Four freelance journalists from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting shared their perspectives on the future of journalism as an important and endangered tool of activism in a speech Monday night.

Nathalie Applewhite, managing director for the center, opened the discussion by saying that particularly in a struggling media environment, journalists should use their reporting as a way to influence discussion of typically under-reported stories.

"I grew up with the idea of the media having a responsibility to the public," Applewhite said. "Many more outlets are now moving more towards entertainment, which due to financial restraints is practical. However, I believe the news is what you need to know, not necessarily what you want to know."

Bill Wheeler, a freelancer who has reported in the Middle East and more recently in Haiti following the January earthquake, agreed that the mainstream media fails at discussing a problem before it escalates to a crisis. In terms of Haiti, he said he has struggled to find "reporting that speaks to the complexity of issues" like long-term infrastructure problems.

The problem of under-reporting important issues was a sentiment shared among the members of the panel, all of whom said it was a reason they got involved in nonprofit journalism. Emmy-nominated reporter Lisa Biagotti said she uses her stories to explore an area of culture and society to root out the source of under-reporting.

"The idea is to look at a problem through a broader lens than you would see with a headline," she said.

Read the full article as it appears in The Daily Northwestern

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Desertification is one of the most important environmental challenges facing the world today, however it is arguably the most under-reported. Desertification is the gradual transformation of arable and habitable land into desert, usually caused by climate change and/or the improper use of land.

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