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Elon alum takes top prize for reporting on human rights violations and the Rio Olympics

 The award-winning work of Michelle Alfini '16 brings light to human rights violations surrounding this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

Michelle Alfini ’16 placed first in the International Multimedia News Story Contest organized by the International Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Michelle Alfini, a journalism major, stands with her Lumen Prize mentor, Associate Professor Glenn Scott.
With her first-place finish, the journalism major received a $100 prize and was recognized on Aug. 5 at the AEJMC national convention in Minneapolis. She is currently working as a multimedia journalist for KBJR, an NBC network affiliate in Duluth, Minn.

Alfini’s story, “Rio de Janeiro works to hide its flaws before the Olympics,” analyzes human rights violations prior to this year’s Olympic Games in Brazil. The Honors Fellow noted that her Elon Local News article is a compilation of work she completed for her multimedia website highlighting the Rio Olympics, RightingRio.com. The site ties in directly with her undergraduate thesis topic.

As part of her research, Alfini travelled to Rio in October 2014 and January 2016 to witness firsthand Brazil’s indifference for certain humanitarian standards. Her travel and research was supported by the Lumen Prize, which provided a $15,000 scholarship.

‚ÄčThe native of Severna Park, Md., explained that there are several layers to her interest in the Rio Olympics.

“The first is my fascination with Latin America and my desire to tell stories about an area that so rarely comes up in the news,” she said. “South America in particular is a world of fascinating paradoxes with new, emerging democracies and economies constantly battling for development and progress selectively following and straying from the U.S. model and dealing with numerous internal issues while also struggling to prove that they've ‘made it.’”

The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Games exemplify this paradox theme.

“Brazil and its people are so proud of their country and want so badly to be the type of country that can host these mega-events successfully but they are also painfully aware that they can't and of all of the places where they fall short,” Alfini said. “That’s where the human rights violations come in, because half the country seems desperate to hide all the poverty and crime, violence and chaos that comes with it while the other half wants to put it on display for the world to see and understand how far the country really needs to come.”

Affini said she hoped her reporting took readers beneath the surface issues and made them contemplate a topic that has no simple answer: Should Brazil – and other developing nations – host the Olympic Games? And, more importantly, who is really at fault for the human rights disasters surrounding mega-events?

“It's easy for us as Americans to see the situation in Brazil paternalistically and think, well, if a country can't afford to host the Olympics they shouldn't, but I want my readers to see beyond that and think about why Brazil wanted the Games in the first place,” she said.

Mentored by Associate Professor Glenn Scott, Alfini said she appreciated the opportunity to tackle an international reporting project as an undergraduate. 

Tommy Kopetskie,
8/8/2016 12:35 PM