Ten years ago this month, the Pulitzer Center opened its doors, a one-person shop with a donated desk, modest seed funding, and high ambitions: to fill gaps in reporting and inspire a new generation of journalists to cover the big global issues that affect us all.
We’ve come a long way—building a talented staff, supporting hundreds of journalists, forging partnerships with strong news-media organizations and with educational institutions across the globe. We are contributing in ways that a decade ago we would never have imagined, from the innovative use of video reporting, photography and data interactives to the creation of online curricular materials such as our new Lesson Builder that make Pulitzer Center journalism available to classrooms everywhere.
But while proud of our achievements we also know that the challenges have only gotten larger. Every “legacy” news organization is under stress. The explosion of social-media platforms that has knit the world ever closer has also proved a potent fuel for fear, misunderstanding, and demagoguery. Too many of our schools fail to engage students with the world beyond.
Over the past year we have tried, as ever, to be a force for engagement. In journalism, through extraordinary projects like Matt Black’s photo essay “Geography of Poverty.” In face-to-face meetings, such as the Ecological Civilization conference we organized in Beijing. And by working with colleagues, including a joint hostile-environment training initiative with Thomson Reuters, to assure the safety of the freelance journalists on whom our knowledge of the world increasingly depends.
What follows are highlights from another memorable year. We thank all those who have made this work possible. We look forward to the next 10 years, confident that with good will and a commitment to informed debate we will meet together the challenges we face.
Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Board Chair
Jon Sawyer, Executive Director
In 2015, the Pulitzer Center funded 113 reporting projects by professional journalists. They produced more than 660 stories that were published in over 150 different media outlets.
This year also marked the launch of the Catalyst Fund, a new $1 million initiative to foster strategic partnerships between the Pulitzer Center and major news outlets and support work by freelance multimedia journalists on global issues. We are grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, and individual donors for making this possible.
Highlights of this year’s reporting include:
- “Between Borders: American Migrant Crisis,” a documentary film by Craig and Brent Renaud, made in collaboration with The New York Times, tells the story of the hundreds of young people who attempt to escape the violence of Honduras and Guatemala by fleeing to the U.S.
- In a cover story for the international editions of Newsweek, James Harkin gives readers a rare inside look at life in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where survival is a day-to-day proposition and most people have no love for either side in the struggle. Harkin’s new book on Syria, Hunting Season, draws heavily from his reporting for the Pulitzer Center.
- A months-long investigation by Uri Blau exposes how private U.S. donors use a network of tax-exempt non-profits to funnel more than $220 million to Jewish settlements in the West Bank between 2009-2013. Published in the English and Hebrew editions of Haaretz, Israel’s leading daily, and picked up by the Associated Press, The New York Times, and others.
- Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 atomic bombs in the Marshall Islands, a sprinkle of tiny atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Dan Zak, in a front-page feature for The Washington Post, tells the story of how the inhabitants of these islands are grappling with the legacy of the U.S. bomb tests—while staring down a new threat driven by climate change.
- Science writer Ian James and photographer Steve Elfers explore the devastating consequences of groundwater depletion on four continents in an eye-opening multi-media package for Desert Sun and USA Today.
- Producer Dan Sagalyn and veteran Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre examine the Pentagon’s proposal to spend $1 trillion to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal in a series for PBS NewsHour.
- Photojournalist Daniella Zalcman’s remarkable double-exposure portraits shed light on indigenous people forced to surrender their language, culture and self-esteem in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and Smithsonian.
- At a time when good news from Syria is a scarce commodity, Wes Enzinna’s fascinating cover story for The New York Times Magazine takes readers to Rojava, a Kurdish-ruled sliver of northern Syria where the rules of the ISIS caliphate have been turned on their head in favor of a socialist utopia.
- Nell Freudenberger is best known for her award-winning fiction, but this year she turned in a finely wrought piece of journalism for Harper’s on Mumbai’s dwindling Parsi population, followers of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, now in danger of extinction—largely as a consequence of their economic success and strict rules on inter-marriage.
- A multimedia series by Tim Johnson and Brittany Peterson for McClatchy Newspapers sheds new light on “the largest civil earth-moving operation in history”—a controversial plan by a little-known Chinese investor to build a canal across Nicaragua. If completed, it would be three times longer than the Panama Canal and dramatically change world maritime trade.
- Pulitzer Center grantee Michael Scott Moore was released in September 2014 after being held hostage by Somali pirates for 977 days. He tells his remarkable story of survival in articles for The Guardian, USA Today and Politico, and in interviews with the PBS NewsHour and the BBC.
- Deep in the Amazonian rainforest, some of the world’s last isolated tribes are poised to make contact with the outside world as illegal loggers, miners, cocaine traffickers and others encroach on their territory. Andrew Lawler and Heather Pringle tell the story of these endangered humans in a highly original multimedia cover story for Science Magazine.
“My work wouldn’t be possible without the Pulitzer Center’s support . . . The added opportunities to present my work to students at the secondary and collegiate level have been more rewarding than I could have imagined.”
Daniella Zalcman, Pulitzer Center grantee
"As journalism faces big changes and ever-pressing daily demands, the Pulitzer Center makes sure that reporters can still dig deep into stories and issues that matter. It is a much-appreciated force of good in these digital times."
Christine Spolar, Investigations/Special Projects editor, Financial Times
2015 saw the publication of four new e-books. Each e-book grew out of work by Pulitzer Center grantees—allowing us to strengthen the impact of their reporting projects. Our e-books have proven to be useful tools for the education community. They are available free of charge and can be viewed on multiple devices
- Flight from Syria: Refugee Stories features the writing and photography of nine Pulitzer Center grantees whose travels took them from Syria to Sweden, and from crowded camps to cramped apartments in city suburbs, between 2012 and 2015. Hugh Eakin, Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, Stephen Franklin, Joanna Kakissis, Alia Malek, Holly Pickett, Alisa Roth, Alice Su, and Selin Thomas show the human face of the crisis—the hardships, pain, dreams, and expectations in one of the biggest displacements of modern times. Edited by Kem Knapp Sawyer and designed by Evey Wilson.
- Ecological Civilization showcases the proceedings of the International Conference on Ecological Environment in June 2015 at Yale Center Beijing. Co-sponsored by the Pulitzer Center, Communication University of China, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, this event focused on the role of religion and cultural traditions in meeting environmental challenges; it brought together an extraordinary range of academics, journalists, scientists, government, religious and business leaders from China, the U.S., and around the world. Edited by Jon Sawyer and designed by Jin Ding, with photography and reporting by Pulitzer Center grantees Sean Gallagher, Gary Marcuse, Sim Chi Yin, Shi Lihong, and Fred de Sam Lazaro.
- In Ebola’s Unpaid Heroes: How Billions in Aid Skipped Those at the Frontline, Pulitzer Center grantee Amy Maxmen examines the international community’s response to the Ebola epidemic. She reveals how local health workers who faced the greatest risk were often denied the pay that they had been promised. Published by Newsweek Insights in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center.
- Desert Blues lays bare the heart of Mali’s legendary sound, traditional music influenced by Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, and Jimi Hendrix. Veteran foreign correspondent Joshua Hammer paints a vivid picture of Festival in the Desert, a three-day concert series, and reports on the deadly drama that ripped it all apart in the summer of 2012 as the fractures between moderate and radical Islam intensified. Published by The Atavist Magazine.
This year we are also proud to highlight three “old media” books by Pulitzer Center colleagues. In Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War, Senior Advisor Marvin Kalb calls for a “realistic solution” to Russia’s war with Ukraine, one that recognizes that the futures of these two countries are linked not only by geography but also by power, politics, and history. In Grace Akallo and the Pursuit of Justice for Child Soldiers Contributing Editor Kem Knapp Sawyer writes for young readers with a message that speaks to us all. Senior Editor Tom Hundley contributed to the World Health Organization’s Reporting on Road Safety: A Guide for Journalists, part of our continuing development of the “Roads Kill” data visualization project that has been viewed by nearly a million people.
“I am honored to be part of a vibrant and expanding Pulitzer Center, whose goal of stimulating better, more relevant journalism has now reached every corner of the world. Hardly a day passes when I am not impressed by the Center’s youthful energy and imagination, by its commitment to linking a journalist’s groundbreaking work to the education of our students. Journalism is experiencing tough times—we all know that; but here at the Pulitzer Center I am constantly made aware, by its product of journalistic discovery and adventure, of blue skies up ahead.”
Marvin Kalb, Pulitzer Center Senior Advisor
With nearly 200 events at more than 20 Campus Consortium universities and other venues, we reached an estimated 7,000 students, faculty and community members in 2015. The response from our colleagues shows we’ve hit the mark time and again as we bring issues from around the globe closer to home:
Creating deeper connections: Pulitzer Center-supported journalists often combine an entrepreneurial spirit and significant professional expertise with an approach to journalism as a public good. Their conversations on campuses explore global-local connections and the state of the media. Filmmaker Callum Macrae embarked on a six-city, seven-university tour focusing on atrocities committed during the final bloody days of the Sri Lankan civil war and deepening the understanding of human rights abuses and war crimes.
Building partnerships: This year we welcomed three new members to our Campus Consortium: LaGuardia Community College, American University and The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Photographer Larry C. Price visited four Chinese universities with a focus on child labor in gold-mining, while journalists Alisa Roth and Emily Feldman spoke about Syrian refugees and the media at four City Colleges of Chicago campuses in collaboration with the University of Chicago. The Pulitzer Center organized our first-ever workshops for university professors—one in Washington, DC, and one in Chicago—on teaching National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek’s “Out of Eden” Walk.
Strengthening diverse programming: Hundreds of students, faculty and members of the public turned out for university events from Boston and Baltimore to Kent, Ohio, and Washington, DC, on topics ranging from the consequences of malnutrition and efforts to give children a better head start to reflections from the frontline on the fight against Ebola. Smaller group conversations, workshops and seminars allowed us to explore the human face of social issues.
“It’s really been an incredibly productive and pleasurable partnership that our school has had with the Pulitzer Center ... For me personally it’s been a very positive experience but for our students and for the global health community I think it’s paid dividends.”
Dean Mike Klag, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
“Learn the basics, master your chosen craft, then go out and tell stories, I emphasized. I could almost see the light bulbs coming on.”
Larry C. Price reflecting on his visit to universities in China
The Pulitzer Center awarded international travel grants to 27 university students from the Campus Consortium. Our student fellows produced print and multi-media projects, reporting on global issues that ranged from the social and educational segregation of Turkish immigrants in Berlin and employment practices in Ghana’s oil industry to water safety in Zanzibar and open defecation in India. Student fellows received expert advice and guidance from Pulitzer Center staff and professional journalists. Lessons learned included the value of research, flexibility and persistence.
All projects produced by our 2015 students fellows appear on the Pulitzer Center website. Stories were also published by The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Global Health Now, Foreign Policy South Asia, Scientific American, PRI’s The World, Asia Correspondent and the Wilson Quarterly. Interviews with student fellows about their projects aired on HuffPost Live, WBEZ Worldview, and NPR’s Latino USA.
“The Pulitzer Center is without a doubt one of the coolest organizations I’ve ever been associated with. The mission is so important, but I think its foundation lies in the incredible people it attracts (both staff and grantees)!”
Ann Schraufnagel, Johns Hopkins 2015 Student Fellow
Student Fellow Weekend
In October, our 2015 student fellows and several university professors came together at “The Washington Weekend” to share their work and participate in discussions on global health, human rights, and refugee issues. They also participated in a series of panel discussions with veteran journalists—among them Buzzfeed deputy world editor Anup Kaphle, New Yorker staff writer Nick Schmidle, executive producer Kyra Darnton and Sarah Weiser from Retro Report, president of the National Press Photographers Association Mark Dolan, and photojournalists David Rochkind and Allison Shelley. Guest speakers included New York Times White House reporter Julie Davis, Pulitzer Center grantee Emily Feldman, and Pulitzer Center Senior Adviser Marvin Kalb. Students picked up a host of reporting tips and also came away with a supportive network, new perspectives, and a sense of purpose.
“I really, really appreciate everything Pulitzer has done for me and I am so grateful. The panels were incredibly helpful and inspiring and meeting other student fellows was a wonderful networking opportunity. I love the community that Pulitzer has helped me build.”
Rebecca Gibian, University of Southern California 2015 Student Fellow
View “Student Fellows Washington Weekend Highlights,” a video produced by Jess Obert and Evey Wilson.
The Pulitzer Center’s education program reached 35,000 students, ages 5 to 18, in over 300 events this past year. Among the highlights:
- Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Center grantee and National Geographic Fellow, nurtured a “slow journalism” mindset in some 22,000 Boy Scouts and leaders who came to the Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico to trek the backcountry. Under Salopek’s guidance, the scouts kept journals during their hikes, recording “milestones” along the trail to capture telling moments that might otherwise have passed them by.
“The Out of Eden project, where you have the chance through slow journalism to record your thoughts, to sketch figure pictures in a journal about an experience is something that I think is incredibly important for kids to look back on later in their life when they’re remembering the journey that they went on.”
Mark Anderson, Director of Program, Philmont Scout Ranch
- Journalist grantees Linda Matchan and Susan Gray produced Circus Without Borders, a film featuring a pair of circus acrobats: Guillaume Saladin from the Canadian Arctic and Yamoussa Bangoura, from Guinea, respectively. In those unlikely spots they’ve started circuses to help uplift young people struggling with poverty and depression. In December, we brought the circus performers and film producers to schools in St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Their charisma, talent, and passion were infectious among the more than 3,000 students they visited across our network, inspiring autograph lines and group hugs—and leaving our education team wondering what they’ll ever be able to manage for an encore.
“It’s very touching to see that right away they get it. They are not just amazed by the flips but they can understand the message of hope and being who you are—and that sometimes it’s hard but if you get together and share you’ll get through it.”
Guillaume Saladin, co-founder, Artcirq
- Everyday Africa photographers visited Senn High School in Chicago for an intensive visual literacy workshop in January and February, connecting students there with peers at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, through a series of Skype calls around “everyday” photography exercises.
- In Philadelphia, we supported two Social Justice Days at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. Photographer Larry C. Price came to Rush in the spring and the Circus Without Borders team visited in the fall, addressing child labor and teen suicide through day-long exchanges of visual and performance arts, and video and photojournalism.
“When they meet these journalists their dreams of maybe doing the same thing are no longer so far-fetched.”
Lorraine Ustaris, teacher, Benjamin Rush Arts Academy, Philadelphia
Our thinking about how students learn with journalism evolved significantly through the research of our Global Lens team, a cohort of high school teachers and investigators from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“Global news literacy matters because we are constantly becoming more and more connected to the world . . . If you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t be a part of the change, and you could become a victim of it.”
Catherine Irving, teacher, Northside College Preparatory, Chicago
In September, along with our web partner at idfive, we launched an innovative, free online Lesson Builder, pre-loaded with dozens of ready-to-use lessons incorporating Pulitzer Center reporting. With the Lesson Builder, educators can create accounts to use existing lessons, or quickly and easily create new lessons with a desktop web browser or even a cellphone.
The Lesson Builder’s search feature helps teachers find the right resources from among our thousands of articles, photographs, videos and interactives, and a flexible user interface allows for a range of lesson styles. The growing list of features—including a Common Core alignment tool, image uploader and community support—makes the Lesson Builder a must-use for teachers.
Through a series of special events, drawing from Pulitzer Center-supported projects and journalists, the Center has engaged new audiences across the country and around the globe in a meaningful dialogue surrounding global crises. Here are some highlights:
- Presentations by grantees on topics ranging from the future of the Bangladesh garment industry and the influence of the Clintons’ politics, private aid, and investments in Haiti, to the hidden world of Cambodia’s sex workers and reports from the frontlines of Ebola and the communities left behind.
- Special events included presentations by Pulitzer Center board member Joel Motley on the documentary “The Trials of Constance Baker Motley” and by Marvin Kalb with Dimiter Kenarov and Sarah Topol on Russia-Ukraine relations. Audiences ranged from 30-80 people per event.
Newseum-Pulitzer Center Series
After its launch in late 2014, the Pulitzer Center-Newseum series on “Faith, Freedom, Sexuality & Silence” engaged hundreds of people, from experts on the topics addressed to others new to the discussion. Topics covered included HIV/AIDS and the church in Jamaica, LGBT rights in Russia and Crimea, and transgender people in India’s Hindu society.
Misha Friedman presented his photography documenting LGBT rights issues in Russia and Nora Fitzgerald joined the LGBT rights conversation.
Global Health Highlights
- In April, the Pulitzer Center hosted a global health film festival and discussion with journalists Sascha Garrey, David Rochkind, and Karim Chrobog at the Consortium of Universities in Global Health Annual Conference in Boston. Topics ranged from food waste in South Korea and cervical cancer in Uganda to gun violence in Chicago. Journalists also led a workshop on global health communication.
- Journalists Carl Gierstorfer, Amy Maxmen, and Samuel Loewenberg participated in the World Health Summit in Berlin in October. The Pulitzer Center hosted the world premiere of Carl Gierstorfer’s documentary on Liberia’s fight against Ebola at the Kino International Theater for 600 summit attendees, followed by a panel with leading physicians from the field.
Nigeria Journalism Workshop
Reporters from Nigeria’s leading media outlets were among the 55 professional journalists and 48 students who attended a unique journalism workshop on “Covering Land and Property Rights” held in Lagos on November 24 and 25. The workshop, co-hosted by the Pulitzer Center and the University of Lagos, School of Mass Communications, offered the participants insights and tips about current property rights issues, fact-checking, data journalism, and investigative reporting.
- The Abominable Crime, Micah Fink’s film on homophobia in Jamaica, continues to stimulate discussion three years after its initial release. The documentary received special mention at the Movies that Matter Film Festival and has screened at various venues: the Paley Center and the Queens Museum in New York, the Center for Transatlantic Relations in Washington, Montego Bay Cultural Centre in Jamaica, and The Drum and Doughty Street Chambers in the U.K.
- Searching for Sacred Mountain, Gary Marcuse’s film, explores the connections between the environment, the government and religious and cultural traditions in China. The film was screened at Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, American University, Davidson College, Whittier College, and the University of Pittsburgh. The film was also featured in Pulitzer Center’s screenings at the DC Environmental Film Festival (along with Kalyanee Mam’s Fight for Areng Valley) and at the Ecological Civilization Conference in Beijing.
- Sri Lanka: No Fire Zone, the documentary by award-winning filmmaker and grantee Callum Macrae about the final bloody days of the Sri Lankan civil war sparked hard-hitting Q&A sessions following screenings throughout the U.S.
Journalists working on in-depth Pulitzer Center projects won more than a dozen awards for reporting that focused on human rights and the human condition.
- Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism in a Regularly Scheduled Newscast was awarded to two-time Pulitzer Prize winning multimedia journalist, Larry C. Price, in collaboration with PBS NewsHour for the newscast “Hazardous Work: Diving into the Philippines’ Dangerous Underwater Mines.”
- A half-century after the world’s richest nation declared war on poverty, Matt Black drove cross-country to produce a digital documentary that combines geotagged photographs with census data to create a portrait of poverty in America. Since returning from the trip this fall, Black has shared “The Geography of Poverty” project with students and photographers and the public at Photoville, Loyola University Chicago, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Anastasia Photo, and the Online News Association’s 2015 Conference, among others. His awards include the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, TIME’s Pick for Instagram Photographer of California, and TIME’s Lightbox: Matt Black Work Among 10 Best Photo Essays of March 2015.
- “The Ghosts of Rana Plaza” an article by Jason Motlagh and photographer Atish Saha for Virginia Quarterly Review, won the Overseas Press Club (OPC) Madeline Dane Ross award for best international reporting in the print medium showing a concern for the human condition.
- Chris Arsenault won the United Nations Foundation Gold Medal for coverage of humanitarian and development aspects of U.N. agencies with reporting from his project “What Came of Libya’s ‘Land Grab’ in Mali?”
- Seeds of Hope, the documentary by Fiona Lloyd-Davies, conveying the stories of Congolese women who have survived rape and war, won a 2015 World International Humanitarian Platinum Award.
- Two 2014 student fellows are finalists for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Mark of Excellence regional awards: Britton Nagy from High Point University for her project on the prison reform system in Norway and Adiba Khan from the University of Washington for her project on maternal healthcare in Kenya.
By engaging with our audience on social media—through Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, YouTube and Weibo—our reporting projects and educational initiatives reached more than 300,000 students, educators, journalists, and communities around the globe in 2015.
- Our Instagram account, which launched in March, now has over 12,000 followers. On this platform we have featured the work of Katie Orlinsky, Daniella Zalcman, Holly Picket, Matt Black, Sim Chi Yin, and many others.
- Our Twitter account now has over 26,000 followers.
- Our audience on Facebook—a total of 46,000 followers—continues to engage in meaningful ways with the work of our grantees. “The heartbreaking photos by Paula Bronstein send chills to your bones,” one Facebook user wrote. Another: “Learned so much from this.”
- Our two tumblr accounts highlight the striking visual work of our journalists and have a collective following of more than 200,000 people.
- Our weekly newsletter is growing in reach as our editors offer insights into the global impact of Pulitzer Center projects to a subscriber list of over 9,000 people.
- In 2015, we reached more than 4,000 followers in China on Weibo and 2,000 subscribers on WeChat.
In 2015 we received new grants for reporting on broad issue areas (from Omidyar Network, on land rights, and from Green Cross Switzerland, on pollution as a global health issue) as well as for unrestricted general support (from the estate of Lucille Sawyer Harris). Support continued from the MAC AIDS Fund, Robert McCormick Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Kendeda Fund.
This broad mix of funding, along with continued core support from members of the Pulitzer family and other generous individuals, assures the independent journalism essential to our success. We are grateful to all who have sustained our work. We hope that others will join.
"The Pulitzer Center is a leader among a growing field of nonprofit news organizations bringing creative models of production and dissemination to a disrupted news industry ... MacArthur is pleased to support the Pulitzer Center’s plans to deepen and expand its support for some of the most important and powerful international reporting of our time.”
Kathy Im, director of journalism and media program, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Audited financial reports available on request.