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Columbia Missourian

MU junior wins YouTube global journalism competition

By Victoria Guida
April 21, 2010 | 9:32 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Out of 148 entrants worldwide, 10 were chosen as semifinalists. In the final round, an MU junior rose to the top.

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Along with four other finalists, broadcast journalism student Alex Rozier will receive a $10,000 grant for winning Project:Report, a contest sponsored by YouTube and the Pulitzer Center in which aspiring journalists submitted videos about stories not often covered by mainstream media.

"It doesn't seem like it's real at this point," Rozier said, who found out at 5 p.m. Tuesday he had won. "It's hard to put into words."

The winning video, titled "The World Mobility Problem," is centered on the PET Project. It's a Columbia organization dedicated to giving PETs, or Personal Energy Transportation vehicles, to people with disabilities in other countries.

In the video, Rozier calls the life of Mel West, the creator of the project, "anything but beige." Rozier brought West's colorful story to life in a video that follows West and the development of his project. Now, with the grant, Rozier will cover an international story.

"We're real excited for him," said his father Mark Rozier. "I know he's looking forward to the next part of it."

After he was chosen as a semifinalist for his story on an 18-year-old cheerleader with bone cancer, Alex Rozier was required to get input from others about what he should cover next. He created a Facebook group and a Twitter account asking for suggestions. He also talked to journalists at KOMU and other news organizations in Columbia and Minnesota, his home state.

"I've had so much great help from people at the university and people in broadcast, even people I don't know," Rozier said. "The Facebook group, by the end of the project, had over 700 members. A lot gave their thoughts on what I should do."

He said it made the most sense to do something local.

"The fact that it was in mid-Missouri and still had a big reach was a big reason I chose the story," he said. "The project affects more than 20 million people worldwide."

West said Rozier called him last night "as excited as can be" to tell him the news.

"He's a really outstanding young man," West said. "(He's) very capable, trained, positive, considerate, and we enjoyed working with him."

Money is the limiting factor for the PET Project, West said, and the story helped tell more people about the project.

"We have millions in the world waiting for our product, and we have volunteers waiting to build it," West said. "We don't pay for advertising. We get it free from folks like him."

As for his $10,000 grant, Rozier said he is unclear on the details, but once he knows the specifics, he will decide what to report on and where.

"From what I've been told, I guess you have up to a year after the announcement to produce it," he said. So he might go to Haiti in December to film the earthquake recovery efforts in hopes of localizing it to mid-Missouri, he said, and airing it in January for the one year anniversary of the tragedy.

The earthquake struck Haiti on January 12.

The MU junior said he also hopes to include journalism students from other sequences and journalism professors in his endeavor.

"I'm in love with this J-school here," he said. "I want to be able to say, 'Here's who I wanna take,' and we go and get it done."

For now, Rozier said he is glad to see some of his hard work paying off, and he appreciates all the support he has received.

"I've gotten congratulations, and it's like I don't even know these people, but they're taking the time to congratulate me," he said. "I'm so humbled."