Journalism and education for the public good.
The Pulitzer Center’s mission is that simple. That challenging. That important.
It has been the beating heart of the Pulitzer Center since we opened our doors in 2006. Today it pulses through a community that spans the globe: more than a thousand journalist grantees, hundreds of news organizations, dozens of schools, universities and community colleges and, crucially, individuals like you—people who believe in the power of honest reporting, civil debate, and real engagement with the issues that affect our lives.
In the pages that follow, and in the highlights video, you’ll see how far our reach now extends, from a special issue of The New York Times Magazine on climate and a PBS NewsHour series on abuses in the criminal justice system to online poetry contests for students and journalism fellowships that allowed 42 students from 34 of our partner universities to report from 27 countries.
2018 was a landmark year for us, in building the donor base so critical to assuring the Center’s permanent role, in journalism and beyond. We tripled our endowment, to $16 million, and secured major donations that guarantee a central role in reporting on peace and conflict, land rights, climate, mass incarceration, and issues affecting women and children.
I hope that you’ll take a look at this report and that you’ll click on links to some of the extraordinary journalism and educational activities detailed here. Let us know what we can do better. I hope, too, that you’ll share this report with your friends.
On behalf of my amazing colleagues at the Pulitzer Center, and of all our journalist grantees and other partners, thank you for your interest and support. We look forward to working together in 2019—and in the years to come.
In 2018, the Pulitzer Center supported more than 200 professional journalists, enabling them to report from the front lines of wars and forgotten corners of the globe. Close to home, we sponsored investigations into abuses of police powers across the U.S. and emergency coverage of the family separation crisis at the Mexican border. Our grantees also brought distant, surprising stories to life, from a podcast examining looming effects of climate change on the Arctic Circle to a year-long investigation of untold horrors of the war in Yemen.
The Human Toll of War
The diverse emerging and veteran reporters, photographers, data journalists, and documentary makers we supported traveled to every continent and produced more than 600 stories for nearly 200 outlets, from The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Texas Tribune to PBS NewsHour, VICE, and the Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder. These are just a few highlights:
- An Associated Press team led by Maggie Michael spent 2018 cataloging the devastation in Yemen—hospitals, schools, farms, manufacturing, and infrastructure eviscerated, leaving millions at the edge of famine. Their tenacious reporting also exposed sex abuse and torture in detention camps run by U.S. allies. Michael won the 2018 Oliver S. Gramling Award, the AP’s highest internal honor.
- Grantee Jeffrey Stern also went to Yemen, tracking an American bomb from its birthplace in Arizona to its fatal finale in Yemen, for The New York Times Magazine.
- For The New Yorker, staff reporter Ben Taub and photographer Moises Saman chronicled a campaign of revenge by Iraq’s government against the Sunni minority so vicious it’s making some Iraqis nostalgic for ISIS.
- Grantee Sarah Aziza wrote for The Intercept and The Atlantic on Saudi Arabia's ugly campaign of repression even before the gruesome murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Migration and Refugees
- An emergency grant to The Texas Tribune enabled uninterrupted frontline coverage of the migration and family separation crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. With our support, more than a dozen Tribune reporters were deployed across southern Texas to Mexico and Washington, D.C. Close to 100 news organizations ran the coverage, ensuring the story reached millions.
- Reporter Jason Motlagh, photographer Patrick Brown, and documentary maker Mark Oltman reported for Rolling Stone magazine on minority Rohingya persecuted in Myanmar—raped, shot and left for dead—fleeing for their lives to Bangladesh.
- We know how to stop the spread of HIV, so why are rates of new infection still high in some places? Grantees Jon Cohen, William Brangham, Jason Kane, and Misha Friedman, in a series for Science and the PBS NewsHour, visited hard-hit communities in Nigeria, Russia, and Florida, to understand the failures.
- In Haiti, cancer patients die at one of the highest rates in the Western Hemisphere. In an ambitious four-part series for the Miami Herald, Jacqueline Charles and photographer José Antonio Iglesias detailed the challenges for patients and doctors dealing with cancers that are easily treated in developed countries.
- In a series for PBS NewsHour, William Brangham, John Yang, and Frank Carlson told the story of two million Americans with mental illness in county jails and the dysfunction of the public defender system.
- Other projects explored a range of surprising issues, from Shiho Fukada’s photos for Bloomberg Businessweek of the growing number of elderly Japanese women choosing prison to escape loneliness to Jaime Joyce’s stories of children separated from incarcerated parents for Time for Kids.
Our grantees continued reporting on land and property rights with stand-out projects in 2018:
- A multimedia investigative series called “The Taking” by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica explored the federal government’s haphazard, decade-long process of seizing private land for a border fence.
- Six celebrated photographers traveled the world for a special “Contested Lands” issue of Pacific Standard devoted to indigenous peoples’ battles for land, safety, and their way of life.
- A data-driven, interactive Pulitzer Center website documents police forces profiting from seizing private assets, even from citizens never charged with crimes. Our website, “Taken,” maps and showcases investigative work by small newsrooms across the Midwest, inviting collaboration from new partners.
Our property rights reporting is made possible thanks to support from Omidyar Network and other generous donors.
In 2018, we supported more than 30 journalism projects exploring under-reported aspects of conflicts around the world and efforts to build peace, from Iraq and Myanmar to Nigeria, Colombia, and Syria.
- The Pulitzer Center’s June 2018 conference, “Beyond War: Causes of Conflict, Prospects for Peace,” brought together 420 journalists, academics, students, policy experts, humanitarian workers, and others who work on the ground in conflict zones. Taking them past the headlines to understand the roots of conflict and effective models of diplomacy and peacebuilding, the convening provoked meaningful dialogue from newsrooms to classrooms.
- Our “Pitching for Peace” contest drew proposals from more than 200 journalists, resulting in projects in seven countries including Colombia, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Two student winners from our Campus Consortium network reported on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.
- The “Fighting Words” poetry contest attracted 450 entries from students around the world. Students explored journalism and poetry as responses to conflict, writing verse based on Pulitzer Center stories of war and peace that inspired them.
Our peace and conflict reporting is made possible thanks to support from Humanity United and other generous donors.
Climate was a major focus of reporting and outreach throughout the year, culminating in the launch of the Rainforest Journalism Fund, a $5.5 million, five-year initiative aimed at raising the level of reporting on threats to rainforests—with a special emphasis on capacity-building among journalists within the regions of Africa, Asia, and South America that are most directly affected.
Reporting highlights included:
- “Losing Earth,” a 70-page report by writer Nathaniel Rich and photographer George Steinmetz that took over an entire issue of The New York Times Magazine. The reporting, soon to be released in book form and as a television series, documents our bipartisan failure to take seriously the threat of climate change.
- “Tipping Point,” a series by Sam Eaton for PBS NewsHour that was also a cover story for The Nation and a multimedia package for PRI’s The World, tells in damning detail how the Amazon is almost at the point of no return.
- “Cold Comfort,” Amy Martin’s mesmerizing podcast series for Threshold that was also featured on PRI’s The World, focuses on the indelible impact of climate change on the lives of people in the eight Arctic countries.
The ambition of these reporting projects was matched by the outreach we organized, from online curricular materials and a launch for “Losing Earth” at The New York Times Center to events at the Yale School of Forestry, Boston University School of Public Health, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Xavier University, University of Missouri, and school tours in St. Louis, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
In September, at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer announced the creation of the Rainforest Journalism Fund, with support from the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI).
“We will be funding dozens of reporting projects each year,” Sawyer said, “with a focus on supporting the work of journalists from within each rainforest region who know these issues best—and a guarantee that participating journalists and news organizations will have full editorial independence.”
Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, said, “My hope is that this fund will contribute to knowledge, understanding, and better policies.”
Our work on climate is also supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and individual donors.
More than 6,300 university students, faculty, and community members heard from Pulitzer Center journalists during some 215 events with our Campus Consortium partners. The 2018 network includes more than 30 formal partners, and we also connected with other campuses to create unique event opportunities and reach new audiences.
Journalists, photographers, and filmmakers tackled diverse subjects including the impact of technology and data science on aid, reporting in the Middle East, U.S.-Iranian tensions, Russia under Putin, nuclear issues, public health concerns, pollution, climate change, US-Mexico border migration tensions, and refugee crises worldwide.
University partnerships offer unique experiences for students, from a “deep dive” photojournalism short course at Wake Forest University with documentary photographer Daniella Zalcman to the Sharp Seminar intensive journalism course, now in its eighth year at the College of William And Mary, with journalist Stephanie Hanes and visiting Pulitzer Center grantees and staff.
We worked with Campus Consortium partner Forsyth Tech Community College to bring Latin American journalists Guido Bilbao and Sol Lauria to share a data-driven, multimedia project about indigenous communities’ efforts to halt land seizures. We also launched a new education hub in New Orleans, centering the first visit around a community-wide climate change event at Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the U.S.
Melissa [Noel]’s visit last week was a huge success! Many faculty members and students have reached out to say how meaningful the class visits and large talk were, and a handful of students and faculty members have come forward to share that they, too, were "barrel children."
– Meghan Fox, Assistant Professor, Department of English, LaGuardia Community College
This year’s 42 student fellows from journalism programs, liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and universities, schools of public health, and community colleges traveled to 27 countries to report on critical global issues, from educational inequities in rural South Africa to the deterioration of the healthcare system in Venezuela. Among those they interviewed:
- Women who suffered domestic violence in Nigeria
- Relatives of Jihadists in Kosovo
- Sex trafficking survivors in Nepal
- Puerto Ricans volunteering to rebuild their homes
- Asylees in a job training program in a Brooklyn restaurant
- Buddhist monks working to stop deforestation in Thailand
In October, they came together for the Washington Student Fellows Weekend. They shared their reporting and learned from professional journalists at Politico, HuffPost, Foreign Policy, NPR, and Voice of America.
It was such an incredible experience to learn from so many of the student projects, to meet such wonderful, caring individuals, and to feel a part of something so meaningful.
– Arianne Henry, Boston University School of Public Health
Our K-12 education program reached more than 16,500 students in 460 events this year, on issues ranging from public health to climate change to migration. In North Carolina, our NewsArts program reached 3,000 students and teachers in 56 classes. In Chicago, our partnership with the Out of Eden Walk and Esri, a geographic system information company, led to the fall launch of an innovative digital map that will allow students to share stories of home. Online, a new partnership with education software platform Nearpod will lead to a pilot rollout of 30 social studies lessons next fall.
Highlights for 2018 include:
- Some 850 people in New York City and Chicago participated in journalist talks and workshops on mass incarceration with three Pulitzer grantees: writer and curator Pete Brook, photojournalist Brian Frank, and TIME for Kids executive editor Jaime Joyce. Formerly incarcerated individuals and criminal justice reform activists joined the discussions too.
- Students made local and personal connections with global reporting through two Pulitzer Center writing contests. In the spring, over 450 students submitted poems in conversation with a global news story; 800 engaged through workshops in DC, MD, and NC, while teachers guided student writing across the U.S. and in at least four countries. In the fall, more than 270 students from 37 schools in 17 states and Taiwan submitted letters to their newly (re-)elected representative explaining the global issue they want prioritized.
- We led screening field trips for 570 DC students to PBS NewsHour, USA Today, National Geographic, Vox, and the Avalon Theater. Workshops introduced digital storytelling skills that students used to analyze the films and produce storyboards for documentary films exploring underreported issues in their own communities.
Education funders include: The Julian Grace Foundation, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Winston-Salem Foundation, the Kesher Fund, and individual donors.
In 2018, the Pulitzer Center hosted 771 school visits and public events reaching 27,233 people. Through Skype, we’ve reached an additional 1000 students. The average engagement per individual is 99 minutes. We’ve also expanded our geographic reach to over 20 states and reached international audiences in Qatar, Cambodia, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, Greece, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.
Throughout the year, the Pulitzer Center created opportunities to connect the broadest audiences to engage with the global reporting we support. In 2018, those opportunities also meant partnering with a diverse range of organizations from Pittsburgh to Chicago and from San Francisco to Washington, DC. Photo exhibits, film festivals, communication workshops, and conversations between community activists, researchers, and journalists were in the mix at these sessions. In all we reached more than 67,000 individuals through more than 30 such events, including our Talks @ Pulitzer series.
Film and Photography
“Who Owns the Land?” in conjunction with the 2018 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, featured five short films and a panel discussion focused on the intersection of property rights with environmental and social issues and hearing from the filmmakers. In New York, the Pulitzer Center curated the Photoville 2018 exhibit, “Nowhere Left but Here,” featuring photojournalist Shiho Fukada’s project on Japan’s aging population, senior crime and imprisonment. Photoville also featured the work of other Pulitzer Center-supported photographers: Xyza Cruz Bacani, Jake Naughton, and Tomas van Houtryve.
City of Asylum @ Alphabet City and the Pulitzer Center partnered for an evening focused on Asian American identity, changing dynamics in the city of Pittsburgh, and how President Trump’s immigration policies are impacting the local Asian American community. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter and grantee Melissa McCart led the conversation with a local restaurateur, a professor, and a community activist. In Washington, DC, Pulitzer Center and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace drew on their respective strengths to explore what’s next for Libya. Moderated by Pulitzer Center executive editor Indira Lakshmanan, the conversation included Christopher Livesay and Alessandro Pavone, whose Pulitzer Center-supported reporting appeared on PBS NewsHour, Frederic Wehrey from Carnegie’s Middle East Program, and Ambassador Wafa Bughaighis of Libya.
In 2018, Pulitzer Center grantees and student fellows received more than 33 awards in recognition of their reporting. Highlights include:
“Inside Russia” by Nick Schifrin and Zach Fannin, PBS NewsHour
“Finding Home” by Lynsey Addario, Aryn Baker, Francesca Trianni, TIME
- Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Innovation
- Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Social Media
- First Place, Pictures of the Year International Competition for Online Feature Story Visual Editing
- First Place, World Press Photo’s Digital Storytelling Contest for Innovative Storytelling
“Rohingya Under Attack” by Kristen Gelineau, Todd Pitman, Maye-e Wong, Rishabh Raj Jain, Associated Press
- Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle Award
- Grand Prize, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
- Print/International Award, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
- Society of Publishers in Asia Award for Excellence in Reporting on Women’s Issues
“Europe Slams Its Gates” by Ty McCormick, Cameron Abadi, Peter Tinti, Nichole Sobecki, and Jill Filipovic, Foreign Policy
- New Media Award, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
“Yemen: Death in Al Ghayil” by Iona Craig, The Intercept
Four Pulitzer Center student fellows won 2018 SPJ Mark of Excellence Regional Awards:
- "Convict of 302: Death Penalty in Pakistan” by Shakeeb Asrar and Urooj Kamran Azmi
- "Mother’s Love Powers Family Through Hurricane Maria Aftermath" by Ryan Michaelesko
- "Floating Hospitals Treat Those Impacted by Rising Seas" by Nikita Sampath
In 2018, Pulitzer Center grantees were invited to directly curate our Instagram account. Magnum Photos took over our feed for two weeks, showcasing the Magnum photographers contributing to our Pacific Standard “Contested Lands” project. Other curators included Tanmoy Bhaduri, Sara Hylton, Sebastian Meyer, and Nina Robinson. The takeovers helped increase our Instagram followers by 25 percent to 96,046.
Minority groups comprise approximately 40 percent of the American public, yet the news media struggles to reflect that same diversity in its staffing. The Pulitzer Center is committed to playing its part in promoting diversity in the news media by increasing the diversity of its own staff, journalist grantees, interns, and student fellows.
Among the 262 journalists we supported in 2018, 37 percent identified as non-white, 48 percent are female, and 62 percent are freelancers.
In 2018, we received two of the largest contributions in the Pulitzer Center’s history:
- A $5.5 million grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment in support of the Rainforest Journalism Fund. The fund will support nearly 150 reporting projects over the next five years, with assurance of editorial independence and a commitment to capacity building among regional journalism organizations in the rainforest regions of the Amazon, central Africa, and Southeast Asia.
- A $5 million restricted-endowment gift from the Facebook Journalism Project, assuring permanent funding for our journalism and education work in smaller markets across the United States. Income from the restricted endowment will support at least a dozen reporting collaborations each year, serving cities that rank 21st or lower in population.
The Facebook Journalism Project gift was matched by a general-endowment grant of $5 million from our chair, Emily Rauh Pulitzer. In the course of 2018, we tripled the size of our endowment overall, to $16 million, marking a major step forward in our efforts to make the Pulitzer Center a permanent force in journalism, education, and American life.
Additional support came from the MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network, Humanity United, Rockefeller Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, Art for Justice Fund, Julian Grace Foundation, the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, and the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.
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.
Audited financial reports available on request.