Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Aug 27

On July 16, 2013, the death by pesticide of 23 Indian schoolchildren exposed the tragic shortcomings of India’s program of free school lunches. No one disputes that the program itself is essential.

The food was contaminated by pesticides, a case of negligence on the part of the school principal, who was tasked with overseeing the lunch program. The principal and her husband were later charged with murder.

The case horrified the country. And it put a spotlight on India’s mid-day meal program, perhaps the largest free lunch program in the world. First launched in 1995, it now feeds 120 million school children across India. But it’s been criticized for corruption, inefficiency and a lack of monitoring and enforcement of standards.

The program came with lofty goals: feed hungry children and boost school enrollment. So I set off to find out if it has been successful.

Read Rhitu Chatterjee’s articles about India’s school lunch program and its impact, especially on women and children here

The collaboration between the Pulitzer Center, Free Spirit Media, After School Matters, and a talented group of inner-city Chicago teens has resulted in a stellar quartet of video documentaries, on topics ranging from food deserts and diversity to family relationships and the pros and cons of violent video games.
The video documentaries they shot, showcased earlier this month at Chicago’s Power House High School, included a moving tribute inspired by Pulitzer grantee Carlos Javier Ortiz’s work on gun violence that focused on the struggles—and the triumphs—of family relationships.

The collaboration between the Pulitzer Center, Free Spirit Media, After School Matters, and a talented group of inner-city Chicago teens has resulted in a stellar quartet of video documentaries, on topics ranging from food deserts and diversity to family relationships and the pros and cons of violent video games.

The video documentaries they shot, showcased earlier this month at Chicago’s Power House High School, included a moving tribute inspired by Pulitzer grantee Carlos Javier Ortiz’s work on gun violence that focused on the struggles—and the triumphs—of family relationships.

Aug 26

A third of a million Peruvians make their living from gold mining, but illegal tactics and deforestation methods are damaging the environment and inflicting health risks on the local population.
"After years of ignoring the frantic gold rush fouling the Amazon forests of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region, the government has launched a no-mercy campaign to crush it,” former Pulitzer Center grantee Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.
In 2011, senior producer for the Pulitzer Center Steve Sapienza reported on the dangerous conditions faced by small-scale miners in this region. His work is featured in the Pulitzer Center e-book Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold.

A third of a million Peruvians make their living from gold mining, but illegal tactics and deforestation methods are damaging the environment and inflicting health risks on the local population.

"After years of ignoring the frantic gold rush fouling the Amazon forests of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region, the government has launched a no-mercy campaign to crush it,” former Pulitzer Center grantee Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.

In 2011, senior producer for the Pulitzer Center Steve Sapienza reported on the dangerous conditions faced by small-scale miners in this region. His work is featured in the Pulitzer Center e-book Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold.

CHICAGO: STREET TRUTHSThe collaboration between the Pulitzer Center, Free Spirit Media, After School Matters, and a talented group of inner-city Chicago teens has resulted in a stellar quartet of video documentaries, on topics ranging from food deserts and diversity to family relationships and the pros and cons of violent video games. In the summer initiative, now in its fifth year, student teams pair with Pulitzer Center journalists and FSM’s video production mentors. They learn about global issues, explore the local repercussions, and brainstorm ways to bring those stories home. The video documentaries they shot, showcased earlier this month at Chicago’s Power House High School, included a moving tribute inspired by Pulitzer grantee Carlos Javier Ortiz’s work on gun violence that focused on the struggles—and the triumphs—of family relationships. Carlos’s documentaries “are about violence, so our first thought was to [report on] teen domestic violence,” 18-year-old Christian Tyms, a program participant, told Pulitzer Center Education Coordinator Amanda Ottaway. “But then we were thinking about the struggle that a parent has…of raising a teen; the struggle that they have with each other, with communicating.” The result? A poignant, memorable message for teens and parents both. MIDDLE EAST: COLLATERAL DAMAGEAlice Su and Jenna Krajeski continue their authoritative work on the roiling complexities of multiple conflicts in the Middle East—Jenna with a dispatch for Harper’s Magazine on the challenges faced by a small mental health clinic in Iraq’s Kurdistan and Alice with a report for The Atlantic on the consequences of decisions by Jordan and Lebanon to deny legal status to Palestinians fleeing Syria’s civil war. The beheading of journalist James Foley by IS (the Islamic State) is the subject of two important articles, one by Pulitzer Center board member David Rohde for Reuters and one by Pulitzer Center grantee James Harkin for Vanity Fair. Both address the impact of disparate policies on ransom payments—the U.S. and British governments refuse to pay but others do—and debate over whether kidnappings should be publicized. “What is clear is that we need to begin a conversation about how to deal with this cruel and growing threat to human life and dignity – and how we can keep ourselves from being held hostage to such threats,” James writes. “Otherwise it’s not only fine and brave journalists like James Foley who will be held at gunpoint. The hostages will also be us.” SOUTH SUDAN: WAR A PRELUDE TO FAMINE?Pulitzer Center grantee Ty McCormick, writing for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post, reports on the deadly consequences of continued civil war in South Sudan. Factional infighting among top government leaders has made a mockery of hopes that greeted creation of the world’s newest nation. UNICEF and World Food Program officials warn that famine is now a real threat and that as many as 50,000 children face death by acute malnutrition by the end of the year. "This is as bad as I’ve ever seen it," Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told Ty. "By the end of the year, we’re facing a situation where one out of every two people in South Sudan are either going to have a real threat to their lives because of hunger or they will have been displaced from their homes … or they will have fled from the country.”

CHICAGO: STREET TRUTHS

The collaboration between the Pulitzer Center, Free Spirit Media, After School Matters, and a talented group of inner-city Chicago teens has resulted in a stellar quartet of video documentaries, on topics ranging from food deserts and diversity to family relationships and the pros and cons of violent video games.
 
In the summer initiative, now in its fifth year, student teams pair with Pulitzer Center journalists and FSM’s video production mentors. They learn about global issues, explore the local repercussions, and brainstorm ways to bring those stories home. The video documentaries they shot, showcased earlier this month at Chicago’s Power House High School, included a moving tribute inspired by Pulitzer grantee Carlos Javier Ortiz’s work on gun violence that focused on the struggles—and the triumphs—of family relationships.
 
Carlos’s documentaries “are about violence, so our first thought was to [report on] teen domestic violence,” 18-year-old Christian Tyms, a program participant, told Pulitzer Center Education Coordinator Amanda Ottaway. “But then we were thinking about the struggle that a parent has…of raising a teen; the struggle that they have with each other, with communicating.” The result? A poignant, memorable message for teens and parents both.
 
MIDDLE EAST: COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Alice Su and Jenna Krajeski continue their authoritative work on the roiling complexities of multiple conflicts in the Middle East—Jenna with a dispatch for Harper’s Magazine on the challenges faced by a small mental health clinic in Iraq’s Kurdistan and Alice with a report for The Atlantic on the consequences of decisions by Jordan and Lebanon to deny legal status to Palestinians fleeing Syria’s civil war.
 
The beheading of journalist James Foley by IS (the Islamic State) is the subject of two important articles, one by Pulitzer Center board member David Rohde for Reuters and one by Pulitzer Center grantee James Harkin for Vanity Fair. Both address the impact of disparate policies on ransom payments—the U.S. and British governments refuse to pay but others do—and debate over whether kidnappings should be publicized.
 
“What is clear is that we need to begin a conversation about how to deal with this cruel and growing threat to human life and dignity – and how we can keep ourselves from being held hostage to such threats,” James writes. “Otherwise it’s not only fine and brave journalists like James Foley who will be held at gunpoint. The hostages will also be us.”
 
SOUTH SUDAN: WAR A PRELUDE TO FAMINE?

Pulitzer Center grantee Ty McCormick, writing for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post, reports on the deadly consequences of continued civil war in South Sudan. Factional infighting among top government leaders has made a mockery of hopes that greeted creation of the world’s newest nation. UNICEF and World Food Program officials warn that famine is now a real threat and that as many as 50,000 children face death by acute malnutrition by the end of the year.
 
"This is as bad as I’ve ever seen it," Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told Ty. "By the end of the year, we’re facing a situation where one out of every two people in South Sudan are either going to have a real threat to their lives because of hunger or they will have been displaced from their homes … or they will have fled from the country.”

Aug 25

Meg Jones, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Meghan Dhaliwal were in Afghanistan for two weeks to write about the America’s Afghanistan drawdown. Read more about their journey and visit the project page, Afghanistan: Packing Up War. 

Aug 24

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This was my first time witnessing India’s mid-day meal program in action. I was touched by the sight. There’s something about the sight of emaciated children eating hot, freshly cooked food that they wouldn’t otherwise get that doesn’t allow you to be the detached, distant observer that we journalists often are.

But it wasn’t until I ventured deeper into the state of Haryana, into one of its hunger-stricken areas, that I really understood the program’s impact on children. As I describe in this story, in a village in the district of Bhiwani, most children go to school having eaten just a left-over piece of bread and tea, or baasi roti aur chai, as mothers in the village would put it. Most families can’t afford vegetables or lentils or eggs.

As a journalist writing about health and development, I knew how widespread hunger and malnutrition still are in my country. But I’d never witnessed what that looks like for real people until I started reporting this series. And it was this project that helped me understand how a relatively simple idea of one freshly cooked meal a day benefits India’s millions of poor children.

Read more from Rhitu Chatterjee’s project, A Free Meal: India’s School Lunch Program.

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After a couple of years of relative quiet, Thailand’s political turmoil resumed again a few months ago when the Red Shirts’ mortal foes, the Yellow Shirts, mounted protests that effectively prevented the government from functioning, and this time the army took over in a coup d’état. The resilience of groups like the motorcycle taxi drivers, however, is likely to make it difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the new junta to maintain undisputed control—or to turn the government over to any civilian party that the drivers and others like them view as deadly rivals.

Motorcycle taxis are a large and, more important, representative constituency. If you want to get someplace quickly in traffic-choked Bangkok, your best bet is to take a two-wheeled motorcycle taxi, even if it doesn’t feel entirely safe to weave through traffic the way they do, squeezing in the tight spaces between slowly moving cars. There are some 200,000 motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok, most of them licensed, some of them not, recognizable by the orange vests they wear as they infiltrate the traffic, or wait for customers under corrugated metal awnings. They make 4 to 6 million trips a day, which means that the motorcycle taxis carry ten times as many passengers as Bangkok’s smooth-as-silk rapid transit system.

These drivers are, in other words, indispensable for local transportation.
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Richard Bernstein’s project, Thailand: Is Democracy Doomed? http://bit.ly/thailandmotorcycle

Aug 23

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There is no way to treat patients who don’t know that they have TB, and it’s estimated that a person with TB who goes untreated will infect between 10 and 15 people every year. So even if things inside the walls of a hospital are running smoothly, it is what is happening outside the clinics and hospitals that is most important.

If there is a good health system in the cities but not in the countryside, then the disease will continue to spread. Because TB is contagious and airborne, no half measures can be effective in ending the disease. That is one of the reasons that the funding gaps we are exploring in this project are so worrying. TB is a powerful disease that is present across the globe. If you don’t fully fund the fight against TB, then every dollar you spend will only make a small difference and then be washed away.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee David Rochkind’s project: The Price of Health: TB Budget Gaps in Vietnam

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Too often stories that examine family planning, adolescent exposure to HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and access to primary education for girls are considered soft news. Features routinely relegated to “Special Topics” or the SundayOutlook and Style sections.

The reality is that the challenges of population growth, environmental degradation, corporate greed, food security and even violent extremism can be traced back to these same issues with girls’ health, education, and human rights at the core.

Depriving girls of access to education has political, policy and legal ramifications to name but a few. And coverage of the tragedy still unfolding in northern Nigeria and elsewhere demonstrates that there’s a widespread, diverse and engaged audience to drive traffic to news organizations that prioritize stories on this subject.

Read Jennifer Koons’s full report from Niger here

“In areas where rebels are more trusted than doctors, [convincing] reluctant citizens that the vaccine is safe” is no easy task, reports Tik Root in The Washington Post. While the vaccination campaign has been made more difficult by the conflict, most of the obstacles facing the volunteers are not unique: fear, misinformation, social stigma, religious backlash, and lack of trained volunteers.

Pulitzer Center grantee Esha Chhabra found that the slow, but ultimately highly effective, polio campaign in India faced many of the same stumbling blocks. For her project, India: Polio-Free and Looking Ahead at mHealth, Chhabra traveled to Aligarh to report on the successes and failures of the campaign.