The Pulitzer Center student fellowship program offers undergraduate and graduate students at Campus Consortium member schools the opportunity to pursue an international reporting project and receive professional support from Pulitzer Center editors and journalists.
Adam Janofsky is a student at the University of Chicago majoring in Law, Letters & Society, and Political Science. A native of Baltimore, he has interned for Baltimore magazine, Details magazine, the Bangkok Post, and the Mayor of Chicago’s Press Office and Sustainability Office.
As a Pulitzer Center Student Fellow in summer 2012, Janofsky traveled to Thailand to report on the impact of unrestricted development in the country with a focus on the fishing industry. In a written interview with the Pulitzer Center, Janofsky shared some of his experiences. Excerpts from the interview follow.
Pulitzer Center (PC): What propelled you toward storytelling?
Adam Janofsky (AJ): I discovered my passion for writing through novels and literature, which I consider the greatest form of art. I wrote a lot of fiction in high school and completely neglected journalism — I actually don’t remember ever picking up a newspaper before I got to college. But once I started writing for my campus newspaper I realized how journalism can inform people and bring about change, which fiction can’t do. And it still has good writing at its core.
PC: Why did you decide to apply for the student reporting fellowship?
AJ: I had already made the decision to go to Southeast Asia and do reporting before I applied for the fellowship. The Pulitzer Center seemed like the perfect platform for what I wanted to report on, and the Center’s staff was such an incredible help while reporting. Also, the financial support allowed me to spend a lot of time reporting in the region and gave a lot more freedom to travel to places that were important for the story.
PC: Why did you choose to report on sustainability and conservation issues in Thailand?
AJ: In the winter before the fellowship I was working on sustainability initiatives for the Chicago Mayor’s Office and became really curious about how governments in rapidly developing countries deal with pollution and environmental hazards. When I started my reporting, I quickly realized that the answer is: they don’t. I tried to locate the areas of greatest concern, and with the help of some activists I was directed to the fishing industry, which is both massive and under-regulated. Although the industry is steeped in environmental dangers, it is also heavily involved in human trafficking and practices of modern day slave labor. My main stories dealt with the specifics of these two issues.
PC: What was it like to report from abroad?
AJ: It was my first time reporting abroad and it was a blast. I spent the weeks leading up to it worrying about language barriers, safety, cultural differences, and transportation difficulties. But I felt so comfortable only a couple days after arriving. It helps to have contacts or prior experience in the area you’re going, but the editors at the Pulitzer Center can also help with any difficulties you encounter (chances are, one of them will have reporting experience in the country you’re in).
PC: Did your experience as a fellow impact your plans for the future?
AJ: I’ve been balancing between law and journalism since I started college, and writing for the Pulitzer Center has nudged me towards journalism. It made me realize how important public service reporting is — which is sad because those are the types of projects that newspapers are less willing to take on and blogs are completely incapable of undertaking.
The University of Chicago is a member of the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium network.