OVERVIEW: DC Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Activities

Presented by:
Humanities Council of Washington, DC
Current Initiative: Centennial Campfires National Partner: The Pulitzer Prizes Local Partner: K-12 Institutions, Museums, Other, Public Television Subject: Journalism, K-12 Education, Other, Professional Development, Varies Audience: All, K-12, Youth/Teen

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, HumanitiesDC adapted its signature youth workforce leadership training program, Soul of the City, to focus on the objectives of the Campfires Initiative. This six-week, summer, humanities-infused journalism program welcomed 45 young people at the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts. Supported by the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, Soul of the City trained youth, ages 14-18, in various areas of journalism, introducing them to skilled practitioners, taking them to newsrooms, and facilitating their efforts to conduct a mock press conference. The program also introduced participants to The Washington Post newsroom, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in the heart of DC, while also providing them opportunities to write positive news stories about places in Anacostia, an area that has traditionally received unfavorable news coverage.

DC Quote 3Viewers of the DC public access television station were able to watch the mock press conference led by students, which was held in the Miracle Theatre in Ward Six. The press conference centered around the District government’s plans to redevelop the neighborhoods on either side of the Anacostia River through construction of the Eleventh Street Bridge Park. The Washington Informer’s Editor-in-Chief, Denise Rolark Barnes, met the program participants at this conference.


The first week of the program included a brief introduction to the program and instruction on the basics of journalistic practice: the ABCs (accuracy, balance, and clarity), defining and distinguishing personal opinions from community news, and media ethics. During that first week, students watched the “Celebration of 100 Years of Pulitzer Prizes” video and reviewed the Spring 2016 Columbia Journalism Review article about the Pulitzers. They also visited the brand new headquarters of The Washington Post and met several reporters, including Gene Park and Alexandra Laughlin, and photo editors including Dee Swann and Wendy Galietta.

DC Quote 2During the second week, participants visited the Newseum and heard from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael Williamson who shared his Pulitzer portfolio and trained them in the basic principles of photography. In the third week, the students were divided into two groups where they could visit the newsroom of Politico or the Office of DC Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment in the former BET headquarters in Northeast Virginia. At Politico, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Matt Wuerker lectured about his experiences in journalism and welcomed colleagues Christina Animashaun and Glenn Thrush to share their experiences. By the end of the week, student participants were drafting their own editorials, and creating their own editorial cartoons.

The fourth week was all prep for the mock press conference taking participants to the area in the middle of the Anacostia River where they interviewed and photographed other Summer Youth Employment Program participants engaged in trail clearance. They also learned from site supervisors about the Living Classroom concept for preserving the park’s natural features. At the press conference, participants were able to interview panelists including: Scott Kratz, director of the Eleventh Street Bridge Park Project, Washington Informer editor-in-chief Denise Rolark-Barnes, Darrin Davis from Anacostia River Realty, Philip Pannell from the Anacostia Coordinating Council, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg from the Capitol Hill Neighborhood, Doug Siglin from the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, and Tendani Mpulubusi-El, a neighborhood advocate from the Hillsdale community in Anacostia. The panelists were interviewed by the students on the merits of completing the bridge park.

DC QuoteShifting their attention from the local to the national level, Soul of the City participants in the fifth week listened to Mary Beth Tinker recount her experiences as a young person in “Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969),” the US Supreme Court case involving the free speech rights of students to protest the Vietnam conflict by wearing black armbands in school. Students also heard from Pulitzer Prize finalist Roger Thurow, who lectured the students about international reporting, focusing on his experience researching his book Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. During the last week of the program, the students wrapped up their work in anticipation of presenting it during the August closing ceremony. Students created photo portfolio displays, editorial cartoons and edited their news articles. Parents, outside guests including Federation President Esther Mackintosh and Pulitzer Prize Board Member Joyce Dehli attended, as well as the closing ceremony speaker Kyle Murdock from the Howard University Cathy Hughes School of Communications.


  • Washington Post
  • The Newseum
  • Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts
  • Washington Informer
  • Politico
  • Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program
  • Office of DC Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment


  • Michael Williamson, Photography (?)
  • Matt Wuerker, Editorial Cartooning (?)


  • Washington, DC

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