Skip to main content

"Seafood from Slaves: From Investigation to Pulitzer Prize" panel event Oct. 10

For a year-and-a-half, alumna Margie Mason (BSJ, 1997) and three of her Associated Press (AP) colleagues fearlessly documented the harsh treatment of enslaved fishermen working on a remote Indonesian island.

Together they uncovered the stories of more than a thousand men who were locked in cages and abused to supply seafood to supermarkets and restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.

In 2015, the AP released the findings in the series “Seafood from Slaves.” The feature led to the arrests of dozens of alleged perpetrators, new U.S. legislation barring imports of slave-produced goods and the release of more than 2000 slaves.

For their investigation, Mason and her colleagues were awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service, as well as more than 30 additional journalism awards, including the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights International Journalism Award.

On Monday, October 10 at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms, Mason will return to West Virginia University along with fellow reporters, Esther Htusan, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza to present, “Seafood from Slaves: From Investigation to Pulitzer Prize.” The panelists will give a first-hand account of how their investigation unfolded, discuss their reporting tactics and what’s next for the investigation.

About the Moderator

Emily Corio is a teaching assistant professor at the WVU Reed College of Media who teaches courses in video and multimedia reporting. Before joining the staff in August 2011, Corio spent a decade working in journalism. She was Assistant News Director for the statewide public television and radio network in West Virginia. There she reported and produced stories for radio, television and the web, including award-winning pieces on environmental issues and breaking news. She was awarded a Knight Center for Environmental Journalism Fellowship in 2008 and traveled to Alaska to study impacts of climate change. Her radio reporting and stories have aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,” WNYC’s and PRI’s “The Takeaway,” and the CBC. In 2014, Corio won a “Best of Festival” award from the Broadcast Education Association for a story she produced on the recovery of the Cheat River due to mining pollution.

About the Panelists

Featured from left to right: Esther Htusan, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason(Featured from left to right: Esther Htusan, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason)

For more than a decade, Margie Mason has covered some of the biggest stories in the Asia-Pacific. Though she specializes in medical writing, including reporting from the front lines of SARS and bird flu, much of her enterprise work has focused on poverty and human rights abuses, often involving women and children in remote areas. Her interest in pursuing migrant fishermen forced to work on boats in Indonesia surfaced while reporting on the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Mason joined the AP in 1997 in Charleston, West Virginia, and was later based in San Francisco and Vietnam before her current posting in Indonesia. She has reported from more than 20 countries on four continents and co-authored an award-winning series on global drug resistance. She was a Nieman Global Health fellow at Harvard University and an Asian studies fellow at the University of Hawaii. She started working at her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, when she was 19 years old. She has a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

Since joining The Associated Press two years ago, Esther Htusan has relentlessly pursued stories about human rights abuses in Myanmar following a half-century of dictatorship. Her interest in covering Rohingya Muslims was almost unheard of in a country where much of the population—including local journalists—looked upon members of the long-persecuted minority with disdain. When Htusan joined the investigation into forced labor in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry, her compassion and resourcefulness in reporting led to some of the most powerful images the world has seen about modern day slavery: Men in a cage on a remote Indonesian island and interviews with men calling out over the side of their trawler. Some spoke of abuses at the hands of their captains and others begged The AP to tell families back home they were still alive.

The slave-fishing project was especially personal for Robin McDowell because it tied together the very countries she covered during her two-decade career in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, where for many poor men the brutal human trafficking trade began, she helped launch The Associated Press’ first regional editing desk. In Cambodia and Myanmar, home to most of the victims, she reported on the difficulties young democracies face after emerging from military rule, civil strife and horrific rights abuses. And in Indonesia, where men were trapped for years, sometimes decades, she oversaw a busy bureau as it responded to everything from earthquakes and tsunamis to terrorist attacks. McDowell went to Washington University in St. Louis and, after a few years in book publishing, to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Martha Mendoza is an Associated Press writer whose reports have won numerous awards and prompted Congressional hearings, Pentagon investigations and White House responses. She is part of the Asia-based team that wrote the 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Seafood from Slaves” reports, prompting the release of more than 2000 enslaved fishermen. She was also part of a team that won a 2000 Pulitzer Prize for reports that revealed the decades-old secret of how American soldiers early in the Korean War killed hundreds of civilians at the No Gun Ri Bridge. Mendoza is the recipient of numerous state, regional, national and international journalism awards. She has reported for the AP since 1997, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, New York, the Silicon Valley and Mexico City. She was a 2001 Knight Fellow at Stanford University and a 2007 Ferris Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. In 2013 she was named a Champion of Freedom by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and is a graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently based in Bangkok.

This free, public event is co-sponsored by the WVU Reed College of Media, Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series, David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas and WVU’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.