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Pulitzer Center Update December 15, 2020

2020: A Year in Stories

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It’s no longer enough to get all of your news from a single source. Journalism in the digital age has proven that, with enough time searching, you will always find another perspective on the issue at hand. With the sheer volume of information readily available today, no single portrayal of a topic can ever be considered a complete summation. 

Fortunately, despite the difficulties of the past year, Pulitzer Center grantees published 1,046 (and counting) stories on a wide range of topics in outlets all over the world. This alone ensures that every Pulitzer-supported story features diverse perspectives, but our focus on underreported global issues is what really sets our journalism apart. Viewed as a whole, these 1,046 stories make up a well-rounded snapshot of 2020. 

Our staff managed to narrow it down to just 33 stories that we consider to be the highlights of the year. From scores of secret detention camps in China to Argentinian women on the frontlines of the pandemic, these stories are exemplary journalism. Each of these stories were made possible through the support of individuals like you. Through December 31st, your gift to the Pulitzer Center may be matched by NewsMatch. Will you help us continue to support journalism and education for the public good through 2021?


Leslie D. Callahan, pastor of St. Paul's Baptist Church, poses for a portrait, at her church in North Philadelphia on April 8. Image by David Maialetti / The Philadelphia Inquirer. United States, 2020.

"Portraits of a Pandemic: How This Philly Pastor Is Steering Her Flock and Family Through the Uncertainty of Coronavirus"

I lived in Philly for many years, and am back now during the pandemic. As the poorest big city in America, it’s a city full of challenges and full of spirit...take sports! This series perfectly captures those co-existing realities by profiling the people most impacted by COVID-19 through the voices of strong women.
—Nathalie Applewhite, Managing Director


Valerie Tulier-Laiwa, Veronica Garcia, Gabriela Lopez, Gloria Romero, Tracy Gallardo and Roberto Hernandez. Illustration by Molly Oleson. Undated.

"The Latino Task Force Emerges to Take on COVID-19"

As someone who saw the impact of similar efforts firsthand, I greatly admire and truly find the work of the Latino Task Force inspiring. From distributing 7,000 boxes of food a week to helping people navigate through unemployment, they saw the needs of their community and took action when no one else did, and continue to find more ways to help.
—Jackie Calderon, Editorial Coordinator


Image Courtesy of El BusTV. Venezuela, 2020. 

"Paulino's Fate"

The entire Prodavinci series, COVID-19 Strikes a Country in Crisis: Dispatches From Venezuela, is already incredible for its skillful use of data analysis, narrative journalism, and design to report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. But what really made this project stand out to me was how the life of the reporting was carried on through the hard work and dedication of the people behind El BusTV. After the whirlwind that was 2020, I'm so inspired by the creativity and wholehearted belief in accessible information that it takes to handwrite the news just to make sure your community is informed.
—Lucy Crelli, Communications Assistant


Nury Ortega and her son Alexander in Little Village. Image by Elena Bruess. United States, 2020.

"Through the Eyes of Esperanza"

In a year filled with coronavirus reporting, Medill Post-Graduate Fellow Elena Bruess conveys the intimate struggle against the virus within a Chicago neighborhood through the lens of the Esperanza Health Center.
—Libby Moeller, Campus Consortium Editorial Assistant


The Brooklyn Bridge. Image by Yue Yin Leong. United States, undated.

"Video Narrative: DEVASTATION I"

I kept hearing about the devastation that the coronavirus was bringing to New York City and the rest of the United States, but I was largely seeing case and death counts in the headlines and on social media—I was seeing snapshots of people, but not truly understanding their situations. The "Devastation" reporting from The COVID-19 Writers Project allowed me to hear the full experiences of people. Even though the interviews are virtual, they're intimiate, truthful, and they help us understand what individuals are facing. 
—Mary Nance, Education Intern


A homeless man sits by his belongings at the Lots, an outdoor encampment in Phoenix, on June 24. Summer temperatures in Phoenix consistently exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes hitting 118. Image by Steve Carr/Human Services Campus. United States, 2020.

"COVID’s Impact on the Homeless Is Largely Unknown"

If nothing else, the pandemic has exposed a lot of holes in the U.S. government's ability to protect vulnerable groups, and in turn, protect the general public. People who experience homelessness have been left with limited options of where they can seek shelter and it's outrageous that the government is not taking the time to truly know the conditions that they are placed in during this time, even when it can affect our fragile public health system.
—Amanda Nyakela Nyang’oro, K-12 Marketing and Communications Intern


Patricia, 42 years old, from Bolivia. She has been in Argentina for four years. Image by Anita Pouchard Serra. Argentina, 2020.

"Can This Crisis Be Used to Build a Better Future in Argentina?"

My favorite stories always have an element of hope. This story tells us a little bit about Argentina's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by South American migrants. It also highlights the ways in which these strong, brave and committed women bring hope to their community.
—Karen Oliver, Director of Finance & Administration


Graphics and illustrations by Veronica Bravo, Jennifer Borresen, Javier Zarracina, USA TODAY; Shane Keyser, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

"‘They Think Workers Are Like Dogs.’ How Pork Plant Execs Sacrificed Safety for Profits."

More than 100 years after muckrakers exposed abuse in United States labor industries, journalists are still documenting deplorable conditions, especially for migrant workers. I'm grateful that reporters at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting are making one of our nation's leading food processors answer for the deaths of its employees.
—Holly Piepenburg, Outreach Coordinator


In Sherman, Texas, high school students wearing masks participate in a socially-distanced commencement ceremony. Image by Sara Carpenter/Shutterstock. United States, 2020.

"As COVID-19 Soars in Many Communities, Schools Attempt To Find Ways Through the Crisis"

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc, the world's schools work to educate their students during a public health crisis no one was prepared for. Some schools are finding success, while others still struggle. This Science report perfectly explains the issues facing classrooms, and provides answers for every family, regardless of geography.
—Dana Thompson, Copy Editor


Children and Youth

Arthur Gilliam, 36 with his children at the Frank C. Bocek Park in East Baltimore. He is $40,000 in child support arrears, most of which was accumulated while he was serving a 3-year sentence on a gun charge. Even though his sentence came after the 2012 law calling on orders to be suspended, Gilliam can't get the debt erased. Image  by Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun. United States, undated.

"At What Cost? For Baltimore’s Poorest Families, the Child Support System Exacts a Heavy Price—and It’s Hurting Whole Communities"

I chose this story because it talks about an issue that so many people struggle with on a daily basis but yet one that many aren’t aware of. That’s why stories like these are so important—to peel back the layers within our country and our systems so that we can understand our world better. I felt that it gave a compassionate look into a complex issue that affects us all more than we realize.
—Gema Arana, Human Resources Manager


Conflict and Peace Building

Nurlan Kokteubai at his home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan, Feb. 26. Image by Ekaterina Anchevskaya For BuzzFeed News. Kazakhstan, 2020.

"Built to Last"

"Built to Last" reveals the calculation and infrastructure underlying China's mass detention of Muslim people. This project beautifully balances scale with depth: its innovative investigative methods reveal the extent of systematic internment, while the voices of former detainees illuminate the inner workings of individual camps, and the trauma they exact.
—Hannah Berk, Education Manager


Indian paramilitary forces set up a barricade in Srinagar. Image by Abid Bhat. Kashmir, 2019.

"Valley of Unrest"

In the opening moments of Sonia Faleiro’s story on life in Kashmir, the power goes out in the reporter’s hotel room. She writes, “I was unmoored, like I belonged to nothing.” Faleiro's attention to detail begins in her hotel room and unfolds into the homes of Kashmiris who describe life in the formerly semi-autonomous state. The piece left me eager to read more about the region.
—Kayla Edwards, Outreach Assistant


Siona leader Adiela Mera Paz tapes off an area suspected of landmine contamination as part of her work for The Colombian Campaign Against Landmines in Siona territory in December 2019. A still from the New Yorker film “SIONA: Amazon’s Defender’s Under Threat.” Image by Tom Laffay. Colombia, 2019.

"A Community’s Struggle to Protect Itself From Land Mines in the Colombian Amazon"

This story about Adiela, a woman from the Siona Indiegnous group in the western Amazon rainforest, reminds me that something one group shrugs off can create unforeseen, devastating consequences for others. It also shows the power of consistent, diligent work to make a corner of the world a better place for those who live there.
—Claire Seaton, Multimedia Coordinator


Criminal Justice

Illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty/The Wire.

"From Segregation to Labour, Manu’s Caste Law Governs the Indian Prison System"

19th century-like caste discrimination lives on in 21st century Indian prison system. "The arrangement was clear—those at the bottom of the caste pyramid did the cleaning work; those high above handled the kitchen or the legal documentation. And the rich and influential did nothing; they only threw their weight around." It was all based on caste.
—Boyoung Lim, Senior Editor


Aerial of Downtown Baltimore, Maryland from Mount Vernon Place. Image by Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock. United States, undated.

"Prying Eyes"

How would Americans react if suddenly their every outdoors move—from family picnics to city protests—be photographed by law enforcement spy planes? That near-constant surveillance dystopia is already taking place in Baltimore, we now know thanks to Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson’s powerful reporting. Her work should be a wake-up call for journalists. We need to understand and interrogate these technologies that have the potential to further marginalize large groups of people in our communities.
—Marina Walker Guevara, Executive Editor


The Fox Reentry Center is one of CoreCivic's four halfway houses still operating in Denver. Image by Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC. United States, undated.

"Denver Didn't Want The Private Prison Industry To Run Its Halfway Houses. Now Who's Going To Do It?"

As many Americans are becoming aware of the perils of prisons, this six-part saga reminds us that this problem is exacerbated by the interest of private companies. Like many problems in America, this story informs us that the pitfall of private prisons not only harms the incarcerated people but also our communities.
—Glenn Williams, Operations Coordinator


Environment and Climate Change

Plastic waste in Smithtown, N.Y., where plunging prices have pushed the recycling system beyond its limits. Image by Sebastian Meyer. Malaysia, 2020.

"Plastic That Travels 8,000 Miles: The Global Crisis in Recycling"

Every day Americans discard plastic waste in recycling bins. Unbeknownst to them, that waste is shipped across the word to be burned or buried rather than be recycled into new products. Vivienne and Sebastian's reporting uncovers how recycling is too expensive to be profitable, and that Asian countries are drowning in discarded single-use plastics.
—Jeff Barrus, Communications Director


A burning field in the Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, in northern Cambodia. Beng Per is a sanctuary in name only as most of the land has been sold by the government for agricultural concessions and rubber plantations. Image by Sean Gallagher. Cambodia, 2020.

"Cambodia Burning"

With only 3 percent of its primary forest cover remaining, Cambodia is one of the most deforested countries in Southeast Asia. Sean Gallagher's emotional short film Cambodia Burning combines Cambodian poetry and striking drone cinematography to convey how the country's forest fires have devastated its forest ecosystems and the local communities.
—Francesca Edralin, Rainforest Journalism Fund Intern


A beehive at the João do Mel honey farm in Belterra, western Pará. Image by Gabriel Siqueira/BBC. Brazil, undated.

"Death of the Pollinators: Beehive Cemetery Points To Environmental Threat in Belterra (Portuguese)"

In 2006, Mara Régia di Perna watched in horror as a pesticide plane sprayed the inhabitants of Lucas do Rio Verde. Fourteen years later, Régia and Elizabeth Oliveira went to Belterra and spoke to the beating heart of this story, honey farmer João do Mel, who heartbreakingly recounts the mass death of his honeybees over the years.
—Leonor Grave, Rainforest Journalism Fund Intern



Opposition supporters wave an old Belarusian national flag outside government offices in Minsk. Image by Evgeniy Maloletka. Belarus, 2020.

"Russia Propagates Pro-Regime Propaganda as Crackdown Continues in Belarus"

What if they held a revolution and nobody came? That’s what is happening in Belarus these days. Often dubbed the Last Dictatorship in Europe, citizens fed up with the regime have taken to the streets, but the international media, preoccupied with the pandemic and other woes, failed to show up. Except for NewsHour’s Simon Ostrovsky, who filed this.
—Tom Hundley, Senior Editor


Voters come to their polling places to exercise their right to vote in the Presidential elections in Saint Louis, Missouri. Image by Gino Santa Maria / United States, 2016.

"The Many Varieties of Voter Suppression"

A decentralized election system means that states can craft legal requirements that block specific groups of people from effectively casting their ballots, often disenfranchising communities of color, the elderly, disabled people, and individuals with criminal histories. Voter suppression thrives on misinformation and the burden to share the correct information often falls on local grassroots groups.
—Jaya Mukherjee, Education Coordinator, Chicago



Dozens of people line the hallways of the Center of Dermatology in Marituba during Leprosy Awareness Month in January. Erika Jorge, a member of the Laboratory of Dermatology-Immunology, is in charge of shepherding patients from corridors to examination rooms. Image by Anton L. Delgado. Brazil, 2020.

"Shorthanded Specialists Struggle to Address the Resurgence of Leprosy in Brazil"

“I used to dance, but leprosy took all my beauty and all my strength,” says Denise Almeida, a leprosy patient. Anton Delgado, our 2020 Reporting Fellow from Elon University, traveled to Brazil before the pandemic, to report on the resurgence of leprosy, a curable disease. More extensive testing is key to curving the increase of cases. Sound familiar?
—Kem Knapp Sawyer, Contributing Editor


Indigenous Communities

In this Jan. 14, 2019 photo, Clarice "Bun" Hardy stands on the beach with her dog, Marley, in the Native Village of Shaktoolik, Alaska. Hardy, a former 911 dispatcher for the Nome Police Department, says she moved back to her village after a sexual assault left her feeling unsafe in Nome. Image by Wong Maye-E. United States, 2019.

"Nome, Alaska Sued by Woman Who Says Rape Wasn’t Investigated"

In February, the ACLU of Alaska announced that it would sue the city of Nome, Alaska, for systemic failure to investigate sexual violence when Alaska Natives were the victims. According to the National Institute of Justice, 1 in 2 Indigenous women in the United States will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. I am part of that statistic, but this story reminded me of the strength and resilience behind those numbers.
—Leilani Rania Ganser, Grants and Impact Coordinator


Original illustration by Marty Two Bulls Jr. / High Country News. United States, 2020.

"Land-Grab Universities"

In this era of race and reckoning, this is one of the most important investigative reporting projects of 2020. A multidisciplinary team of journalists exposes the land taken from Native Americans to enrich some of our nation’s top universities. This incredible work has sparked spinoff investigations and is holding universities accountable for ill-gotten gains.
—Steve Sapienza, Senior Strategist, Collaborative News Partnerships


Land and Property Rights

Boats traverse a canal in Makoko, Nigeria. Image by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Wikimedia Commons. Nigeria, 2010. 

"Neglected and Unmapped"

This story represents for me some of the most innovative and relevant ways to do journalism. A detailed portrait of the people living in Makoko and at the same time an x-ray, made with drones and interactive mapping, about this fascinating territory of Nigeria.
—Gustavo Faleiros, Environment Investigations Editor


Migration and Refugees

Image courtesy of Emily Kassie and Ben C. Solomon. United States, 2020.

"Undocumented in the Pandemic: 'Nowhere Else to Go'"

Though I first encountered the story "Undocumented in the Pandemic" months ago, I still find myself returning to it, wondering how Norma and her family are faring. Only 20 minutes long, the documentary is a gut-wrenching reminder that while we're all suffering through the same pandemic, that hardship is compounded exponentially for vulnerable groups like undocumented immigrants.
—Naomi Andu, Intern


Gutiérrez Pérez, an expert in dyeing with natural plant materials, wraps flower petals into clothing to be dyed at NI EN MORE in Juárez. Plants, flowers and vegetables are used in the hand-dye processes. “The NI EN MORE studio acts in opposition to the maquiladoras’ mass production standards,” says Terrazas. Image by Erika Schultz. Mexico, 2020.

"Disappearing Daughters"

Disappearing Daughters depicts a community of women who are seeking justice for femicide victims in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The multimedia piece, interwoven with poetry from Washington Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, tells the story of mothers who, in turning their memories and mourning into acts of art and protest, honor their daughters and say, "ni una más."
—Abigail Gipson, Intern


Sandra (second from left) had been told the journey through the Gap would be simple. Image by Carlos Villalón for The California Sunday Magazine. Border of Colombia and Panama, 2019.

"What Migrants Face as They Journey Through the Deadly Darien Gap"

As part of this incredible series, Drost and Frederico clearly and sensitively guide viewers along the shockingly difficult and dangerous path taken by people from all over the world through the Darien Gap to migrate to the United States. They visualize the courage and determination of the people who are choosing to migrate, compassionately explain the reasons that people choose to make this difficult journey, and also help explain the many ways that their journey is made more dangerous and unpredictable as a result of changing migration policies.
—Fareed Mostoufi, Associate Director of Education


Illustration by Alexander Charner. 2020.

"The Moving Border: Part Two, the South"

Listen deeply. Hear the voices. In the second of her two-part podcast series, journalist Maria Hinojosa carries us into the lives of people who are seeking a life in the US, who are blocked at many turns, who we lose in this world. Hearing their stories—without the visuals—is so powerful. It allows us to imagine we are them.
—Ann Peters, University and Community Outreach Director


Image by Meridith Kohut. Guatemala, 2020.

"The Great Climate Migration"

A few years ago a student asked me what I thought was the most pressing global issue. Tough question! By the measure of total amount of human suffering, the best answer seemed to be climate change compounded by income inequality. Using data and human stories, this reporting provides a glimpse of the magnitude of that interwoven problem.
—Mark Schulte, Education Director


Racial Justice

Trump supporters Jim Rainbolt, 57, left, Rick Warren, 65, Bill Stevens, 76, and Roger Plott, 65, stand outside their clubhouse in West Vienna, Ill. Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Photo. United States, 2020.

"AP Road Trip: Racial Tensions in America's 'Sundown Towns'"

This story about an Illinois “sundown town” embodies everything that made the Associated Press’s Looking for America series so powerful—incredible photography by Wong Maye-E and reporting that shows the ways segregation and racial violence continue to shape U.S. communities large and small.
—Ethan Ehrenhaft, Intern


Illustration courtesy of Steve Edwards / Gateway Journalism Review.

"The 1857 Project"

As education partner for The 1619 Project we’ve seen first-hand how it has challenged once-settled views on slavery’s role in America’s history. In St. Louis it inspired The 1857 Project, a book-length assessment by journalists and students of that city’s struggles over centuries with race and prejudice.
—Jon Sawyer, Executive Director



A team of small-scale miners perch precariously on a mine cliffside, using jack hammers to dig for jade on July 15, 2020. Image by Hkun Lat/Frontier. Myanmar, 2020.

"Kachin State’s Yemase Jade Miners and Dealers Demand a More Equitable Industry"

Global forces can wreak local havoc. A team of journalists highlight systemic challenges to mitigating social and environmental impacts of jade mining in Myanmar, with an emphasis on how poorly governed markets fuel perverse incentives with devastating effects.
—Nora Moraga-Lewy, Rainforest Journalism Fund Manager