Lang Center Launches Three-Year Pulitzer Center Partnership

In response to growing student interest in exploring such issues through written and photographic journalism, filmmaking, and radio broadcasts, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility has entered into a three-year partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting ( Under a new Civic Journalism series, one Pulitzer-supported journalist will visit the campus each semester, along with other outside journalists.

In addition to the visiting speakers, one Swarthmore student will be selected each year for a summer fellowship with the Pulitzer Center. The fellowship will consist of an international reporting project completed with mentorship from Pulitzer Center staff and professional journalists.

Professor Emily Paddon Rhoads of the political science department, an integral figure in setting up the partnership, believes this will bring new opportunities to Swarthmore.

“Finding ways to always center the human experience … I think that it makes the issues we study more real to students … where it brings to life the theories, the concepts, we learn about. I see that as a priority for so many of the faculty at Swarthmore, and also something that students seek when they come to Swarthmore … and that’s what so much of journalism is about,” Paddon Rhoads said.

Professor Benjamin Berger, associate professor of political science and executive director of the Lang Center, was also heavily involved in the launch of the program and believes in the importance of journalism in our society.

“We are really thinking about the civic purposes of journalism … the more people are involved with the news, reading the newspapers, participating in making the news … and being attentive citizens, the better democracy works,” Berger said.  

The Civic Journalism series was officially launched this week with a visit from Marcia Biggs, an award-winning freelance journalist. Biggs spent over a decade reporting on humanitarian crises and conflicts in the Middle East, including covering the targeting of doctors in the Syrian civil war, the looting of Syrian antiquities, the different stages of the battle for Mosul in Iraq, Yazidi girls who escaped ISIS captivity, and American military veterans on the front lines fighting ISIS. At Swarthmore, she presented a guest lecture titled “Inside Yemen: Reporting on the Human Cost of War.”

Through speakers such as Biggs, the Lang Center is hoping to showcase journalism that sheds light on important and often underreported issues around the world. Future speakers this semester will include Walter Ricciardi of the World Health Organisation, Masha Gessen of The New Yorker, and Hansi Lo Wang ’09 from National Public Radio.  

“[The Lang Center] really wants to support in-depth journalism … not just the snippets, the things that get you to click, but what actually helps you to understand a really complicated issue … so that people can make more informed decisions about smaller things like what candidate to vote for? Or what ballot measures to support?” Associate Director of the Lang Center Katie Price said. “It’s not just any kind of journalism but this very particular kind of intellectually rigorous and ethically responsible journalism.” 

In particular, the Pulitzer partnered summer fellowship provides a unique opportunity for Swarthmore students interested in the global aspects of journalism. Jack Pokorny ’19, Urban Initiatives fellow and teaching assistant at the Lang Center, is excited about the opportunity for students to work with highly respected journalists.

 “I think the most outstanding part of the whole partnership is the fact that the Pulitzer Center offers this partnership for one student, and hopefully that can grow to more than one student in the future. But the fact that they are willing to say this student, if selected, can go and work with a professional journalist for a couple months, and really develop a project. I’ve talked to New York Times writers and NPR … and the idea of working with another person, much less an inexperienced person, just doesn’t happen in the field … that’s really interesting, this is really, really big,” said Pokorny.

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