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Pulitzer Center Update January 4, 2024

Coming Soon: A New Leader at the Pulitzer Center

Illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty/The Wire.

This five-part series will capture the impact and experiences of incarceration in India — the...

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Jon, wearing a suit jacket, and Kem Sawyer, wearing a bright blue dress, pose for a photo in Lisbon
Pulitzer Center CEO and President Jon Sawyer and Kem Knapp Sawyer, Reporting Fellows director, at the Center’s staff retreat in Lisbon, Portugal, in April 2023. Image by Kate LaRocque.

Search underway for a new CEO 

Over the past 12 months, my colleagues and I have built a new strategic framework for the Pulitzer Center, one that redoubles our commitment to the power of stories to make complex issues relevant and inspire action. 

We launched major new initiatives, characterized by collaborative, cross-border enterprise journalism and a proactive approach to audience-centered engagement. We’ve raised substantial long-term funding support. We’ve reorganized our staff structure and teams.  

We are now turning to the next phase: recruiting next-generation leadership for the Pulitzer Center overall.

Our board of directors has named a search committee and has hired an external search firm. Today we are making that search public, posting the CEO job description and a call for applications. We hope to complete the search and have a new CEO in place by early summer. I will continue on as a senior adviser, consulting with the new CEO and with the board of directors, but without any operational role. The goal is to make clear the new CEO is truly that, the CEO. 

My partner in nearly every great thing the Pulitzer Center has done—my wife, Kem Knapp Sawyer—will also be stepping down this summer from her role as director of the Reporting Fellows program in our Campus Consortium. We will be posting for that important position in the coming weeks as well, aiming to find someone as devoted as Kem to always putting people and community first. 

Our board of directors and our senior leadership team are committed to doing everything we possibly can to ensure a smooth transition and the continued strength of the Pulitzer Center. Shifting from a founder-run organization is one of the more challenging transitions in the life of any nonprofit organization. I am so grateful for the way my colleagues are stepping up to this new level of responsibility.  

It was 18 years ago that Emily Rauh Pulitzer and David Moore gave the seed funding to launch the Pulitzer Center. It has grown much larger than any of us then imagined, in partnership with news organizations and educational institutions across the globe and nearly 3,000 journalists who have benefited from our grants and fellowships. 

The Pulitzer Center began against the backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed—wars that began with overwhelming support from right and left as well as from our leading news-media organizations. 

In today’s fractured world, it’s hard to imagine anything like the post-9/11 degree of consensus (as tragically mistaken as that consensus turned out to be). But our own mission remains just as vital now as then: to ensure multiple perspectives on the challenges we face, to promote civil discourse, and to find solutions together. 

Kem and I are working to get our heads around what will be a big change for us, indeed.  

We will continue cheering the Pulitzer Center on, being supportive in every way we can. We will miss it all (or at least most of it!). We are incredibly proud that we have helped grow an organization that is so much more than us alone—and that will continue becoming more amazing still, thanks to the talented staff we’ve recruited from 15 countries across the globe, the partnerships we’ve forged, and the brilliant new people who will continue, I’m sure, flocking our way. 

With gratitude for your interest and support, now and in the years ahead. 

All best,



Following a petition from Pulitzer Center grantee Sukanya Shantha, the Supreme Court of India has issued a notice on caste-based discrimination in prisons. The Supreme Court seeks a response from 11 states, along with the Union home ministry and the academy of prisons and correctional administration in Vellore, within four weeks, according to The Wire.

Shantha’s Center-supported, award-winning series, Barred: A Prisons Project, illuminated the stories of the “real victims” of the Indian prison system: "lower" castes, Denotified Tribes, Adivasis, women, children, and transgender people. She discovered that many states still have caste-based discrimination codified in prison manuals, which allow for preferential division of prison labor and segregation of prisoners based on caste. The project has already prompted Rajasthan state to overhaul its prison manual. Now, these problems will be examined nationwide.

This message first appeared in the January 5, 2024, edition of the Pulitzer Center's weekly newsletter. Subscribe today.

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