COLUMBIA — Amanda McDaniel is an 18-year-old Christian Fellowship School senior and cheerleader with bone cancer. Alex Rozier is a 20-year-old MU broadcast student who was inspired by her story and shared it with the world.
Rozier is one of 10 semifinalists in an international video journalism competition for a three-minute video titled “The Story of Amanda McDaniel.” He beat 138 others for the spot.
Project:Report, sponsored by YouTube and the Pulitzer Center, called for non-professional aspiring journalists to share stories that might otherwise go untold. After asking people he knew for story ideas, a co-worker at KOMU told Rozier about McDaniel.
Rozier said McDaniel seemed honored to be a part of his project. “One of the things she’s told me is that if she can affect one life through her fight with cancer, then to her it’s a mission accomplished. She wanted to continue to spread the message of hope.”
McDaniel's mother, Denise McDaniel, said their family appreciated Rozier's kindness and patience while filming the video, which contained interviews with the mother and daughter, as well as scenes of Amanda McDaniel cheering at the Christian school state basketball tournament in Joplin.
“It was a little funny having a camera in her face, watching her cheer,” Denise McDaniel said. “But being in an unusual situation, he made it very comfortable.”
Stacey Woelfel, KOMU news director, advised Rozier during the production process and said he was pleased with the quality of the final product. “I’d say I wasn’t totally surprised,” he said. “He’s a sharp guy that had a vision.”
Woelfel said that though the MU broadcast program already has a solid reputation, the YouTube competition provides an opportunity for a different group of people to see the work of an MU student.
Rozier said that studying at MU has been beneficial, as he has access to high-tech equipment and experienced faculty that he doesn’t think the other semi-finalists have.
He received a notebook laptop and a video camera for making the top-10 cut. The semi-finalists must now create a five-minute video portraying an issue that they feel is under-covered in the national media. Rozier has until April 4 to plan, shoot and edit his video.
Five winners will receive a $10,000 travel fellowship to go anywhere to create a similar video in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center. They will also be invited to Washington D.C. for a public screening of the videos and a private workshop with international journalists.
Both Rozier and Woelfel said that after viewing the quality of the other semi-finalists’ videos, they think Rozier has a good chance of winning.
For the second round, Rozier is required to seek input from his community regarding what issue they’d like to see his video focus on. He encourages Columbia residents to contact him by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through his Facebook page to make suggestions.
Rozier said that inspiring feature stories such as McDaniel's are a nice counter to all the negative news that is broadcast daily. He hopes to be able to produce those types of pieces throughout his career.
“To see a girl like Amanda, whose health is not in good condition at all at 18-years-old, and she’s been fighting things that a lot people won’t fight in their entire life — it really put things in perspective for me,” he said.
Watch the video: