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Pulitzer Center Update January 9, 2024

It's a Wrap: A Look Back at Reporting Fellows' Work in 2023

Reporting Fellows at the Pulitzer Center's Washington Weekend. Left to right: Sararat Tosakoon (George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health), Laila Gad (Hunter College), Florence Middleton (University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism), and Jesus Villalba (Westchester Community College). Image by Daniel Vasta. United States, 2023.

Now that 2023 has come to a close, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the journalism our Reporting Fellows have produced. I’ve been transported to faraway places—to gers (tents that are also called yurts) in Mongolia, to peatlands in Chile, to drought-hit farms in Namibia—and I’ve learned so much about a wide range of topics related to the environment, global health, peace and conflict, and human rights. 

This year the Pulitzer Center selected 44 Campus Consortium Reporting Fellows from journalism schools, state universities, liberal arts colleges, HBCUs, schools of public health, community colleges, and a law school, and 12 Post-Grad Fellows from Columbia and Medill journalism schools. Their articles and documentaries introduced us to a Venezuelan couple attempting to make New York City home and migrants on the Mexico/U.S. border; they examined issues centered on water pollution in Argentina, mental health care in Sierra Leone, the sustainable production of Kopi Luwak (a rare and pricey coffee made in Indonesia from cherries partially digested by wild civets), and much more. 

All Reporting Fellow stories were published on our website. They also appeared in many other outlets, among them The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Grist, Politico, Teen Vogue, The Athletic, Scientific American, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Climate News, Undark, The Nation, El Nuevo Herald, Deutsche Welle, and Civil Beat. 

Many thanks to the Reporting Fellow advisers and Pulitzer Center grantees who did so much to mentor the students. 

Field Notes by Reporting Fellows take us behind the scenes, showing us what motivated them to choose their topics or how they dealt with the unexpected (time and again). There’s variety here—Field Notes can be informative, provocative, funny, or deeply moving. This year’s Fellows touched on weathering a cyclone in India, examining Black history curriculum in the U.S. and the U.K., tracing wildlife migratory corridors in the western United States, volunteering for the “blanket toss” with the Iñupiat community in the Arctic, and more. 

Coming Together

Reporting Fellows first met virtually during an orientation week in June. In daily Zoom sessions, the Campus Consortium team, Pulitzer Center editors, the Campus Consortium Advisory Council, and several Reporting Fellow alums shared advice and personal takeaways. (“Test your own assumptions!”) The Fellows also joined small groups to discuss their projects, reporting tips, and travel logistics. 

In October, 42 Campus Consortium Fellows met in person for Washington Weekend to network and discuss their reporting. Over three days, they led panels on issues ranging from gender identity to religious peacebuilding. They also explored D.C. and participated in a scavenger hunt despite a light drizzle. Jonathan Custodio, the Bronx reporter for THE CITY and a former LaGuardia Community College Reporting Fellow, shared his own reporting journey at the Cosmos Club celebratory dinner. Nick Schifrin, a Pulitzer Center grantee and PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense correspondent, spoke movingly about the importance of storytelling and the challenges of resilience in the face of trauma. 

Politico editor Peter Canellos, Pulitzer Center grantee and NPR health correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee, grantee and journalist Jaime Joyce, and photographer and Southern Illinois University Carbondale journalism professor Julia Rendleman, also a grantee, answered questions on “How to Tell a Good Story and Get the Word Out.” Reporting Fellow Muriel Alarcón called the discussion “incredibly insightful and engaging.” I’m sure she spoke for everyone there. 

Everyone was truly so warm and supportive. I feel like I'm walking away with a stronger network and new friends,” said UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Fellow Florence Middleton.


Sharing Stories

Throughout the year, several Reporting Fellows and alums were invited to take part in Pulitzer Center webinars, including “Strengthening Intergenerational Queer Communities,” “Louisiana’s Disappearing Indigenous Lands,” “Affirmative Action on Trial,” “Indigenous Expertise Leads the Fight Against Climate Change,” and “Responsible Reporting on Trans Communities.” 

Fellows also made numerous virtual high school classroom visits. And in the 2023 Pulitzer Center Fighting Words Poetry Contest for K-12, a record number of 147 students were inspired to write poems based on Guttman Community College Fellow Elisa Agosto’s reporting on female activists in the New York cleaning industry

In-person events featured “Fighting Food Insecurity,” our first Talks @ Pulitzer in our new D.C. office space, led by Reporting Fellow alums from Davidson College, the University of Richmond, and Westchester Community College. Washington Post reporter and former Fellow Camila DeChalus discussed launching a journalism career at Westchester and media consumption habits at LaGuardia Community College. Newhouse Foundation Scholar at Syracuse University Natalia Perez-Gonzalez spoke about the intersection of health and equity at Huston-Tillotson University. Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque talked about the challenges facing the Rohingya diaspora at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Third-year medical student and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health alum Isabella Gomes spoke on sex trafficking and gender violence at UC Berkeley. 

Reporting Fellow alums showed their documentaries at the Columbia Journalism School DocFest, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health-Pulitzer Center Annual Film Festival, and other venues. Fellows Muriel Alarcón and Christian Elliott represented the Pulitzer Center at COP28 in Dubai this past December on a panel titled “Stories Spark Change.” 

Gaining Recognition

Madeleine Long, from the University of Richmond, was an SPJ regional Mark of Excellence finalist for reporting on the role of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and religious identity in wartime. Audrey Thibert, our 2023 University of Wisconsin Reporting Fellow whose project A Shared Uncertainty highlighted migrant experiences in Tunisia, and Catherine Cartier, a Davidson College alum who had reported on interfaith efforts to preserve Lebanon’s heritage, were both selected as 2024 Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholars

Jean Chapiro, a 2022 Columbia Journalism School Post-Grad Reporting Fellow, was named a Student Academy Award winner for Hasta Encontrarlos (Till We Find Them), a film about a Mexican community’s support for one another as they search for loved ones who have disappeared. Medill Journalism School Post-Grad Fellow Ankita Mukhopadhyay won the Professional Excellence Award from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents USA for “Seeking Refuge: The Story of Two Women I Know,” a story published in The Wire. One of the individuals featured was the author’s grandmother who moved from Bangladesh to make a new home in India. 

So many good storytellers. And stories that underscore the need to heal divides and eradicate inequities. Congratulations to all our Reporting Fellows and alums! It’s been a great joy and a special privilege to work with you—and to see your ideas develop and your stories go live.