Austin Merrill, the legal affairs editor at Vanity Fair, will be at South Dakota State University April 14-16 to discuss the Everyday Africa project in classes and present a public lecture at 7 p.m. in Rotunda D April 16.
Everyday Africa, which was conceived by Merrill and Peter DiCampo, is a response to the common media portrayal of the African continent as a place consumed by war, poverty and disease. In addition to the founders, numerous photographers contribute pictures taken by cellphones.
Through the project’s website, everydayafrica.tumblr.com, visitors can gain a more accurate understanding of what the majority of Africans experience on a day-to-day basis.
The founders have written, “As journalists who are native to Africa or have lived and worked on the continent for years at a time, we find the extreme is not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday.”
Everyday Africa has been featured by National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker to name a few. It has been exhibited at Mexico’s PhotoFest and New York City’s Lincoln Center and one is planned at Brooklyn’s Photoville.
Merrill’s writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Republic and Wired. His projects have included stories about the Ivory Coast national soccer team’s efforts to end the Ivorian civil war and U.S. Army Rangers training West African soldiers in counterterrorism tactics in Timbuktu, Mali.
His introduction to Africa was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast, where he worked as a rural water and sanitation engineer. He later returned to Ivory Coast as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering the Ivorian civil war as well as politics and culture in half a dozen other African countries.
The event is presented through SDSU’s partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and its Campus Consortium initiative. In addition to visiting professionals on campus, the Pulitzer Center also sponsors an international reporting fellowship for an SDSU journalism student.
Sarah Ellis, a senior with plans to graduate this summer with a B.S. in interdisciplinary studies, will report on refugee orphans in Italy this summer. Ellis hails from Pierre.
Previously, Jamie Walsh, an online graduate student from California, reported on health and obesity issues in the United Kingdom in 2014 while Sioux Falls native Melisa Goss reported on human trafficking in Cambodia in 2013.
The lecture is sponsored by the Fillbrandt Forum of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, in cooperation with the South Dakota World Affairs Council. The Fillbrandt Forum is made possible through an endowment by Marian and Casey Fillbrandt, who was the first general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association.
“Collaboration is critical to the Pulitzer Center model and our efforts to broaden the public’s global horizons,” said Jon Sawyer, executive director of the award-winning nonprofit journalism organization. The Center’s educational initiatives provide students with fresh reporting from around the world, help them think critically about the creation and dissemination of news, and inspire them to become active consumers and producers of information.