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Pulitzer Center Update May 10, 2011

Downstream Gateway Wins SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Award

A screen shot from the Downstream Gateway (2011).

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) awarded its Sigma Delta Chi Award for an Online Specialized Journalism Site to the Pulitzer Centers collection of reporting on water and sanitation, Downstream.  The Sigma Delta Chi awards have been given out since 1939.

Here is the text of the nominating letter from Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer:

Dear Sigma Delta Chi Awards Selection Committee,

Whether it's the steady depletion of groundwater, incremental shifts in rainfall over decades or the drumbeat of deaths from diarrheal disease, water issues don't often generate headlines.  Water is a quiet crisis, and for the past three years the Pulitzer Center has maintained a commitment to covering it.

The results of this commitment are presented in the online Downstream Gateway, published in July 2010 and updated continually.  The Pulitzer Center submits this online gateway for the Sigma Delta Chi Award for a Specialized Journalism Site.

Downstreamis a wide-ranging collection of 17 multimedia-reporting projects that address how water relates to public health, economics, politics and climate change.  These projects are the outcome of unique collaborations with news media outlets like National Geographic, PBS NewsHour, The Washington Post, The New York Times, TIME Online, and regional US newspapers. The Pulitzer Center selects and funds reporting projects and then places the results in leading news outlets.

In 2010, the Pulitzer Center launched six new reporting projects and continued to support five from previous years.  From the sub-Saharan daily struggle for water and sanitation to South Asia's melting glaciers, from the environmental casualties of China's rapid development to the Bangladeshi government's efforts to maintain a water and sewer system in the face of an urban population explosion, the Pulitzer Center was on the front lines of the global water crisis.

An important part of the Pulitzer Center model is to use the journalism as a point of departure for educational outreach.  In 2010, Downstream journalists talked with thousands of middle school, high school, and university students across the country—from the Bronx to Honolulu. Through the site, students can upload their own reporting from their local communities on water, ask Pulitzer Center journalists questions and hear about the experiences of other students from across the globe.  Teachers also have access to reporting-based water lesson plans.

In addition, the Pulitzer Center puts its reporting in front of policymakers.  For World Water Day 2010, Downstream journalists produced three PBS NewsHour segments, excerpts from which were shown to an audience of some 400 leaders, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Her remarks, along with the perspectives of dozens of experts and policy-makers, are catalogued in the site's "Your Stories" feature.

The journalism within this wide-ranging online collection explores the root causes behind a crisis that few are aware of and presents the story in a comprehensive and compelling way—rich in written content, photography, video and opportunities for interaction with the reporting and journalists.


Jon Sawyer

Executive Director
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting


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navy halftone illustration of a boy carrying two heavy buckets


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