Journalism Without Walls moves south

By Pablo Calvi and Barbara Selvin

In 2017, Journalism Without Walls took its first trip to South America. Five students and two professors spent two weeks in Ecuador, focusing on the issues confronting indigenous people in the Amazonian headwaters of Ecuador’s eastern lowlands, which sit atop rich oil reserves that the government wants to exploit.

The group spent five days in Llanchamacocha, a community within the territory of the indigenous Sápara nation only accessible by plane. The students began their days discussing their dreams with the Sápara’s leader, Manari Ushigua; participated in traditional cleansing rituals; camped on a beach along the Canambo River; and hiked for five hours through the rainforest as Manari introduced them to a dozen or so medicinal plants from the jungle’s endless apothecary.

The students–Mike Adams, Demi Guo, Michelle Hennessy, Giovanni Ortiz and Jay Shah–reported on the Sáparas’ efforts to develop economic self-sufficiency through ecotourism and medicine, on education and voting rights, on the struggle to balance tradition and change.

After an idyllic few days regrouping in a Quechua village in northern Ecuador, where they hiked the 15,000-foot Imbabura volcano, made repeat visits to the open-air textiles market in the town of Otavalo and experienced a shamanic cleansing ritual, the students and professors returned to Quito, the capital city, to complete their reporting. Interviews with representatives of Ecuador’s energy sector and former government ministers, a social scientist who studies the impact of resource extraction on climate and communities, and leaders of an indigenous-advocacy group provided additional data and perspectives.

Guided by Stony Brook University journalism professors Pablo Calvi and Barbara Selvin, the students created a mobile newsroom on the grounds of a restored villa in Quito’s Old City. Over two days and a night of nearly nonstop work, they put together the website you see here.