The Pulitzer Center hosted its second annual Campus Consortium Student Fellows Washington Weekend on Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17. Twenty-two of this year’s student fellows traveled from our Campus Consortium universities throughout the country to share their experiences and lessons learned while reporting abroad.
Pulitzer Center grantees, editors, and staff joined the student fellows in lively discussions on cultural sensitivity and human rights, as well as the migration and public health crises that these journalists help bring to light. To watch recordings of the panels, click on the blog subtitles in blue.
"You stand out not by writing more stories, you stand out by writing better stories," Nick Schmidle, The New Yorker staff writer, advised the students during a panel regarding the ethics of journalism. This year's student fellows understood the value of taking the time to get their facts right and to listen to the people behind the statistics. The result was a weekend rich with intimate stories of the vulnerable and honest investigations into the powerful.
Megan Huynh, a University of San Diego student, presented the refugee crisis in Australia, mostly overlooked in the media coverage of population issues. The people building lives in what were meant to be indefinite detention centers there are not told when they will get out. Huynh reported on refugees who are indefinitely detained, exposing children's health and psychological implications.
Immigrating from the Republic of Congo to the United States in 2010, Rodrigue Ossebi, a LaGuardia Community College fellow, started out studying to be an electrical technician. "I was not satisfied; after the help from organizations like Human Rights Fund to bring me here to attend college, and knowing all that is going on in my country, that pushed me to change my major to international studies and political science," Ossebi said. Traveling to France to speak with African immigrants there, he found that even those with a solid employment track record in their home countries were turned away from jobs in France.
Cultural discrimination was also the subject of reporting by Austin Davis, a student from University of Michigan, who traveled to Berlin to report on the educational disparities between education provided to German students and to Turkish immigrants. He found that immigrants are encountering more segregated education and are left without the resources to bring them into the fold during secondary education.
The threat of leaving behind the most vulnerable in a community because of limited resources or corruption is a story which resonates in countries affected by overpopulation. Betsy Saavedra, a Westchester Community College fellow, is embarking on a project to report from Peru where families displaced from their homes are using dynamite to blast holes in the rock to create space for building new homes. "Where can these people go? I want to hear their side of the story," she said.
Ann Schraufnagel, a student in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, took on open defecation in India (sometimes considered an uncomfortable topic for discussion). She touched on sanitation, culture, and safety—providing toilets in or close to the home helps protect women.
Washington University fellow Jae Lee built a strong rapport with Ugandans he interviewed for stories on emergency medicine. University of Pennsylvania fellow Priya Ramchandra reported on a plan to provide healthcare to the underserved in Andhra Pradesh: "The patients and families want hope in their lives and they come to hospitals like pilgrims to a religion," she said.
When Kateri Donahoe, a fellow from Boston University, revisited her preconceptions of protagonists and antagonists in the story of female genital cutting in Mali—conducting over 30 interviews in three languages.
University of Southern California students Rebecca Gibian and Diana Crandall reported on Costa Rica's Bribri community and shared tips of the trade: "Look your resources up before you land in the country you're reporting on," said Gibian. "Reporting is an adventure but needs to have a structure to it to get the most out of your story,” Crandall added.
American University student Julia Boccagno learned about the contradictory nature of Thai culture regarding its views of transgender women. "You are at once accepted and rejected," she said, elaborating on the access to hormones and risks of surgery.
While much of human rights reporting focuses on shifts in cultural norms due to new expressions of identity, student fellow Kent State University's Anna Hoffman reported on the untold stories of cultures lost. "When people speak Irish they don't say they speak Irish. They say I have Irish," she began. They want it to remain “a real part of their lives." she said.
Sydney Combs, a student at the University of Chicago, featured changing gender norms in Tanzania, sharing accounts from Maasai rogue entrepreneurs and the consequences they face in resisting tradition and starting their own businesses. "The community realizes that women have power and they are placing themselves in improved positions," Combs said.
A soft and bittersweet Santo Domingan guitar played softly in the score of a brief clip from the film "Lesson Unplanned," the documentary by Southern Illinois University Carbondale, students Jennifer Gonzalez and Luke Nozicka, about teenage pregnancy in the Dominican Republic. The documentary clip featured an intimate look into the lives of pregnant teenagers and young mothers.
Olivia Conti from Loyola University Chicago and Claire Felter from Boston University returned to countries where they had traveled to report on global health issues that deserved more investigation. Conti talked about the health implications of both children and adults not wearing shoes. Felter discussed advances in water safety and the importance of teaching girls to swim in Zanzibar.
Farzana Shah, a graduate nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania, traveled to Iran with a non-profit to pair with local teams to provide pediatric cardiac care. One film clip shows the smiling face of a young girl recovering from life-saving heart surgery. "Education and collaboration are essential and sustainability is the ultimate goal," Shah said,.
Carrying us into our final student panel, Zach Hollo from Northwestern University in Qatar, reported from India:: "The poor are the least responsible for global climate change, and yet they're the most affected."
Kara Andrade from American University shared the harrowing story of embedding with, and soon after, losing, her source, Miguel Angel Jimenez Blanco, a community leader and political activist in Guerrero who used his mobile phone to record testimonies within in the community. Her reporting shows how local citizens use technology to increase transparency while still incurring risks for speaking out.
Davidson College students Daniel Black and John Soper investigated two sides of the same coin, looking at the impact of foreign companies on vulnerable societies of migrant workers. Soper learned that the biggest issue facing those in the Ghanaian oil industry is pay disparity between local and expatriate workers, resulting in few if any on-the-ground benefits for those workers during the boom in offshore oil drilling. In Angola, Black’s findings differed: "The crux is that we were pleasantly surprised by what we found: The oil companies were allowing stable wages and were providing a source of income for hundreds of thousands of Angolans."
A big thank you to our 2015 Pulitzer Center Student Fellows for sharing their global reporting experiences! We applaud your dedication to seeking the truth in these projects that will hold a special place in your journalistic careers. Echoing Ann Peters, Pulitzer Center director of development and outreach, in her remarks to the fellows during the celebratory dinner, “Seeing you grow as journalists is my favorite part of working at the Pulitzer Center.”