The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has awarded a 2022 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellowship to Jonathan “JD” Pells. The TCU journalism major will travel to Accra, Ghana, where he will move along the Cape Coast and inland to report on how gold mining has polluted rivers and farmlands that were previously the livelihoods of millions of Ghanaians. He credits journalism faculty members Patty Zamarripa, John Tisdale and Jean Marie Brown for introducing him to the fellowship, helping him brainstorm story topics and edit his proposal.
Pells says he arrived at the topic after a month of tedious brainstorming, yet it all came together one day by accident. After weeks of researching the impacts of American recycling on the West Africa region, Pells called the U.S. Embassy in Ghana to get information on import logs and shipping records, but was unsuccessful. Next, he contacted the Ghana Environmental Advocacy Group to ask if they could help. He called numbers he had found online, one being Ghanaian author Elizabeth Vaah. She told him the issue he should report on was not recycling, but oil and gold. She said the gold mining situation was receiving very little coverage by outside media, so this became the focus of his story.
Pells says he’s very grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a journalist. “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, so getting a grant to do so makes me happy,” he says. “I’m looking forward to going on this trip and, with much care and much cultural awareness, giving back to a community along the way.”