Jon Sawyer


Jon Sawyer was chief executive officer and president of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a nonprofit organization that funds independent reporting with the intent of raising the standard of media coverage of global affairs and that also supports a broad range of educational initiatives. Sawyer became the center's founding director after a 31-year career with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Projects supported by the Pulitzer Center have won five Pulitzer Prizes, three Peabodys, seven Robert F. Kennedy Awards, 11 Overseas Press Club awards, four George Polk awards, and best online reporting honors from the National Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the National Press Foundation. The Center’s educational programs now encompass hundreds of k-12 schools and nearly 40 university, community college, and HBCU partner institutions.

Sawyer was selected three years in a row for the National Press Club's award for best foreign reporting. His work has been honored by the Overseas Press Club, the Inter-American Press Association, and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. His reporting on defense procurement contract abuses won the top investigative reporting prize among large newspapers from IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors). His reporting on the problems of nuclear waste disposal was honored by the Atomic Industrial Forum and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sawyer's projects for the Pulitzer Center have included reporting from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Bangladesh, China, Haiti, and the Caucasus. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera English, the Nieman Reports, To the Point, and PBS NewsHour. He was executive producer of LiveHopeLove.com, the Center's Emmy-award-winning website on HIV in Jamaica, and also of The Abominable Crime, a feature-length documentary on homophobia and stigma.

Sawyer was the Post-Dispatch Washington bureau chief from 1993 through 2005. He had been a member of the newspaper's Washington bureau since 1980 and before that worked in St. Louis, first as an editorial writer and then as a staff reporter. His assignments for the Post-Dispatch took him to some five dozen countries, with special projects ranging from southern Africa, Cuba, and Haiti to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Israel, the Balkans, and China.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States Sawyer focused much of his reporting on the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries. He reported from Central Asia during the fall of 2001 and from Sudan, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt during 2002. In 2003 he reported on a four-nation tour through the Middle East just before the Iraq war and to Iran just after. He reported from Afghanistan in 2004. And from Beirut and England in 2005 as part of a project on Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. In early 2006 he reported from Sudan, including Darfur, for the Post-Dispatch and for the public-television program Foreign Exchange.

He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1974, majoring in English literature and history, and during the 1978-79 academic year was an Alfred Sloan Fellow in Economics Journalism at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy. In the fall of 1992 he was a research fellow affiliated with the Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Sawyer was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He attended public schools there and is a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy. He and his wife, children's book author Kem Knapp Sawyer, have three daughters, seven grandchildren, and a miniature Schnauzer.


Speeches and articles

  • Pulitzer Center 15th anniversary celebration (video highlights and transcript of remarks), Harold Pratt House, New York, December 9, 2021.
  • Jon Sawyer on the launch of NewsArts initiative, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECC), Winston-Salem, North Carolina, November 17, 2016.
  • With Scott Anderson at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, videotaped discussion of "Fractured Lands" project for The New York Times, November 2, 2016.
  • Jon Sawyer's remarks, celebration of the Pulitzer Center's 10th anniversary, National Press Club, Washington, D.C., October 8, 2016.
  • Pulitzer Prizes Centennial: Living the Pulitzer Legacy, Jon Sawyer's remarks, Columbia University School of Journalism, New York, April 6, 2016.
  • Video animation "Our Story," presented at 10th Anniversary dinner, Harold Pratt House, New York, April 5, 2016.
  • Jon Sawyer's remarks and toast, 10th anniversary celebration, Harold Pratt House, New York, April 5, 2016.
  • Jon Sawyer at Tallahassee Economic Club, October 23, 2015. "The Case for Hope in a Gloomy Time." Click here to view.
  • Jon Sawyer at Arbor Acres Retirement Community, August 24, 2015. "The World Is Better Than You Think." Click here to view.
  • Jon Sawyer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Institute of World Affairs, February 24, 2015. "Bringing the Story Home: The Pulitzer Center Approach." Click here to view.
  • Jon Sawyer's op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 21, 2015. Click here to read.
  • Jon and Kem Sawyer discuss the Pulitzer Center's journey. Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida, Jan. 29, 2015. Click here to view.
  • Congo's Children, an e-book co-authored with Pulitzer Center contributing editor Kem Knapp Sawyer. July 2014.
  • Jon Sawyer addressed graduates of the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, on April 27, 2012.
  • Jon Sawyer delivers the James C. Millstone Memorial Lecture, titled "Bringing Stories Home: New Approaches to Covering the World," at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, October 6, 2011.
  • Jon Sawyer discusses the decline of foreign news coverage by U.S. media organizations and how the Pulitzer Center is trying to counteract this trend in the American Journalism Review. December 2010.
  • Jon Sawyer discusses the Pulitzer Center model and his international reporting experience in Inc, a publication put out by the Society of Professional Journalists at Ohio University. October 29, 2010.
  • Jon Sawyer's address to the Students for Global Media and Diversity meeting at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University. October 22, 2010. Click here to listen.
  • Jon Sawyer's series of videos regarding proposal writing, grant selection, preparing for an international reporting trip, and the importance of covering international news. Ohio University. October 22, 2010. Watch the video series.
  • Jon Sawyer's remarks to the college presidents and provosts at the Bonner Program's 20th Anniversary Program, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, June 2, 2010. Click here to read.
  • Jon Sawyer's keynote address at the "New Journalism, New Ethics?" conference hosted by the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Madison, Wisconsin, April 30, 2010. Click here to read.
  • Jon Sawyer's acceptance of the National Press Foundation Award for Excellence in Online Journalism, on behalf of the Pulitzer Center, February 16, 2010. Washington, D.C. Click here to view.
  • Jon Sawyer's address to the Southeastern World Affairs Institute, Black Mountain, North Carolina, July 26, 2009. Click here to read.
  • "Foreign reporting, the entrepreneurial and multimedia way," Jon Sawyer Q and A with Online Journalism Review, May 15, 2009. Click here to read.
  • "Broken News: What went wrong, and how to make it right," Jon Sawyer's speech at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, February 2, 2009. Click here to read.
  • "Reeling Them In: Building an Audience for News Video," Jon Sawyer on a YouTube panel with representatives from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN, January 12, 2009. Click here to watch.
  • Jon Sawyer's speech "Managing the fear factor: The media's role in a time of transition" at the retreat at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, December 16-18, 2008. Click here to read.
  • Pulitzer Center Director Jon Sawyer addresses the Houston World Affairs Council, August 26, 2008. Click here to read.
  • Jon Sawyer's address to the Southeastern World Affairs Institute, Black Mountain, North Carolina, July 27, 2008. Click here to read.
  • Jon Sawyer at the Global Health Council annual media awards, June 2008. Click here to watch.
  • Jon Sawyer's address to the Southeastern World Affairs Institute, Black Mountain, North Carolina, July 29, 2007. Click here to read.
  • Jon Sawyer's address to the Southeastern World Affairs Institute, Black Mountain, North Carolina, July 30, 2006. Click here to read.
  • "Reporting Crisis: The Stories We Miss, and Why." Speech by Director Jon Sawyer to the Wake County United Nations Association. October 26, 2006. Click here to read.
  • "Media Misfires: Lessons from a Troubled Time," address by Pulitzer Center Director Jon Sawyer to The Roundtable, St. Louis, Missouri, February 2, 2006. Click here to read.
  • Awakenings: Beyond the Soviet Union, a 1991 series for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse.
  • Back to the Future, a 1994 series for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on tensions in the former Soviet Union over economic, political and cultural challenges.
Jon Sawyer stands next to a bay