Pulitzer Center Update

Haiti Coverage Wins National Press Club Award


A screenshot from Haiti: After the Quake

Nathalie Applewhite accepts Pulitzer Center National Press Club Award.

The Pulitzer Center's coverage of post-earthquake Haiti has won the National Press Club's Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism. The co-winner is MSNBC, also for coverage of Haiti.

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

Dear Jurors:

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is pleased to submit the work on Haiti by our journalists and staff in the category of online journalism. This initiative comprises five separate projects commissioned by the Pulitzer Center. Each addresses a different aspect of the challenges con­fronting Haiti before and after the January 2010 earthquake. Each reflects the Pulitzer Center’s innovative model: multimedia presentations, collaboration with multiple news-media outlets and aggressive after-marketing via web promotion and educational outreach. The goal is to engage the broadest possible public on systemic global issues that affect us all, using the unique opportunities provided by the web. The Haiti work is a powerful example of what this approach can achieve.

Haiti After the Quake (http://pulitzercenter.org/haiti-after-quake) presents all of our Haiti work, including articles that were commissioned by the Pulitzer Center and then published or broadcast on other news media outlets. This submission also references the reporting and out­reach presented exclusively on the Pulitzer Center website—Untold Stories dispatches from the field, video documentaries, and lesson plans created for our educational outreach. Voices of Haiti (http://pulitzercenter.org/features/voices-haiti) is a web presentation featuring poetry, photography and music that we commissioned and produced, with the aim of capturing the drama of Haitians struggling to rebuild their lives.

Pulitzer Center-funded journalists have been at work in Haiti for four years. It was one of the countries featured in the Fragile States series that we commissioned for PBS NewsHour. The story on Haiti aired the night before the earthquake, documenting signs of progress at a moment when Haitian hopes were about to be crushed anew. In response to the earthquake we commissioned a year-long series of projects assessing its consequences and the people affected.

The first team we recruited was led by Kwame Dawes, a poet and English professor at the University of South Carolina whose earlier work with us on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica won an Emmy for new approaches to news and documentaries. He was joined by print reporter Lisa Arm­strong and photographer Andre Lambertson. They made a total of 10 trips to Haiti during 2010 and forged deep connections with individuals and communities, especially those Haitians who were also living with HIV/AIDS. Their Untold Stories dispatches, photographs and videos captured the violence against vulnerable women in tent camps, sanitation-related health threats, the challenges faced by doctors at health or­ganizations like GHESKIO and Partners in Health and the grassroots efforts by individuals like Malia Jean and itinerant preacher Joel Sain­ton, who with scant help from outside aid organizations formed effective support groups and community networks for HIV/AIDS sufferers. These web presentations were powerful in themselves; they also helped pave the way for articles and interviews in outlets such as NewsHour, Essence, USA Today, NPR, The Atlantic (online), and The New York Times (Lens photography blog).

We commissioned Stephen Sapienza and Stephanie Hanes to document the marginalization of individuals of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. Here again sustained engagement was a priority, with Hanes making two trips to the region and Sapienza three. William Wheeler and Justin Thomas Ostensen focused their reporting on why the international reconstruction effort was falling short, how those failures contributed to the outbreak of cholera, and what it would take to “build back better.” Paul Franz was one of the winners of Project:Report, the Pulitzer Center/YouTube partnership aimed at identifying video journalism talent. His short documentary on the chal­lenges of education in post-quake Haiti was featured on YouTube’s homepage.

The YouTube collaboration reflects the Pulitzer Center’s determination to exploit all available platforms and to reach audiences beyond those of traditional news-media outlets. So does our commitment to taking the journalism and journalists directly to high school and university au­diences, through in-person visits as well as the lesson plans, “meet the journalists,” and student reporting features that are part of our online engagement. The Haiti projects have already reached thousands of students across the country, as part of an initiative that is very much ongo­ing. We are also producing kreyol versions of Voices of Haiti, to bring these powerful poems and images to the people of Haiti.

At a time when so many news organizations have retreated from coverage of the world it is essential that we identify new ways of fostering the informed citizenry on which our democracy depends. This is an effort that requires the leveraging of resources, deep and multiple col­laborations, and a journalism that goes beyond coverage of the moment to build instead a sustained issue-awareness campaign. These were the hallmarks of our work in Haiti. It is an approach at the heart of all our work. We believe that it is profoundly in the public interest.


Jon Sawyer, Executive Director

See the National Press Club announcement.