By Rory Gulifoy
The Great Falls Tribune hired Michael Beall as a cops and courts reporter before he even graduated. One year later, the 24-year-old decided it was Rio de Janeiro or bust. In an industry full of job uncertainty, he walked out of his full-time position to chase stories and soccer. Beall saw the World Cup’s return to Brazil as his way to trade in beat reporting for his dream of freelancing as a jack-of-all-trades. In October of 2013, he was planning his trip.
MJR: Journalism is a competitive business. What made you quit a guaranteed salary in your field, one year after graduating from the University of Montana’s School of Journalism?
Beall: When I started thinking about what I wanted my journalism career to become, I couldn’t see myself as a daily journalist or even working at a weekly or a magazine. When I graduated, I had thoughts of traveling to the big event. I want to be in the action rather than be sent to the action. The World Cup is that event. It has sports, it has politics, economics, social issues, and it’s incredibly newsworthy and timely.
MJR: What’s your main goal for this trip?
Beall: The idea is to make a documentary focusing on the U.S. and how we’re catching on to soccer here. It’s nowhere near what it means to different places and how it contrasts with the kid in Mexico who doesn’t get to take high school off to travel to Europe and try out for the club teams. It will be about high school kids who have that dream to be a professional player and the obstacles they face to succeed.
MJR: What challenges are you facing?
Beall: One is money. As a cop reporter, you don’t really make that much money. I’m thinking of doing Kickstarter. I’m reaching out to a couple publications and editors that will hopefully pick up my story.
MJR: I’d read it. What’s your secret to getting started and funding this adventure?
Beall: I plan to stop at hostels in different countries and tag along on eco-tourism trips that tourists take while on vacation. They take them to see wildlife, so I want to go along with those groups, take pictures for them and get paid. The road to the World Cup will be travel, pitching stories that are soccer-related and not soccer-related, while reporting my documentary and doing odd jobs.
MJR: Where do you see your trip ending?
Beall: The World Cup is the end goal. I think the stories are going to come from the people around the World Cup, not necessarily the tournament itself. There were protests across Brazil during the Confederations Cup, so I’d like to spend way more time with the real people of Brazil, rather than the crazed soccer fans.
MJR: You’ll be traveling through countries where you might encounter some violent situations. Are you trained or able to defend yourself?
Beall: If you see me, you’ll see that I have no fighting ability whatsoever. I’ll rely on playing tourist and my sprinting speed. I’m also going off the belief that others have gone to Latin America to travel and were able to avoid trouble. My plan isn’t to go looking for stories at night in the cities. But you bring up a good point, and one my parents — Mom especially — bring up every time I talk about this project.
MJR: Do you have a worst-case scenario exit plan?
Beall: My birthday and Christmas present is a flight home from my parents and when I say it’s time to retreat, I have that fallback plan. But if I get kidnapped by some drug cartel and come out alive, then I have two stories.
You can follow Beall’s adventure at: http://www.meanderingbeaz.com/