Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
The highlights of summer 2022 for me were the performances I got to see in St. Louis and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, of The BOX, the play on solitary confinement by our grantee Sarah Shourd that made an indelible impression in each of the 10 cities lucky enough to be part of the End of Isolation Tour.
That several members of this cast drew from their own experiences inside prison no doubt contributes to the heightened authenticity of every scene. It's not just the hard-earned empathy, however, that makes The BOX an essential theater experience. It's also the fierce commitment of every actor to make us see that the people we have discarded into a broken, awful system are as fully-fledged individuals as you and I.
Performances across the country have left audiences stunned, with the sense of having seen firsthand the raw brutality of solitary confinement and with the aching, gut level, comprehension of our complicity in a system that dehumanizes tens of thousands of individuals.
The BOX tour was part of another eventful quarter for the Pulitzer Center—from memorable reporting on issues of Indigenous rights to continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine and nearly 70 engagements at the K-12 and university levels in the United States and across the globe, among them a presentation of our “Spider-Man” of Sudan project to students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NUQ).
Much more below! Please take a look—and join us in bringing the issues that matter to the broadest possible public. Wendy Blackwell Fortune, an audience member at the Baltimore performance of The BOX, may have put it best: “Now that we know, what do we do?” she wrote. “No one left as they entered. The heartbreak was collective.”
JON SAWYER, CEO AND PRESIDENT
So far in 2022, we supported
226 projects • 300 journalists • 84 countries
Some journalism highlights:
COVID-19’s deadly impact has taught Global South nations a lesson: They should reduce vaccine reliance on the Global North. For Nature, Amy Maxmen reported from Africa on this quest and how interests in richer countries could foil it.
In partnership with the Rainforest Investigations Network, Brazilian reporters Hyury Potter of The Intercept Brasil and Manuela Andreoni of The New York Times used machine learning and shoe-leather reporting to map for the first time more than 1,200 clandestine airstrips throughout the Amazon rainforest, many of which fuel a thriving illegal gold mining business and destroy Indigenous lands.
TIME joined forces with Rukhshana Media, an Afghan women-led media organization, to chronicle the experiences of eight Afghan women who fled their country when the Taliban returned to power one year ago. They are air force pilots, activists, educators, and artists, starting new lives in strange lands as they mourn the loss of their country and freedoms.
Lisa Armstrong’s Texas jail investigation revealed conditions that led an incarcerated boy in isolation to repeatedly hurt himself. The boy’s treatment improved after the story came out in The Texas Tribune, and advisers to federal civil rights officials took notice of the case.
As Fred de Sam Lazaro reported for PBS NewsHour, climate extremes are confounding farmers across the planet. South Sudan suffered scorching droughts even as acres of farmland remained mired in mud from floods last year. In India, farmers were left high and dry as mountain snows melted early.
Our grantees continue to explore underreported stories of the Ukraine war, including The Guardian’s story of Eno Enyieokpon, a Black Ukrainian fashion designer starting over in Budapest, and a moving Retro Report/WNET report on Ukrainian Holocaust survivors finding a new home in Germany, a country they never thought they would return to.
To lower the barriers journalists face accessing our support, our team hosted sessions at major journalism conferences in the U.S. and around the world, including events for the National Association of Black Journalists, the Indigenous Journalism Association, and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji).
STORIES WITH IMPACT
The first AI Accountability Network story, published in September 2022 in The Dallas Morning News, had immediate impact. The investigation by Fellow Ari Sen revealed that colleges across the United States are using an AI tool called Social Sentinel to surveil student protests. The story sparked a legislative inquiry in North Carolina and the announcement by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that it will not renew its contract with Social Sentinel. Student newspapers at Oregon State University, Duke, and East Carolina University have also published stories about their schools’ use of Social Sentinel.
Anastasia Ashouwak finally returned home to her village in Alaska after 121 years away. She was one of more than 100,000 Indigenous youths forcefully removed from their families by the U.S. government’s policy to assimilate Native youths through Indian boarding schools. Grantees Jenna Kunze and Brian Adams documented Anastasia’s journey in stories for Native News Online and Elle.
Conflicts between park rangers and Indigenous communities are complex in the context of the conservation of Congo's rainforests. For Le Monde, Rainforest Investigations Network Fellow Josiane Kouagheu produced a special report revealing stories of violence and displacement in the Lobéké National Park in Cameroon.
In Indonesia, the Indigenous Dayak people were self-sufficient until the government banned them from using fire to clear land. Now, they can no longer farm, causing a multidimensional crisis in rural areas and threatening their cultural identity, Ahmad Arif and Dionisius Reynaldo Triwibowo reported for Kompas.
Boston University Reporting Fellow Sara Mar traveled to Guam to investigate health inequities brought about by military activities on the island. At the forefront of efforts to document associated environmental and health hazards are CHamoru Indigenous activists whose lands have been stolen through militarization.
In collaboration with Indigenous Photograph, the Pulitzer Center launched an open photo call with over 90 submissions from 24 countries. The selected images were presented at the Coal+Ice exhibit in Washington, D.C., alongside a panel of grantees for a discussion on storytelling in the Arctic. A selection of photos were also part of a curated outdoor exhibit at Photoville in New York City.
The Pulitzer Center-supported project Changed Forever: The Toxic Legacy of Environmental Racism in Canada received an award from Amnesty International Canada for excellence in human rights reporting. The investigation by grantees Megan O’Toole and Jillian Kestler D’Amours for Al Jazeera shines a light on environmental racism and its impacts on Indigenous communities in Canada.
Grantee Irina Werning won first prize at the queer photography awards at the Preus Museum, the photography museum of Norway. She was recognized for her work documenting nonbinary dancer Tam’s return to their small hometown in Bolivia. “It is hard to not be infected by Tam’s joy and vibrancy just by looking at the pictures,” the judges said.
Two Pulitzer-supported projects won Emmy awards. Grantee Ian Urbina’s documentary ‘Get Away From the Target’ - Rescuing Migrants From the Libyan Coast Guard for The Guardian, won in the Outstanding Crime and Justice Coverage category for documenting human rights abuses of migrants fleeing Libya. Reeducated, a virtual-reality documentary project that takes viewers inside a prison camp in Xinjiang by grantees Sam Wolson and Ben Mauk, won for Outstanding Interactive Media—and also won The New Yorker its first-ever Emmy Award.
Pulitzer Center grantee Phil Cox won the grand prize in the 2022 Hinzpeter Awards for the short film The “Spider-Man” of Sudan, co-produced by fellow grantee Rafa Renas. “The jury hopes that awarding Cox will create international solidarity for the Sudanese struggle for democracy, which has not received much attention from the world,” said the awards committee.
Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque from City Colleges Chicago won the national Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in the in-depth reporting category for schools with an enrollment of less than 10,000 for his reporting on the Rohingya diaspora in the United States.
Two Pulitzer-supported projects won 2022 Online Journalism Awards. Mission Local took home a 2022 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Micro Newsroom award, including two Pulitzer Center projects by grantees Lydia Chávez and Sindya Bhanoo, Report Card and How Do We Survive? Road to Ruin, by grantees Clayton Aldern, Jacob Resneck, and Eric Stone for Grist, won the Feature award in the small newsroom category. Multiple projects were also named as finalists, including The Greenland Connection, Wires and Fires, and Security for Sale.
STORIES WITH IMPACT
Security for Sale, a project supported by a Pulitzer Center Machine Learning grant, inspired investigations into corporate homebuyers and resulting barriers to homeownership. Following the project’s publication in The Charlotte Observer and The News and Observer, reporters from Kentucky and New Jersey reached out to grantees Payton Guion, Gordon Rago, and Tyler Dukes for guidance on their own investigations.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting then published a report on racial inequities and displacement in West Louisville. And the Asbury Park Press, the third-largest newspaper in New Jersey, released its own report and searchable database.
This quarter, the K-12 team reached
650+ people • 27 virtual student events • 20 educator workshops
In July and August, our team facilitated 20 professional development workshops supporting over 550 educators at educational conferences, including Columbia University Teacher College’s Reimagining Education Summer Institute and the Teaching Black History Conference at the University of Buffalo. Presenters included Pulitzer Center staff and alumni of the 1619 Education Network and Teacher Fellowship programs.
Unit plans developed by the 22 teacher Fellows from the 2021-2022 school year were published in August 2022, along with highlights from the over 1,600 students impacted by the Teacher Fellowship program. Nearly 70% of the program alumni said they had reused materials developed in the fellowship program during the next school year. Fourteen alumni also participated in a one-month program focused on developing lesson plans about global vaccination, misinformation, and health inequities. Applications for the 2022-2023 Teacher Fellowship program opened on September 7, 2022.
More than 70 educators throughout the country registered for workshops and discussions led by the Pulitzer Center Education staff to support engagement with performances of The BOX, the Center-supported play on solitary confinement. Representing grades K-12, and several also supporting young adults, educators who experienced the play made several curricular and global connections to the piece.
STORIES WITH IMPACT
In our 13th year of partnership with Free Spirit Media, four Pulitzer Center grantees mentored 12 high school students to craft short documentaries on issues affecting their communities on the South and West Sides of Chicago. Documentary subjects included gun violence, the influence of social media, substance abuse, and the impact of inflation on Chicagoans.
The program aims to combine global and regional approaches, intertwining journalism, education, and outreach to build public awareness of the importance of rainforests, Indigenous rights, supply chains, and government and corporate accountability. Since the launch, regional initiatives are creating impact with thousands of young people, journalists, educators, and scientists:
Amazonía Lab connected young people in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador with learning and action opportunities against deforestation in the Amazon, reaching at least 190 participants across two virtual workshops, and over 2,000 people in digital working groups on Google Classroom and WhatsApp.
Amazon in the Anthropocene established partnerships with five Amazon universities in Brazil and launched a first module course in August with the participation of 13 prominent Amazon experts. In the first month, 593 university students subscribed to the course, with 30% representing Indigenous and quilombolas.
Congo Basin Talks With Young Professionals launched four interactive radio programs discussing employment and advocacy opportunities for young people protecting the Congo Basin forests. The Radio Okapi shows had an estimated 10,000 listeners per episode, with 150 listeners calling to engage during the show.
The #ShowMeYourTree initiative began establishing a network of influencers, artists, media, and nonprofit partners in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. An influencer training to kick off the campaign, with simultaneous translation in English, Myanmar, Cambodian, and Thai, attracted over 70 influencers in Southeast Asia.
The SEA Journalist-Scientist Rainforest Hub kicked off in August during the third International Conference on Rural Socio-Economic Transformation. The event drew 135 participants and marked the launch of the Impact Seed Funding (ISF) grant.
STORIES WITH IMPACT
Following a Rainforest Journalism Fund-supported investigation by Congo Basin RJF grantee Richard Drasimaku into how the trade of illegal forest products contributed to deforestation of the Mount Kei Forest Reserve, the Koboko district shut down eight charcoal markets at Busia border crossing. A district official also banned cross-border transit of charcoal from South Sudan via the Koboko district.
The 98 stories published in 2022 by our 44 Campus Consortium and our 14 Post-Grad Reporting Fellows range from an exploration of how both Native and non-Native educators are addressing historic and contemporary roadblocks to better Indigenous representation in education to the exploitation of foreign workers in the “rubber valley" of Northern Italy, home to the gasket industry. They were featured on the Pulitzer Center website and in multiple outlets, including South Dakota Public Broadcasting and ArcticToday.
This summer, 10 graduates from the Columbia University School of Journalism and four from Northwestern Medill School of Journalism received Pulitzer Center fellowships to pursue a variety of topics related to human rights, migration, and the environment—including U.S. legislation that may prevent undocumented students from accessing higher education, “reverse immigration” in South Korea, and pollution caused by fly ash coming from thermal coal plants in India.
Our virtual Summer Reporting Fellow Film Festival featured three films about Caribbean and Latin American communities fighting for and reconnecting with home. Following the film screening, the filmmakers participated in a lively Q&A centered on making and deepening connections.
I’m glad you made this film and especially appreciate the way you allowed the family to tell the story themselves. It was beautiful, and the lantern lifting off into the night sky was lovely, as his family watched and let go.
An audience member at the screening of Unfinished Business, produced by Westchester Community College Reporting Fellow Kyle Cristello
Facing Life grantees Pendarvis Harshaw and Brandon Tauszik traveled to North Carolina for a tour of colleges and universities that are part of the Campus Consortium network, as well as potential partners. Harshaw and Tauszik presented their work to students at Forsyth Technical Community College, spoke with photography students at the University of North Carolina, and discussed the effects of incarceration with Wake Forest University law students.
Pulitzer Center Senior Editor Tom Hundley joined grantees Phil Cox and Rafa Renas for a multi-day visit to Northwestern University in Qatar (NUQ) in September. The reporting team shared its documentary project, The “Spider-Man” of Sudan, in classes and during a community event. Following the screening, students greeted Cox and Renas with a standing ovation, and spent nearly an hour asking questions. Cox also gave a freelancer-safety seminar during four lecture sessions. In all, more than 200 students and faculty attended. Forty additional students attended a reporting fellowship info session with Hundley and Laiba Mubashar, a 2022 NUQ Fellow.
During Georgetown University’s summer semester, the Pulitzer Center’s campus team helped organize a bilingual virtual conversation on religion and mining, featuring photojournalist grantee Alessandro Cinque and reporting partner Vidal Merma Maccarcco. Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, moderated the discussion.
STORIES WITH IMPACT
The Pulitzer Center-supported film Seasons, by 2022 Reporting Fellows Gabriella Canal and Michael Fearon, has won a Student Academy Award and is now eligible for the Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected 14 winning films out of 1,796 entries from 614 colleges and universities around the world.
As an audience member of The BOX, unlike other theatrical experiences, I felt entrusted to bear witness to the torture that is solitary confinement. The BOX not only awakens empathy for folks who are incarcerated, but also profoundly electrifies audience members to act to end the isolation and torture of solitary confinement.
KAREN DORR, Winston-Salem audience member
Performances of The BOX through the 10-city End of Isolation Tour used immersive theater to make an impact across communities in the United States. Written and directed by Pulitzer Center grantee Sarah Shourd, a survivor of solitary confinement, The BOX underscores both the horror of the punishment and the humanity of people subjected to it.
Nearly 2,000 tickets for the 24 performances were sold or distributed, including to educators and systems-impacted individuals. Performances in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., were sold out! Read Sarah Shourd's reflection on the impact of the tour for audiences around the country.
The audience was so captivated that we weren’t sure if we should clap or just sit there and continue to weep silently. Now that we know, what do we do? Forced to confront what safety means and confront where we draw the line on providing it, no one left as they entered. The heartbreak was collective.
WENDY BLACKWELL FORTUNE, Baltimore audience member
Beyond the play, the Pulitzer Center engaged local communities in a variety of ways: K-12 educator discussions in five cities; a campus conversation titled Carceral Injustice, in partnership with MUSE (the Museum of Understanding, Storytelling, and Engagement) and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA); and a public webinar titled Inside/Outside, in partnership with the Washington University in St. Louis Prison Education Project and grantee Brandon Tauszik (Facing Life).
In August, a webinar featured a focus on fast fashion and globalization with Pulitzer Center grantee Ryan Lenora Brown in conversation with Sammy Oteng, senior community engagement manager at The Or Foundation. Christine Spolar, the Pulitzer Center’s climate and labor editor, facilitated the virtual discussion of how African countries have become both the source of garments like our blue jeans and their ultimate resting place.
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 journalism, education, and outreach programs this year identified their races, ethnicities, and genders in voluntary surveys.
The data below includes responses from the 110 journalists who have received reporting grants between June and September 2022.
The data below includes responses from the 34 journalists and educators who supported K-12 outreach programs since between June and September 2022.
Campus Consortium and Public Outreach
The data below includes responses from the 24 journalists who have supported outreach to Campus Consortium partners and the public since between June and September 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 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.