Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
After two-plus years of pandemic constraints we were able this June to bring together more than 150 members of the Pulitzer Center community in person for a conference in Washington, D.C., focused on the myriad dimensions of the global climate crisis while celebrating the power of creative collaborations spanning the globe.
The Interconnected conference highlighted a quarter marked by dozens of new reporting projects, close to 200 educational activities, recognition from the Pulitzer Prizes, announcement of the 2022 cohorts of our Reporting Fellowship and the 1619 Education Network, and the launch of both our International Education and Outreach Program and 10 Fellowships focused on ensuring accountability in the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Being at the National Press Club with colleagues from 30-plus countries and sharing their work in sessions streamed live in five different languages was inspirational on so many levels. One of the great joys of being involved with the Pulitzer Center is the opportunity to learn every day from journalists and educators determined to make a difference on the big challenges that face us all.
Plenty of examples are below—please explore! We welcome, as ever, your suggestions and critiques, and we are so grateful for your support.
JON SAWYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Shining a Spotlight on Global Rainforest Issues
The Pulitzer Center’s 2022 annual conference, Interconnected: Reporting the Climate Crisis, focused this year on the urgent crisis facing our planet’s coastlines, rainforests, oceans, and polar regions—and how that crisis intersects with so many other issues, from gender and religion to labor, Indigenous rights, and social justice.
Our first hybrid conference with in-person and virtual programming gathered more than 150 journalists, editors, educators, and experts from more than 30 countries in Washington, D.C., for two days of community and engaging discussion on the future of reporting the climate crisis. Conversations illuminated the impact on the people and communities who inhabit environments threatened by climate change, and the methods with which journalists, educators, and the public can work together to bring these urgent stories to light—and hold those in power to account.
Along with the excitement of coming together in-person was a mood of somber resolve, as the entire journalism community urgently sought news and demanded action from the Brazilian authorities regarding the fate of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian activist Bruno Pereira, reported missing on June 5 in a remote area of the Amazon and later found murdered.
Attendees from all over the world listened in their preferred language of Spanish, French, Portuguese, bahasa Indonesia, or English. Some 600 attendees tuned in virtually via Zoom, plus 2,400 additional viewers via YouTube. View the session recordings here and the #Interconnected22 highlights reel below.
This year’s annual conference also celebrated the launch of the Pulitzer Center’s International Education and Outreach Program, which will first focus on connecting with people in the tropical rainforest regions of the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia about the urgent issues impacting the world’s rainforests through Pulitzer Center reporting.
Some highlights from our grantees and Fellows from the Rainforest Journalism Fund (RJF) and the Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN):
In Seeds of Life, the Indigenous community of Xavante is leading the way to protect its native forest of Cerrado in northern Brazil. The Xavante collect seeds to sell to people who plant and therefore preserve thousands of species grown only in Cerrado, the world’s most diverse tropical savanna.
This project highlights the dedication of local forest guardians to conserve the Peruvian Amazon. Devoted to protecting the forest's remaining oldest trees, forest rangers have been at the forefront in fighting deforestation and in conflicts with illegal loggers and concession companies.
In a series of five stories, RJF grantee Taufik Wijaya captured how the Indigenous Mapur tribe in Bangka Belitung, Indonesia, is struggling to restore and defend its customary forest territory against government schemes and mining and palm oil concessions.
In a partnership with El País, a series of investigative reports by RIN Fellow Glòria Pallarès was published in the Planeta Futuro section. Her project Congo Forests Under Pressure paints a detailed portrait of the race for timber and minerals in the world's second largest tropical forest.
“Over a Hundred Complaints Fail To Curb Palm Oil’s Impact on Rainforests” is an ambitious collaboration among six RIN Fellows and two guest journalists from the three tropical rainforest regions showing how the palm oil industry is failing to follow its own environmental protection standards.
Helping journalists around the world investigate environmental crimes in major rainforests is RIN's mission. That is why the series #HowRINinvestigates was launched to detail the methodology adopted by the Fellows. The series began with a post about the work of Bloomberg reporter Jessica Brice.
The RIN community has been incredibly supportive of all the work I've done, both with being incredibly inspirational in their own work, sharing information that they got themselves through their own sources, and giving advice. And supporting me through hard patches of the reporting process.
MANUELA ADNREONI, New York Times reporter and Rainforest Investigations Network Fellow
Additional highlights from across the Center’s initiatives include:
We continue to support independent Russian, Ukrainian, and U.S. journalists covering the deeper narratives of the war in Ukraine, including a 4,000-mile journey to reach Kharkiv, the city on the country’s eastern flank that has been devastated by Russian shelling, stories about war trauma and mental health, and a detailed account of the role of Russia’s intelligence services in Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
With support from the Pulitzer Center’s Machine Learning Reporting Grants, The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer uncovered how Wall Street hedge funds and other institutional investors became North Carolina’s top rental-home landlords. The team reported the scale of the industry and explained how this affects tenants, neighborhoods, and communities.
A powerful story and photographic essay by Kate Bubacz and James Sprankle, published in BuzzFeed, show the vast but largely hidden economic and psychological cost of gun violence. A single gunshot victim can command the attention of 100-plus caregivers from the time they are shot until they are fully recovered.
A short film published in The Guardian by British and Sudanese filmmakers Phil Cox and Rafa Renas gives a unique window into the October 2021 military coup through the story of one extraordinary character: an anonymous protester dressed as Spider-Man. When he is not protesting, "Spidey" teaches science and robotics to some of Khartoum’s poorest children.
In a four-part series for MIT Technology Review, Karen Hao and a group of collaborators revealed how AI is repeating the patterns of colonial history in the Global South. Among other places, they brought readers to Venezuela, where a data labeling industry has blossomed, and to Indonesia, where ride-hailing drivers are organizing against their routing algorithms.
A short film by Jesse Ryan explores the impact on both adults and teens of not understanding consent and other issues related to sex—and how a group of teens in rural Utah decided to become peer educators to fill the sex ed gaps that exist at school and at home. The film and story were published in Scientific American and The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Artificial Intelligence Accountability Network, the Pulitzer Center’s new initiative to support and bring together journalists reporting on AI and with AI, selected its first cohort of Fellows. Ten journalists based in four continents will spend the next eight months investigating the impact of AI technologies on their communities.
The reporting projects proposed by the selected journalists touch on themes crucial to equity and human rights, such as AI in hiring, surveillance, social welfare, policing, migration, and border control. The projects combine algorithm auditing, cross-border collaborations, data reporting, creative visual approaches, and traditional shoe-leather reporting. The stories will be published in global and local media.
The biggest takeaway from the Pulitzer Center and working with them is they were able to make these collaborations that I just didn't think would ever happen—they made that possible.
JUSTIN COOK, freelance journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee
The 2022 Pulitzer Prizes recognized a Pulitzer Center-supported project by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a series by Center board member Azmat Khan and the staff at The New York Times. Grantees at the Journal Sentinel were named finalists in the public service category for their investigation into faulty wiring in houses throughout Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Khan and her team won the international reporting award for their extensive reporting on the civilian toll of U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Multiple Pulitzer Center-supported projects were honored at the 88th National Headliner Awards. A Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN)-led collaboration that included NBC News, The New York Times, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) won the environmental writing category for reporting on supply chain-driven deforestation. WBUR and ProPublica’s project on civil asset forfeiture won first place in the radio stations news series category.
Neha Wadekar is the winner of our $12,000 2022 Breakthrough Award for her intrepid and nuanced reporting about the fight for Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. The second-place winner is journalist Luisa García Tellez, for her work on the collaborative journalism project called Where Is My Pension? Wadekar is also a finalist for the One World Media Awards for her Pulitzer Center-supported PBS NewsHour story on the root causes of Mozambique’s Islamist insurgency.
Stories With Impact
Maine’s two biggest newspapers successfully sued the Maine State Police, who were ordered by a Penobscot County Superior Court judge to turn over previously redacted portions of trooper discipline records that were the subject of a 2021 Pulitzer Center-supported project on officer misconduct. “The ruling shows that we were right in the end,” Bangor Daily News investigative reporter Callie Ferguson said.
Without the Center's help, we potentially would have been in a position where we would not have been able to fight for information that we are legally entitled to. I think this shows that with support and funding, Maine news organizations, or members of the public for that matter, may be actually entitled to more information than they are initially being told.
CALLIE FERGUSON, Bangor Daily News reporter and Pulitzer Center grantee
Our 1619 Project education programming has expanded with the launch of this year’s Education Network cohort and the introduction of the 1619 afterschool partnership program. The 2022 Network cohort includes 40 teams of educators representing 18 states and the District of Columbia. The afterschool partnership program includes 37 teams representing 19 states and D.C., working to implement 1619 activities in afterschool clubs, nonprofits, public libraries, and other community settings.
A total of 950 students entered the 2022 Fighting Words Poetry Contest, representing eight countries, 27 states, and D.C., while nearly 800 participated in spring poetry workshops. Contest winners and finalists uplifted a range of global issues through their poems, including gun violence, the war in Ukraine, the proliferation of AI, and the link between climate change and colonization.
To highlight reporting and journalists from historically underrepresented communities, the K-12 team developed blog posts celebrating various U.S. cultural heritage months, including Black History Month, National Arab American Heritage Month, Pride Month, and more. Through these blogs, the virtual visit program grew by 21% from the previous year, to a total of 334 virtual visits in the 2021-22 school year.
Over 150 students from 11 public middle schools participated in the Sixth Annual Everyday DC Student Photography Exhibition, which opened at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives in Washington, D.C., on May 19, 2022. The exhibition, which will be open through September 2, 2022, is the culmination of a multi-week visual arts unit for DCPS (D.C. Public Schools) middle schools.
Fighting Words provided the opportunity for a creative, different, and deeper form of assessment. Students enjoyed not only expressing themselves, but as one student said, ‘I found a different part of my soul.’
LOIS MACMILLAN, high school teacher in Grants Pass, Oregon, and 2021-22 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellow
Pulitzer Center editors and Campus Consortium Advisory Council members shared advice and reporting tips with the Fellows at a virtual orientation. “So what?” journalist Jina Moore brought the week to a close by reminding Fellows this is the question that needs to be answered whenever they produce a story.
The Center’s annual conference, Interconnected: Reporting the Climate Crisis, and pre-conference events drew in 20 Reporting Fellows, including three panelists. It was a great occasion not only for exploring climate issues but also for making connections with other journalists.
Being able to receive personalized feedback and support was extremely helpful. It was also great to feel like part of a community while doing work that can be lonely.
2022 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow
The Pulitzer Center and Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs concluded the three-part, year-long series focused on religion, nationalism, and authoritarianism. The series combined private journalist-academic conversations with public talks, broadening the conversations to a general audience.
The Pulitzer Center again joined forces with Global Health Now, a media outlet from our campus partner Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, for a communications workshop at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) annual conference. The focus was on climate change and its impacts on human health, including the expanded reach of infectious disease pathogens, deaths from extreme heat, erosion of mental health, and growing numbers of climate refugees.
When first seeing the title I wasn't exactly sure what the presentation would be about. [...] Investigating it brought attention and introspection to the movement which does relate to the project that we are doing right now. There are a lot of things we tend not to think about and even starting a discussion about it is better than sitting back and doing nothing.
Student at Guttman Community College attending a virtual journalist visit with grantees Sarah Pabst and Karen Naundorf
For the eighth year, the Pulitzer Center participated in Photoville, an outdoor series of photography exhibits in New York City that reaches hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Center brought grantees Alessandro Cinque and Justin Cook to participate in the opening day. The two shared with participants their respective projects related to climate change in Peru and North Carolina. Both photographers' work was featured in Solastalgia, the Pulitzer Center exhibition at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Our exhibit at Hudson Yards, Identity Through Crises, featured photographers Irina Werning (Argentina) and Zahra Mojahed (Afghanistan). Both exhibits also featured the work of Indigenous photographers in partnership with Indigenous Photograph.
We’re experimenting with new platforms to reach broader public audiences, in particular Twitter Spaces. A recent event featured a conversation between the Center’s executive director, Jon Sawyer, and award-winning grantee and PBS NewsHour correspondent Jane Ferguson to discuss Ferguson’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war against the backdrop of her reporting from Yemen to Afghanistan and the challenges of information suppression. The event also marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
In May, a virtual community webinar brought together Myra Burns and Fahim Reese, two individuals formerly serving life sentences in prison, to share their re-entry experiences. They were joined by grantees Pendarvis Harshaw and Brandon Tauszik, who profiled Burns and Reese in their multimedia documentary project, Facing Life.
The Pulitzer Center climate conference is an incredible event, incredible opportunity for all of the journalists here—and people who are not journalists. [...] And when you bring all of those people together and they're united by a common cause like climate change, the ideas start flying.
NEHA WADEKAR, freelance journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee
Outreach initiatives by all teams also contributed to a continued strengthening 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 programs this year identified their races, ethnicities, and genders in voluntary surveys.
The data below includes responses from the 117 journalists who have received reporting grants since January 2022.
The data below includes responses from the 73 journalists and educators who supported K-12 outreach programs since January 2022.
Campus Consortium and Public Outreach
The data below includes responses from the 29 journalists who have supported outreach to Campus Consortium partners and the public since January 2022.
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 Center 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.