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With Help From the Pulitzer Center, Stephanie Hanes Tells Stories of Hope

Photo: Tim Young

On April 2, Hunter College students and faculty joined the journalist Stephanie Hanes at the Roosevelt House for a discussion on Hanes’ series The Climate Generation

With the support of the Pulitzer Center and The Christian Science Monitor, Hanes and other reporters conceived of the series as a follow-up to an acclaimed 1980s package of stories called Children in Darkness, which focused on the hardships facing children around the world. 

For that project, two reporters and a photojournalist traveled the world to tell the stories of children working in mines and factories, others consigned to prostitution and slavery. Children in Darkness was released in 1987, and two years later, the United Nations established the Convention on the Rights of the Child

“This move was a breathtaking international recognition,” said Hanes. “Not just that this thing called childhood existed, but that young people themselves had inalienable rights.”

A few years ago, Hanes and fellow reporters thought of updating the Children in Darkness series. But, they realized that while those earlier stories helped to reveal the injustices children were facing, they wanted to help people imagine better futures as well. They wanted the new series to focus on hope.

Hanes said that although young people today were born with inalienable rights, they also were born at a time of unprecedented environmental change. This, she believed, was cause for optimism. 

“We realized that climate change is transformative and because of it, young people are reshaping ideas from everything about how we live,” Hanes said. 

Hanes and the other reporters then went to tell the story of what the new generation was doing in places that were the most affected by environmental change. Reporting the series took them to countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, as well as parts of North America. 

In Barbados, young people are finding ways to turn climate change into a business. One young man, Joshua Forte, began harvesting large amounts of sargassum seaweed and using it to make compost to help the island’s homegrown agricultural system.

In the Arctic, indigenous elders are teaching young people in their communities how to interact with the land in a way that honors traditional belief systems, which also, incidentally, helps to protect the environment. 

After sharing the stories and research she and other reporters found through their work on the series, Hanes and Hunter’s Journalism Program Director Sissel McCarthy had a short discussion and Q&A with the audience. 

Hanes explained that what made the series impactful was having good characters that connect with the audience, and stories that connect readers with human experience. She also highlighted the importance of writing stories that inspire readers to find hope and creative solutions. 

Hanes noted that journalists often focus on the threats of climate change, rather than the solutions. “It does have doom and gloom in some places,” she said, “but it’s also a transition, and in this transition there’s an awful lot of hope.”

Our Journalism Concentration & Minor

The Hunter College journalism program is offered as a concentration or a minor within the Department of Film & Media Studies. Its curriculum is built around production courses in journalism and analytical courses in media studies. Learn more about our course requirements.

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