How one man’s 34,000 km walk is inspiring budding journalists across the world

 Out of eden walk, Paul salopek, nat geo, national geographic, journalists, workshops, journalism workshop, journalism tips

wo-time Pulitzer winner and National Geographic explorer Paul Salopek is on a 10-year walk from Ethiopia in Africa to the tip of South America to gather the untold stories from refugees, farmers, and nomads that journalists tend to ignore.

His 33,780 km Out of Eden walk which began in 2013 is inspiring budding journalists all over the world to open their eyes to the stories unfolding all around them in their own neighbourhoods and become storytellers themselves.

The Pulitzer-winner tracing the path that ancient humans took while migrating out of Africa to the rest of the continents way back in the Stone Age.

The incredible stories he has collected read like a modern fairytale, each chapter connected to the next as he moves from village to village guided by the characters he meets on the way.

Salopek conducted a free workshop for young journalists in New Delhi earlier this year. Interested journalists needed to submit an application and a portfolio of work to an online registration form.

The 4-day Chennai workshop was held on September 4-7 while the 4-day Kolkata workshop is planned for November 13-16.

Journalism learning projects in partnership with Out of Eden

Salopek has been walking for five years now and since the time he started the project, he knew there would be a learning element in this. He figured that taking kids on a long walk was a great way to get children interested and aware of current events, and also become better global citizens.

“So you grab them by the hand and take them on a digital storytelling walk like their uncle would take them for a walk around the neighbourhood. But now, we can take them across the world,” says the explorer in a conversation with India Today Education.

“They write essays, they take walks around their neighbourhood, they often work on themes like immigration, migration of the environment, and they share them saying things like ‘Hi, I am from Delhi, from a secondary school. I am walking around my neighbourhood and this is what I saw’,” Salopek explains.

Paul Salopek spends time with a student during Photo Camp at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission in Banbasa, India. Join the journey at by Clifton Shipway/National Geographic Photo Camp)

How young storytellers can do away with tainted, second-hand news

Paul Salopek’s project encourages young children and journalism students to walk around their neighbourhood and be storytellers themselves instead of just having conversations on various topics on the internet.

They can then share their story with someone doing something similar in Mexico or Australia, and the reverse happens as well.

This enables people to get unbiased news straight from the source and free from any news contamination that often happens when it is running through various red tapes and middlemen.

Moreover, it teaches children to record the environment and not just speak to people of their own age, but also younger and older generations — not just from their own community but around the world. The platform of Out of Eden Learn provides them with the tools to use Salopek’s work as a launching pad and become storytellers themselves.

“It is not the usual interface where the communication is binary — either yes or no, like or unlike, thumbs up or thumbs down — there is much more analysis which gets them to do critical thinking, gets them to develop narrative skills,” says Salopek.

Out of Eden stories are part of North American schools

Salopek’s project has yet another partner — the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting — which takes the work he is doing and shares it in a much more formal way through curriculums in North American schools.

“This is also an immense learning tool for children as they can tap into the source information I am collecting from Ethiopia or Rajasthan and add it to their global history, English, Geography or Sociology lessons. I am like their correspondent,” says the journalist.

How Salopek’s reporting is used in university-level journalism departments

Out of Eden has a fourth partner Don Belt who is doing University Outreach. He takes the work of Out Of Eden and plugs it into journalism departments at the university level, so that kids become interested in foreign corresponding, or community-based journalism.

“They use the Walk methodology to tell stories of their own communities using their own campuses, or the communities around the campuses as laboratories,” he says.

“I am tapping into an existing branch of journalism, using my own work to say that ‘here — this is a different channel, like a tributary of the giant media river – it’s global, integrated, cross-cultural, human-oriented, and literary,” Salopek adds.

How the Out of Eden walk is inspiring kindergartners

There are around 50,000 kids following the ‘Out of Eden Walk’ who are kindergarteners. And Salopek says they are “switched on” as they ask fantastic questions even at this young age.

“The younger we get to people with our stories, the more impact it creates. I think it is too late by high school, or secondary school. I say start at kindergarten,” says the explorer.

What does Salopek teach at the Out of Eden journalism workshops?

Pulitzer winner Paul Salopek notes that there is a vast and bottomless ocean of content on the internet and “most of it is pure junk”.

“So we’re encouraging journalists at our workshops to slow down — to spend days instead of minutes on a story — and craft something unique and of value to readers, something that their competitors who merely rewrite press releases cannot hope to match: stories with meaning as well as just information,” he says.

This is a tough thing to do in 24×7 news environments and most media houses complain they cannot afford such a luxury. However, Salopek’s co-teacher Prem Panicker states something very important — posting a million nano-headlines a day will make your news package exactly resemble everyone else’s.

Panicker also notes that robots are quickly replacing human reporters, and news stories which do not offer some value-added information — including thoughtful longer-form narrative reporting and photojournalism — are simply not going to work anymore in the recent future of journalism.

Thus, the long-form ‘luxury’ news articles may not be able to get a million views, but these kinds of details reporting makes the publication stand out and can even influence public discourse at a policy level.

“In my own career, I’ve written literally thousands of news stories. But it was the ‘slow journalism’ pieces that often had the most impact — whether by shining a light on arms trafficking in Africa to getting the official to install water-purifying technology on arsenic-laden wells in Bangladesh,” says Salopek.

At the Out of Eden workshops, journalists are trained on how to write in the narrative style — how to use all of our senses, how to listen, how to think before writing (not vice-versa) and most importantly, how to dig under the superficial surfaces of news stories.

“The workshop teaches them how to get at the deeper, often complex reasons and motivations driving current events, whether they are gender issues, economics, Bollywood, or mass migration,” says the Nat Geo explorer.

What happened at Salopek’s free journalism workshop in Delhi?

The Delhi-based workshop was open to only about 20 attendees, mostly young and mid-career journalists-both reporters and photographers-and were hosted at the offices of Caravan Magazine.

With one-on-one mentoring by veteran journalists Don Belt, Prem Panicker, Arati Kumar Rao and Paul Salopek, the attendees were assigned to find a nationally significant story within walking distance of a central geo-located coordinate in Old Delhi.


The untold story of how soccer cleats helped save an Iron Bowl

Alabama's Tim Davis kicks an extra point against Auburn in 1961. Alabama won 34-0 on a day it wore soccer shoes to combat bad field conditions.
Alabama’s Tim Davis kicks an extra point against Auburn in 1961. Alabama won 34-0 on a day it wore soccer shoes to combat bad field conditions. (Birmingham News File)

A lot was riding on the 1961 Iron Bowl when Alabama pulled up to Legion Field a day before kickoff.

Bear Bryant’s fourth Crimson Tide was undefeated, touting what many still consider the most dominant defense in program history. Since national titles were awarded at the end of the regular season back then, the finale with Auburn meant even more.

So, what Alabama found when it arrived in Birmingham on the eve of kickoff was troubling.

“It was like walking around on concrete,” said Bill Battle, an end on that 1961 team.

Months of high school and college games on the turf not designed to modern standards left Legion Field a disaster. That’s what made Bryant’s response to the conditions so clever.

It involved a network of state troopers, commitment to the cause and a last-minute secret weapon.

Stacks of shoe boxes greeted Alabama players at breakfast the next morning.

Only these weren’t football cleats.

And as far as Gary White knows, their story has never been fully told.


White was in his third season as head manager for Alabama’s football team in 1961. He had arrived in the Ears Whitworth era as an assistant manager and climbed the ranks under Bryant.

After seeing the field, White remembers the conversation behind the scenes.

The guys needed soccer shoes, Bryant determined.

They had soft spikes that could navigate that mess. Assistant coach Carney Laslie was in charge of equipment and the plan to bring a football roster worth of shoes from a fairly obscure sport to the west side of Birmingham in less than 24 hours.

“So, that night,” White recalled 57 years later, “from all over the state, state troopers brought them to the stadium.”

That’s where Chief Joe Smelley came into the equation. One of the state troopers who famously guarded Bryant on game days was in charge of the highway patrol statewide.

It’s safe to say he had some influence.

They were coming from all corners of the state because no one store had close to enough in stock to satisfy this sudden and large demand. There was no way that effort could have been mobilized without Smelley’s help, White said.

“We were getting them from Mobile, from Huntsville, Dothan,” White remembered. “I mean we had them coming from everywhere that night. They were waiting for us when we arrived at the stadium.”



Any soccer shoe a sporting goods store stocked in football-player sizes wound up in Birmingham.

Battle, who went on to become Alabama’s athletics director from 2013-17, remembers seeing the new kicks for the first time.

“We felt like kids at Christmas going to try on those shoes,” Battle said. “Some of them had lightning stripes going down the side. We thought that was the coolest thing.”

This wasn’t even the first time Alabama made footwear adjustments on the fly that fall. A torrential downpour before the Mississippi State game in Bryant-Denny Stadium required the managers to unscrew all the normal cleats and replace them with longer ones.

Alabama won that one, 24-0 on homecoming day.

Those spikes wouldn’t work at Legion Field in the Iron Bowl, however. So, it was up to White and the managers to make sense of this airlift and get the soccer shoes unboxed and ready for the biggest game of their lives.

“We got everybody outfitted,” White said, “went out and warmed up and the rest is history.”


Benny Nelson clearly remembers the sight of those soccer shoes in the Legion Field locker room. Nelson, who went on to be an All-American two seasons later, was then a third-string running back. He got a new pair of shoes that December day in Birmingham.

Unlike the old leather shoes, the new imports didn’t need as much work to break them in.

“Put these on, go out there and see how these work,” was Nelson’s memory of Bryant’s pregame instructions with the new gear. “And everybody loved them. They worked really well. It was pretty ingenious he found out a way to overcome that problem.”

As Nelson remembered it, the muddy field was rolled “like you would a highway” and painted it.

“And it looked great,” Nelson said. “It really did, until you walked out there on it. It was like playing on a parking lot.”

Apparently, the new shoes helped. They had grip where the old cleats did not.

“It made a hell of a difference,” Nelson said. “I mean, you could run in those shoes. They had a soft cleat on them and they were all the difference in the world in that game …”

Nelson paused.

“… Not that we weren’t going to beat them anyway,”

Alabama cruised to a 34-0 win with Pat Trammell at quarterback, Lee Roy Jordan at center and All-American Billy Neighbors at tackle. Nelson remembers Neighbors didn’t get the soccer shoes but wore “high top tennis shoes” for that Auburn game.

“We looked fast as the wind,” said White who went on to work 38 years with Alabama athletics before retiring in 1996 as an associate athletics director. “It was unbelievable how it all worked out.”

Auburn threw four interceptions navigating the beat up field in traditional footwear. It wasn’t Ralph Jordan’s best Tiger team entering with a 6-3 record, but they were on a two-game winning streak over Georgia and Florida.

The Iron Bowl, however, was never close. The Tide led 24-0 at halftime and a few days later, Bryant’s first national title at Alabama was official. A 10-3 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl completed the perfect 11-0 season.

The story of the soccer shoes, however, appeared to be lost to history. Newspaper stories from the time didn’t mention the move. Bryant never mentioned it on his statewide television show taped the day after the game.

Nelson recalled wearing them for a while longer in practices before Bryant snapped them up one day never to return.


The Sweet Story Of How Twitter Helped Reunite 2 Long-Lost Besties In Just 5 Hours

The Sweet Story Of How Twitter Helped Reunite 2 Long-Lost Besties In Just 5 Hours

Brianna Cry and Heii Tran met on a cruise in 2006.

The power of social media was on display for all to see, once again, when netizens came together to help reunite two long lost best friends. It all began when 19-year-old Brianna Cry from Mississippi, USA, came across a picture of a friend she had met on a dinner cruise when she was a child, according to Teen Vogue. The two girls had met in 2006, during a Hawaii cruise, and become fast friends for the night.

Hoping to find her long-lost BFF after more than a decade, Brianna shared the picture on Twitter and asked for help on Saturday.

“Hey twitter, I met this girl on a dinner cruise in Hawaii in 2006. We were basically bestfriends for that night so I need y’all to help me find my bestfriend cause I miss her and I need to see how she’s doing now. Please retweet this so we can be reunited,” wrote Brianna, sharing the picture on the micro-blogging website.