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Pulitzer Center Update April 26, 2024

“People Have a Right To Know”: Rosa Schwartzburg Speaks to Students About Investigating Military

Call of Duty
Rosa presents to a classroom at Forsyth
Rosa Schwartzburg at Forsyth Technical Community College. Image by Ethan Widlansky. United States, 2024.

Gamified military strategies are centuries old. Gamified weapons technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles in service of “asymmetric warfare” are decades old. Gamified military recruiting, however, may be something new. 

Rosa Schwartzburg, who reported on the subject for The Guardian with support from the Pulitzer Center, spoke to an audience of students and faculty at Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina about her military esports recruiting investigation and her career. 

The United States military is on edge as it tracks conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East and rising tensions with China. It is also facing the worst recruiting crisis since becoming an all-volunteer army after the Vietnam War, according to The Guardian

"The military points to the fact that most young people are ineligible to serve due to their weight, drug use or criminal records," Schwartzburg reports in the Guardian article. Others, however, say that recent publicity disseminated rapidly over the internet about racism, sexism, and white supremacy within the military; neglected veterans services; and legacies of occupation are greater deterrents for young people. 

“Every institution is going to come in with their own PR,” Schwartzburg told students and faculty at Forsyth. “My job is to contextualize it.” 

To reach young people in the United States today, the Army and Navy turned to esports. Notably, the United States Marine Corps has not, but they do partner with gaming influencers. Schwartzburg received an exclusive tour of the Navy’s esports facility in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Enlisted sailors who play Fortnite, Call of Duty, Valorant, and Rocket League find themselves on live Discord chat with 12-to-17-year-olds. "Officially, the military does not recruit anyone under age 17," according to The Guardian article. "In this case, 'recruit' means the formal process of signing a legally binding agreement to enlist. The military does, however, advertise to and interact directly with minors for the purposes of military recruitment."

This is not the military’s first dalliance with video games. America’s Army, one of the most-played, first-person shooter games, was developed by the United States Army and released in 2002. The Army went on to release nine other games in the America’s Army series. The Army designed these games to pique interest in a military career among agile and technically savvy young people, according to The Guardian

Schwartzburg said her story was “community-informed.” The work took inspiration from and Stars and Stripes. She spoke with groups like Veterans for Peace, which runs Gamers for Peace. Some members expressed disappointment in what they see as a recruiting boondoggle intended to bring young people into a military that has neglected veterans. 

At Forsyth, she discussed journalistic ethics, public records requests, interviews, drafting, and pitching. Schwartzburg approached the Pulitzer Center and The Guardian to bring her story, abuzz in military circles, to mainstream audiences. 

“What am I actually asking?” she directed aspiring journalists to ask themselves. “Who is interested in this, and who is interested in my particular spin on this?” 


Rose presents to a classroom
Image by Ethan Widlansky. United States, 2024.

Journalism is a “service career,” Schwartzburg said. There is no “one career path.” 

“People,” she said, “have a right to know.”

Watch the recording below.

Video courtesy of Forsyth Technical College. United States, 2024.


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