By Patrick Larsen
Vince Beiser wants to tell you about sand.
He knows that it sounds like a non-story, like something you would scroll right past, but he has quite a lot to tell.
Beiser is a freelance journalist, which has helped him in the development of this story.
Throughout his discussion with a group of Elon journalism students on the morning of Monday, February 7, Beiser talked several times about pulling on the string of a story and finding much more than you thought you would.
“Sand is actually the most important solid substance in the world,” said Beiser, “it’s the literal foundation of modern civilization.”
For all that Beiser has to say about sand, there are lessons that journalism students can take home. When he talks at length about what is made of sand, we learn the importance of good beginning research. When he talks about the people who have died over sand, we learn the necessity of human stories. When he talks about the story’s ties to environmentalism, to technology and to business, we learn about connecting your story to many interests.
Beiser also took time after his presentation to address students’ questions about journalism directly.
“This goes for any journalist, you should always just be looking for stories everywhere all the time,” said Beiser, “but me in particular, I do a lot of international stuff. I like to travel and I’m interested in international issues so I just read a lot. I try to read a lot of off the beaten path publications and international press and I just stumbled across this story about the sand mafia in India.”
“Know that it’s tough,” he said. “I’m sure you guys are really well aware that the whole industry is in tough times. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen. It is not an easy way to make a living.”
“But it is great,” continued Beiser. “It is really fun when it’s going good. I mean, it’s the most fun, it’s the most excitement, it’s the most interesting job you can really have.”
Beiser was brought to the school though the Pulitzer Center. You can find his articles on sand for Wired here and for The Guardian here. He is currently working on a book continuing his findings for Penguin-Random House Books.
His website and contact information can be found here.