With many new initiatives under way, we knew the first quarter of 2022 would be hectic. We did not know that a brutal war would be raging in Europe—and that it would claim thousands of lives, including that of one of our former grantees, filmmaker Brent Renaud.
The Pulitzer Center has focused on peace and conflict since its earliest days, including my own reporting from Darfur in 2006, our very first project. Our interest has always been to dig beneath the surface of the headlines, helping to understand the drivers of conflict and exploring the pathways to peace. Some of our best projects over the years are ones that drew attention to simmering conflicts before they erupted, as was the case with James Verini and Paolo Pellegrin’s deeply reported work from the Donbas region of Ukraine in late 2021.
Peace and conflict cuts across nearly all of the work we support—from migration as a cause and a consequence of conflict to the impact of war on women and children, the role of climate change, technology, religion, and racial and social justice. All these issues are interconnected. Our model allows us to engage with incipient conflicts before they make the news—and to stay engaged once most news outlets have turned away.
Our top priority since Russia invaded Ukraine has been to ensure that our grantees can cover the war as deeply and safely as possible. They are reporting across all media platforms—newspapers, magazines, television, digital—and focusing on the many underreported angles of the invasion. Grantee George Butler, a gifted artist, is using drawings to depict the human cost of war. We have also continued our support of in-depth reporting on the causes and consequences of conflict all over the world, from the brutal war in Ethiopia to violence against Indigenous peoples in the Amazon triggered by resource extraction.
We welcomed a return to in-person programming by our grantees across college campuses and public events, while continuing to engage a diverse range of global audiences virtually. The first quarter also marked the conclusion of the first-year cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network, 40 teams of K-12 educators from across the United States who are creating compelling lesson plans on 1619education.org. Nearly 1,000 students from 22 states took part in the “Local Letters” competition, using Pulitzer Center reporting as the basis for letters to elected officials.
We believe that advancing nuanced understanding of the interconnected nature of the greatest challenges of our times is a form of peacebuilding. As is creating opportunities for dialogue.
Our reporting and education initiatives are only possible through the generous support of the many individuals and foundations who support our work. We’re deeply grateful to all of you.
Jon Sawyer, Executive Director
Jane Ferguson, Nick Schifrin, and other correspondents have been on the ground in Ukraine for PBS NewsHour since the beginning of the Russian invasion, providing daily insight into a conflict that seemed unthinkable a short time ago but now threatens to upend all we thought we knew about the global order.
Wars do not occur in a vacuum, which is why grantees James Verini, for The New York Times Magazine, and Linda Kinstler, for JewishCurrents, were in Ukraine months before the invasion, reporting on unresolved tensions and unsettled history that explain much of what we are witnessing today.
With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine, grantee Simon Marks teamed up with New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh to report from the mostly forgotten conflict in Ethiopia, where they uncovered the complicity of government troops in the execution of three aid workers.
Writing for the MIT Technology Review, grantee Jane Qiu used her scientific background, her fluency in Chinese, and her six weeks in Wuhan to produce the fullest report yet on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In partnership with Earthrise Media and El País, Rainforest Investigations Network Fellow Joseph Poliszuk and reporters María de los Ángeles Ramírez and María Antonieta Segovia used satellite imagery and machine learning to reveal the expansion of illegal gold mining sites and clandestine runways in the Venezuelan Amazon, a territory that has become a magnet for guerrilla groups, including dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In a multi-part exposé for the Maine Monitor, Samantha Hogan documented how Maine jails routinely and illegally recorded nearly 1,000 attorney-client calls. Some recorded calls were listened to by law enforcement as they investigated cases. In response to the story, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would penalize a person who “knowingly eavesdrops” on a conversation between an attorney and a person in custody.
"Pulitzer Center is an identity for a freelance social documentary photographer like me. It gives credibility to my work."
PHOTOJOURNALIST ROHIT JAIN
In Q1 2022, Pulitzer Center grantees, Reporting Fellows, and education partners received more than a dozen awards and citations, as well as several significant nominations.
Two Pulitzer Center-supported projects took home Overseas Press Club (OPC) Awards. Grantee Jane Ferguson’s reporting on the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, for PBS NewsHour won the Peter Jennings Award, recognizing the best of video news content with a runtime of more than 30 minutes. Sandy Tolan won the Morton Frank Award, honoring the best international business news reporting, for an investigation into human rights violations by sugarcane companies in the Dominican Republic.
Grantee Brent E. Huffman won the Rory Peck Award in the News Features category for Uyghurs Who Fled China Now Face Repression in Pakistan, a film for VICE News. He reported on how China’s economic influence threatens Uyghurs in neighboring countries.
"This film is a jewel—at once inspiring and heart breaking. Ambitious in scope, it managed to cover the intimate, human toll of China’s persecution of the Uyghur minority while placing it in its complex geopolitical context. Solid journalism with a beating heart—the clearest telling of a complex story I have ever seen."
Rory Peck Award judge on Brent E. Huffman’s Vice News film
Grantee Irina Werning won the 2022 World Press Photo Award in the South America Stories category for her work chronicling COVID’s impact on a 12-year-old Argentine girl. “The photographer looks beyond the narrative of victimhood and approaches the issue in a positive and uplifting manner,” the jury commented.
Grantee Nadja Drost won the prestigious Michael Kelly Award from The Atlantic for her Pulitzer Center-supported reporting on migrants’ harrowing trek through the Darien Gap on the Panama-Colombia border. Drost has also received an Emmy, Peabody, and Pulitzer Prize for this work.
The Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN) and the Pulitzer Center-supported Waves of Abandonment series by Grist and The Texas Observer were both shortlisted for 2022 Sigma Data Journalism Awards.
Rainforest Journalism Fund (RJF) grantee Patchar Duangklad and team, whose project documented Thailand’s reforestation efforts, received an honorable mention from the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists.
University of Pennsylvania Reporting Fellow Pamela De La Cruz, born in Nuevo Laredo, won a Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Region 1 Mark of Excellence Award in the Feature Writing category for her reporting on violence affecting migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. McGill University Fellow and medical student Miriam Gladstone was a finalist in the same category for her story on midwifery in the Inuit community in Quebec.
"In years to come, students of history will be able to look back at these PBS NewsHour segments from Afghanistan by Jane Ferguson and team to understand what happened in the final year of America’s longest war. Throughout 2021, as most Americans’ attention had turned away, the team returned again and again to capture the final arc of the story."
Overseas Press Club judges on Ferguson’s Afghanistan: After the Americans project
So far in 2022, the K-12 team has held 137 events, averaging just over one event per day, with a total audience of over 7,000. Our core programs all showed strong numbers, including 106 virtual journalist visits, 12 workshops for teachers, 10 student workshops as part of our Everyday DC student photography program, and our 1619 education conference.
Our inaugural 1619 Education Conference featured 1619 Project contributors, educators from The 1619 Project Education Network and Penguin Random House 1619 Pilot Program, hundreds of attendees, and hours of indescribably rich conversation and resource-sharing.
Our inaugural 1619 Education Network cohort completed their fellowship in February. The 40 teams of educators created over 50 units of study, utilizing 1619 Project resources and themes to meet classroom objectives. Unit plans are being published weekly at 1619education.org.
A total of 925 students, in 22 U.S. states, three countries, and D.C., developed local solutions to global issues through their entries to our annual writing contest. Winners addressed problems including police brutality, femicide, digital equity, and climate change.
As students learned of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in breaking news, grantees visiting classrooms made key connections to themes in their own reporting, including refugees, public health, and the environment, as well as fact-checking and misinformation in journalism.
The start of 2022 offered the Campus Consortium network a chance to create more in-person connections between journalists, students, and faculty. Journalists visited Flagler College, Glendale Community College, Hunter College, Syracuse University, and Westchester Community College. Along with virtual visits, thus far audiences numbered more than 325 attendees at 11 campus visits (as of March 25).
The Pulitzer Center and the University of California, Berkeley, created a deep dive into "Reporting on Gender Through an Intersectional Lens.” More than 200 individuals registered for this conversation, which set the stage for a forum planned for fall 2022. Moderated by Tasneem Naja, editor-in-chief of The Oaklandside, the panel included Pulitzer Center grantees Natalie Alcoba and Ashley Okwuosa, Reporting Fellow Lawrence Andrea, and Kate Sosin of The 19th.
Anna-Catherine Brigida spoke at the Roosevelt House in New York City about immigration and her cross-border reporting before an audience of 90 in person and more than 60 on Zoom. Former Reporting Fellows and Pulitzer Center staff joined the conversation in partnership with Hunter College.
In collaboration with Project S.A.F.E., a campus-wide initiative that provides services to those who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, City Colleges of Chicago hosted a virtual event featuring Natasha Senjanovic. Senjanovic shared her reporting on the issue and broke down myths with subject matter experts.
The pandemic—isolation, uncertainty, disillusion—has taken a heavy toll on college students. Several Reporting Fellows have made mental health the focus of recent stories:
In a beautifully written essay, Sofie Isenberg, our Fellow from Boston University’s College of Communication, examines the impact of spirituality on mental health during COVID-19 for The Sunday Long Read. She interviews people of different faiths and writes candidly of her own experience with depression.
Emanuella Evans, a South Sudanese refugee and recent graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, explores the mental health struggles of young South Sudanese now living in the Midwest in a film titled The War After the War. Her Field Note includes audio of her own recently published manifesto about a world without war.
Our Swarthmore Fellow Ramiro A. Hernandez wrote in English and Spanish for Debate on immigrant veterans who face deportation. In his Field Note, he writes of the impact of the pandemic both on him and on those who have been deported:
"This feeling of limbo, of feeling unrooted throughout the past two years, of struggling to find stability in between the different places I have come to call home. ... It’s a symptom of the separation that border enforcement inherently implies."
Reporting fellow Ramiro A. Hernandez on immigrant veterans who face deportation
Humanitarian corridors? Sanctions? No-fly zones? Military intervention? On March 10, 2022, two weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pulitzer Center offered an opportunity to better understand the war and its implications beyond the headlines.
In this conversation, Pulitzer Center grantee Wil Sands discussed less lethal weapons, from production and regulation to the use in U.S. law enforcement. Neil Corney, research associate at the Omega Research Foundation, joined the conversation.
On March 30th, COAL+ICE and the Pulitzer Center presented an in-person event at the Kennedy Center’s Reach pavilion devoted to telling the stories of climate change in the Arctic with a focus on the stories of Indigenous communities. Organized in collaboration with The Asia Society, the event featured presentations by Camille Seaman, Alice Qannik Glenn, and Louie Palu, and a panel discussion between the artists. The event also highlighted a selection of work from Indigenous photographers covering climate change around the world.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for Pulitzer Center staff this quarter included:
Outreach initiatives by all teams also contributed to a continued expansion of the diversity of the Center’s journalism and education networks. Read on for an update on how the journalists and outreach partners who supported the Center’s journalism, education, and outreach programs this quarter identified their races, ethnicities, and genders in voluntary surveys.
Out of 43 recorded events this quarter, over 50 percent of our speakers completed our voluntary demographic data survey. We saw an improvement in the number of speakers who identify as non-binary, thus better reflecting the percentage of people in the United States who identify as such. We also received more responses in which respondents reported more than one race/ethnicity.
Support for the Pulitzer Center this quarter 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.