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Pulitzer Center Update February 3, 2015

This Week: Bringing Timbuktu into the Classroom


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About a year ago, Associate Editor Katherine Doyle began work with Montreal-based game design studio Decode Global and colleagues from the Pulitzer Center on what has become "TB2: Mali's Ancient Manuscripts," the Pulitzer Center's first educational game.

"From the outset, we wanted to design for students and to root our story in a project we'd supported. We also hoped to go beyond a literal interpretation of what it's like to be a journalist, and what it means to get to know a different culture," Katherine says. "By granting agency to players to uncover clues at their own pace, they'll more quickly and more deeply develop a rapport with characters and with the task at hand. Ultimately, TB2 was designed to give players a taste of the wide world and its many treasures."

Our narrative was inspired by Pulitzer Center-supported Saharan Insecurity project, with Peter Gwin, a writer and editor at National Geographic. His reports introduced the city's history as an ancient center of learning and the modern-day risks it faced. We hope "TB2: Mali's Ancient Manuscripts" explores a little more about what made the city so extraordinary.

"In January, we had the pleasure of working with teacher Tracy Crowley and testing the latest TB2 release with more than 70 fifth-grade students at Robert Frost Elementary School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. It was a hit!" Katherine says.

If you're an educator interested in working with us, please contact Katherine at kdoyle[AT]

Generous support from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation (ESAF) made it possible for the Pulitzer Center to take a first step into the world of educational games and work with a highly skilled team. We're grateful to Peter Gwin and to our friends at Robert Frost and Decode Global.


Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone was an Ebola epidemic waiting to happen. "Like many developing world cities, Freetown…lacks the infrastructure to support its impoverished populace, making it prone to tragedy, whether through pestilence, violence, or natural disaster," writes Pulitzer Center grantee Amy Maxmen in this sobering dispatch for National Geographic.

"Despite its congestion, Freetown continues to attract people who come in search of work, school, and the mere promise of electricity. It's no coincidence that typhoid and cholera regularly plague Freetown and that Sierra Leone's civil war climaxed in the city with horrific bloodshed," says Amy.

In early September 2014, there were 79 reported cases of Ebola in Freetown. By the end of December there were 2,766 cases and the crisis was threatening to spin out of control. Freetown's struggle against Ebola is unquestionably the result of its density and poverty, but as one expert told Amy, "The core crux of the problem is not Ebola, it's system failure… Ebola is only the symptom, the disease is weak institutions."


Meanwhile, in Liberia, the other West African country hit hard by the epidemic, the World Health Organization announced that as of January 24 only five confirmed cases of Ebola remained in all of the country.

Pulitzer Center grantee Brian Castner, writing for Foreign Policy, reports that treatment centers built by the U.S. military are now sitting mostly empty, prompting criticism that the large international response was too little and too late to be of any real use in the fight. Brian toured one of the clinics near the Sierra Leone border in mid-January.

"The facilities could still be of value," he says, "because they increase the Liberian government's capacity to deal with future cases on its own, and provide an opportunity to snuff out the disease locally before it has time to spread."

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor

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