By Sarah Hubbart
SMPA graduate student Hadas Gold (MA '11) will soon be packing her bags for Argentina as the winner of the competitive SMPA-Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting student fellowship for 2011. As the recipient of this prestigious prize, she will gain hands-on international journalism experience on a reporting trip co-sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the School of Media and Public Affairs — receiving up to $4000 to cover her expenses.
Gold’s project will take her to Buenos Aires to investigate the lives of the cartoneros – “cardboard pickers” – who make a living by collecting and selling recyclables. Their way of life is being threatened by a new government-run recycling program, an ironic and unintended consequence of the city’s attempt to protect the environment.
“It’s really a story of two good guys turned against each other — the government and the working poor,” Gold said, adding that she first learned of the conflict while studying abroad.
GWU is one of a six-university consortium that partners with the Pulitzer Center to send students overseas to report on critical issues. Last year, the Pulitzer Center provided seven grants during its inaugural season.
Ann Peters, Director of Development and Outreach for the Pulitzer Center, said that the fellowship offers a unique opportunity for students to report across themes and put their own twist on important issues. She said that one of the most beneficial aspects of the fellowship program is the opportunity for students to be paired with mentors in the field.
Pulitzer Center Managing Director Nathalie Applewhite added that the real-world experience of meeting deadlines and making connections with established reporters is another career-building bonus.
“The program gets students to apply skills that would be useful to them going forward, such as creating audio slideshows, blogs, and video,” Applewhite said. “The sky is the limit!”
Gold plans to begin her trip in August and will complete production of her multimedia project - a 15 minute documentary, updated blog, photo essay, and slideshow - by the end of 2012. Her work will be distributed to numerous American media outlets and made available as well through the Pulitzer Center's own website.
"The most important skill involved in this Pulitzer/SMPA Fellowship is the ability to find, pursue and convey a compelling human story," said SMPA director Frank Sesno. "We need to know our world, to find ways to explain how connected humanity has become and why it matters. Initiatives such as this nurture and reward the discipline of storytelling. It reinforces everything our students have learned in the classroom and have experienced in their work and internships."
Now in her fifth year at GWU as part of SMPA’s dual-degree program, Gold will graduate with her undergraduate and graduate degrees in strategic communication in December. In the future, Gold said that she would love to try her hand as a shoe leather journalist or manage communications for a non-profit.
“SMPA was the best part of GWU for me,” she said.