Video: The Storyteller — Carrie Porter discovered her love for telling people's stories while biking across the country. Her journalism journey has continued from Evanston to Topeka, Kan., to Doha, Qatar, and next year she's off to Northern Ireland on the Alistair Cooke Fulbright. See more videos from Northwestern magazine.
The summer after sophomore year Carrie Porter set out in search of adventure and embarked on a two-wheeled journey across America. Along the way the broadcast journalism major discovered her love for telling stories.
With funding support from the Medill School of Journalism, the biking neophyte signed up for Bike & Build, a cross-country bike ride to raise funds for affordable housing, in spring 2007. She bought a Trek 1000 and some gear and the next day headed off from her home in Cincinnati to Providence, R.I. She spent the next nine weeks biking the 4,000 miles to San Francisco.
Along the way she screamed down Bear Mountain in New York, her first — and nearly last — experience of such a speedy descent and biked Colorado's Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved through road in the United States.
She also met many interesting people, the subjects of her blog, Life in the Slow Lane. And Porter recorded video of her adventures — 20 hours' worth — in almost every town along the way.
The journey, Porter says, reaffirmed her love for telling stories, especially about underreported issues, such as the lack of affordable housing in the United States.
"It was through experiences like interviewing sources on the bike trip or covering crime stories in Denver that I really saw firsthand the value of compelling storytelling," Porter says. "Journalism does more than inform, educate or entertain. It fosters understanding."
Porter developed an even greater appreciation for her profession when she attended the grand opening of the Northwestern campus in Qatar last March. During her visit to Doha, she toured Al Jazeera, a 24-hour Arabic television network. "I walked away with greater conviction for what journalism can do," she says. "The emphasis at Al Jazeera is on 'giving voice to the voiceless,' and this idea resonates with my ideals for this profession."
She had an opportunity to be such a voice while interning with the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in summer 2008. While reporting on the Democratic National Convention, Porter saw 80-year-old Cecil Bethea trapped in the middle of a mob of protesters. The briefcase-toting Bethea, on his way home from the library, became the center of much unwanted attention from police.
"Police detained this elderly man," Porter says. "So the photographer got this fantastic photo of the police officers searching and arresting him."
Porter's story received plenty of local response, mainly from readers who were upset about the way police handled Bethea as they mistook him for a protester.
During her days in Denver, Porter also covered several crime stories, such as a murder-suicide story that won her a national Hearst Journalism Award for spot news writing in April.
After graduation Porter will intern at the Wall Street Journal's Chicago bureau. She will then travel to the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, where she'll study new media through the Alistair Cooke Fulbright Award, which offers a master's degree and is awarded to one applicant per year. Porter, who is also an international studies major, plans to report on the post-conflict zone in Northern Ireland for a documentary and dissertation on conflict resolution and peace.