What I did this summer: Reporting from West Africa
Print journalism junior Paul Bowers has been telling stories that detail the world around him since he was a boy. Last spring, New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof surprised Bowers with the opportunity to expand his worldview. Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, announced that Bowers would be his reporting partner on a two-week trip to West Africa.
Bowers beat out 900 other applicants for the spot.
“The fact that Paul’s entry was viewed more favorably than students’ submissions from Harvard, Yale, University of North Carolina, and Columbia University Graduate School demonstrates everything that’s great about studying journalism,” said Carol Pardun, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. “If you are tenacious, brave and, yes, talented, the sky is the limit.”
Bowers stood out from the competition with an essay and video blog that expressed his need to share other peoples’ experiences. Kristof said it was Bowers’ compassionate storytelling that gave him the edge in the third-annual competition.
“I picked Paul partially because I thought he could effectively communicate with college students,” Kristof said in a video blog. “He had a great record of writing, he does blogs, and he knows video.”
During the May trip, Bowers was given free rein to blog about whatever he thought the rest of the world should see and hear. He posted daily stories and video blogs about his adventures with the locals and the struggles of everyday life in Liberia and Sierra Leone, two neighboring countries on the coast of West Africa.
Although he has been writing professionally since he was 13, Bowers said he was surprised by the amount of people who followed his online stories. Though he claims that friends and family made up the majority of his followers, people from Africa and across the United States have commented online about the truthfulness of his reporting.