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Megha Rajagopalan

Combining Language Skills and Satellites to Break the Story of the Year

Megha Rajagopalan
Journalist
2010 Fulbright U.S. Student to China

Person standing against wall, smiling and with arms crossed, in a black dress with quarter sleeves

In a series of stories published in 2020, Megha Rajagopalan harnessed geospatial technology and old-fashioned reporting to expose the scale of the internment of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province. For this piece of groundbreaking journalism Rajagopalan, along with her BuzzFeed News colleagues Alison Killing and Christo Buschek, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. She became one of 89 Fulbright alumni who have won a total of 95 Pulitzer Prizes.

Rajagopalan previously reported on the links between Facebook and religious violence in Sri Lanka, for which she won a Mirror Award in 2019. She is also the recipient of the Asia 21 Young Leader Award (2019) and the Human Rights Press Award (2018). In her spare time, she volunteers as a career mentor for the Coalition for Women in Journalism and Report For America.

Rajagopalan’s work has been translated into 7 languages, read in classrooms at Columbia and New York Universities, and anthologized in 2018’s What Future: The Year’s Best Writing on What’s Next for People, Technology, and the Planet. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, WIRED, CNN.com, Foreign Policy, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

Rajagopalan, who speaks Tamil and Mandarin Chinese, says she was inspired by her time living and working in China. As a Fulbright U.S. Student in Beijing, she conducted research on the Chinese news media. This experience assisted her during her first job in international reporting at Reuters in Beijing, allowing her to better understand some of the major issues in China and to develop new sources.

While on her Fulbright in China, she received a Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA), which enabled her to undertake Chinese language immersion at the Inter-University Program at Tsinghua University, strengthening her language skills to the point that she could carry out interviews and consume Chinese news. She also had the chance to meet and learn from accomplished Chinese journalists and scholars whose knowledge and advice helped to shape her career path. 

Rajagopalan has reported from 23 countries in Asia and the Middle East on stories ranging from the North Korean nuclear crisis to the peace process in Afghanistan. She has covered stories across the region from the Philippines to North Korea, with her recent work focusing on technology and human rights. As a staff correspondent for BuzzFeed News for five years, she was previously based in China, Thailand, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Prior to her time at BuzzFeed, she worked as a political correspondent for Reuters in China, where she reported on diplomacy and security. She was previously a research fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington, D.C., and an intern at ProPublica, reporting on digital privacy, security and freedom.

Rajagopalan, born to parents from India, was raised in Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland. She is grateful for her supportive family, but she understands the importance of getting outside of one’s comfort zone. To that end, she provides some advice for students considering going on an international exchange program like Fulbright stating, “I would encourage [students] to acquire language skills if they can because that’s a great thing to spend time on in college … Also, keep an open mind and try not to spend all your time with your American friends.”

The Fulbright Program congratulates Megha Rajagopalan on her 2021 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and salutes her for shining a light on stories that offer readers a chance to be better informed about the world that we all share.