APRIL 18, 2016 – Stanford Journalism alumna Mary Rajkumar (MA ’91) was a part of The Associated Press team that was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for uncovering egregious labor abuses related to American seafood supply.

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Rajkumar, the AP’s international enterprise editor, oversaw the “Seafood from Slaves” investigation that led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry. Rajkumar, along with AP journalists Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan, were recognized with the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

“It’s wonderful to win a Pulitzer, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the real heroes here are the enslaved men,” Rajkumar said. “They risked their lives in many cases to talk to us and bring their plight before the world. The least we can do as consumers is to listen, and to pay a lot more attention to where our food is coming from.”

Here is the AP’s description of the series:

Over the course of 18 months, Associated Press journalists located men held in cages, tracked ships and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The reporters’ dogged effort led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood they caught to supermarkets and pet food providers across the U.S. For this investigation, AP has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Rajkumar led the team of four reporters — “I am immensely proud of my team!” — and worked with them on reporting strategies, as well as the vision for and execution of the stories.

A 1991 master’s graduate of the Stanford Journalism Program, Rajkumar said she found the degree helped give her credibility as she began her career: “It also gave me, as an international student at the time, the benefit of a full immersion in American journalism. The degree is a great launching point – what you do from there is up to you!”

Now, 25 years later, Rajkumar is more optimistic that ever about her advice for young students and journalists entering the field.

“Chances are that you got into journalism at least in part because you want to contribute to a better world, in however big or small a way. Hold on to that,” she said. “Despite all the gloom and doom about where the media is headed, this is at its very best a profession where you can touch lives. And that is both humbling and immensely rewarding.”

See the full Associated Press “Seafood from Slaves” series: http://www.ap.org/explore/seafood-from-slaves/

Follow Mary Rajkumar on Twitter: @maryrajkumar