California, in September 2021. In spring 2022, the cast and crew will embark via a converted school bus on a national tour, hosting community engagement sessions and healing circles alongside performances in a number of cities.

A global audience gathered for the Pulitzer Center’s first virtual conference, Environment (Re)Defined. Over four days, our conference hosted an audience coming from 90 countries—nearly half of the countries in the world. This along with the more than 50 journalists and guest speakers in our 13 conference sessions brought community, country, and regional expertise across multiple time zones, from Indonesia, Brazil, and Cameroon to the southern United States and places in-between.

"Receiving the grant felt like a vote of confidence from an organisation whose work I've admired for years, and that has done wonders for my willingness and ability to challenge myself as a reporter and as a writer."

Mahlet Zimeta, Pulitzer Center grantee

Image by Claire Seaton. United States, 2021.

Photography and film took center stage in 2021 through the Pulitzer Center’s continued involvement in the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. (with virtual showings of Cambodia Burning; Widespread Logging Threatens the Congo Basin's Critical Rainforest; A Nun, a Shooting and the Unlikely Legacy That Could Save the Amazon Rainforest; Diálogo con las Plantas; and A Vida Numa Reserva Extrativista na Floresta Amazônica) and at Photoville in New York with the Eyewitness and Dialogue with Plants exhibits.

Video by Daniel Vasta. 2021. 

The Pulitzer Center’s 15th anniversary celebration was postponed once because of COVID-19, but on December 9, 2021, we were thrilled to meet in person with many of our grantees, news-media and education partners, and donors who have contributed so much to our growth since 2006. A major highlight of the evening was our announcement that we have now met the challenge grant that our chair, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, set five years ago: to match every dollar contributed to our endowment, up to a total of $12 million.

“The Center represents something increasingly rare in the world of journalism today. Its focus is on reporting: pure, ambitious, big reporting. The biggest. The heaviest subjects. The ones that so few news organizations have the resources or the courage to take on.”

Dean Baquet, Executive Editor, New York Times

Image by Raul Spinassé/Mongabay. Brazil, 2021.


Focused on staff training, diversity, and processes in 2021 

The Pulitzer Center’s commitment to centering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our programs and processes included focuses in 2021 on staff training, expanding diversity and accessibility among our staff and audience, and establishing processes and procedures for evaluating and reflecting on our work.

Highlights from our efforts to advance DEI through Center programs in 2021 included:

  • Establishing live translation and open captioning procedures for virtual events
  • Partnering with affinity organizations for journalists from historically underrepresented groups on conference panels and pitch events
  • Expanded Campus Consortium partnerships with HBCU and community college campuses
  • Grant programs for educators and marketing campaigns for K-12 resources centering voices that have been historically marginalized
  • Translation of grant applications and grantee surveys into five languages
  • Social media outreach in multiple languages, audio description for website images, and more.

Highlights from our efforts to center DEI in our organizational processes included:

  • Establishing hiring committees for new positions and refining rubrics for application review to actively combat bias in the hiring process
  • Expanding our operations team to streamline administrative work, refine processes for staff training and performance management, ensure equitable access to technology, and more
  • Surveys to evaluate staff engagement and establishing a staff engagement and joy committee to support inclusion
  • Monthly meetings of the Center’s staff-led DEI task force to evaluate organizational processes and plan staff training
  • A four-session, all-staff workplace integrity training in June 2021 using curriculum from The Power Shift Project at the Freedom Forum.
  • Quarterly evaluation of the demographic data provided by journalists who received grants and/or participated in outreach programs.

Through 227 projects supported in 2021, the Pulitzer Center supported 332 grantees. Through a voluntary survey, 42.47% of grantees self-identified as female, 41.87% as male, 0.30% as nonbinary, and 0.30% as other. 0.60% preferred not to answer, and we do not have data for 9.34% of grantees.

34.34% of grantee survey respondents identified as white, 15.36% identified as Hispanic/Latinx, 13.86% as Asian, 12.05% as African American or Black, 3.31% as other, 1.20% as being part of an Indigenous group or tribe, 1.20% as Middle East or North African, and 0.30% as multiracial. 6.02% preferred not to answer, and we do not have data for 11.45%.

In 436 K-12 education events during 2021, 64.9% of presenters self-identified as female, 8.9% as male, and 1.4% as nonbinary. We do not have data for 23.6% of presenters, and 1.1% preferred not to answer. 26.3% of presenters self-identified as white, 15.8% as Asian, 14.7% as African-American or Black, 13.2% as Hispanic/Latinx, 3.2% as Middle East or North African, 2.4% as multiracial, 0.1% as members of Indigenous groups or tribes, and 0.9% as another race/ethnicity. We do not have data for 22.2% of presenters, and 1.1% preferred not to answer.

The Pulitzer Center Outreach and Campus Consortium teams organized nearly 200 events for the general public and our college and university audiences in 2021. When surveyed, 33.9% of speakers identified as white, 13.3% as Asian, 8.3% as African American or Black, 6.0% as Hispanic or Latinx, 2.8% as members of an Indigenous group or tribe, 2.8% as other, 1.8% as multiracial, 0.9% as South Asian, 0.5% as Afghan, 0.5% as East Asian, 0.5% as Jewish, 0.5% as Kiowa, 0.5% as Middle East or North African, 0.5% as Navajo, 0.5% as Portuguese, and 0.5% as Tanzanian. 20.2% of speakers did not complete the survey’s Race and Ethnicity question, and 6.4% selected “prefer not to answer.”

50.0% of speakers identified as female, 24.2% as male, and 0.5% as nonbinary. 22.7% of speakers did not complete the survey’s gender question, and 2.6% selected “Prefer not to answer.”

Image by Matias Delacroix/Associated Press. Dominican Republic, 2021. 


Support for the Pulitzer Center in 2021 came from Humanity United, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ar­nold Ventures, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Foundations, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, Art for Justice Fund, Julian Grace Foundation, Facebook Journalism Project, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Hartfield Foundation, One Earth Fund, Fore River Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Laudes Foundation, Henry L. Kimelman Family Foundation, Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), Poklon Foundation, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Trellis Charitable Fund, Walton Family Foundation, PIMCO Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and our Campus Consortium partner schools.

This broad mix of foundation funding, along with continued core support from members of the Pulitzer family, board members, and many other generous individuals, ensures the independent journal­ism and education that is essential to our mission in these times. We are grateful to all who continue to sustain our work. We hope that others will join.

In addition to the operating revenue of $8.02 million, the Pulitzer Center received endowment gifts and pledges of $2.33 million in 2021.

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