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The Grizzly Growl

An Open Mind

Well Known Journalist Visits Copper Hills, Challenges Students to be Curious and Compassionate

Matthew+LaPlante+teaching+Copper+Hills+Students.+
Matthew LaPlante teaching Copper Hills Students.

Matthew LaPlante teaching Copper Hills Students.

Karlee Jacobson

Karlee Jacobson

Matthew LaPlante teaching Copper Hills Students.

Cassey Ivie, Web Editor and Business Manager

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Some people were born with a typewriter on their lap and the label press on their cap. Their first words declare their desire to be a journalist. Matthew LaPlante was not one of these people.

The Grizzly Growl Staff had the opportunity to have LaPlante come as a guest speaker to their fifth period class. As a professional journalist and a professor at Utah State University, he had plenty of stories to share and advice to give. “I’ve interviewed presidents and astronauts and elephant trainers and whale poop researchers,” he said during his presentation, “just because I wanted to know.”

LaPlante’s father was a journalist, but LaPlante didn’t plan to follow in his father’s footsteps. He finally started writing in an effort to earn money for dates in college. His first article was on the student body president, and his goal was to find a secret behind the smiling wrestler everyone saw on campus. His article didn’t end up being a thrilling exposé, but it started his adventures in storytelling. He now travels the world in an effort to find what fascinates him.

He inspired the class to pursue what ignites their curiosity. “This is how you get to do anything you want to do,” he said. He described journalism as a great adventure, and an opportunity to pursue any spark of interest. “Here is the only excuse you need to do anything you want: Just identify yourself as a journalist and be halfway good at it,” he went on to explain. In the name of a story, he has interviewed serial killers, tribe leaders, skiers, and elephant trainers. “People say yes. People will always say yes,” he explained, “because people want to share their stories. People are naturally storytellers.”

His two biggest pieces of advice were to approach people with curiosity and compassion. People want what they are doing to be interesting and important, but you need to approach it without prejudices to really see from another perspective. Even when talking to a tribe leader in Ethiopia that was practicing infanticide, he said, “I didn’t come to him with judgement, even though every cell in my body wanted to.” His story became big news, and the practice no longer occurs. “That is the power of an interview. That is the power of what you can do by approaching people and just wanting to know their stories.”

LaPlante’s final message was that storytelling wasn’t an art limited to a specific subset of people. “You know what I got?” he asked, “I got curiosity and compassion and a little bit of gumption.” He describes his path to success as always being willing to ask people for an interview, even when they seemed intimidating. “Across cultures, across boundaries, they say they don’t want to talk to you about things but they actually do,” he explained. Even a high school student has the capability to interview a superintendent.

To learn more about him and his experiences with whale poop, the largest organism in the world, and the projects he is currently working on, you can follow him with his twitter handle: @MDLAPLANTE. You can also watch his TEDx Talk, “Why Superman must die so Clark Kent may live.” You can read his articles at mdlaplante.com.

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An Open Mind