On April 20, a Pulitzer Prize in the category of International Reporting was awarded to The New York Times staff for their coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak that began in February 2014. DePauw University’s very own Ben Solomon contributed to this coverage with what the Times considers to be “riveting and appalling videos.”
One of Solomon’s videos, titled “Ebola Ambulance,” showcases the intense struggles of ambulance workers trying to give aid to sick Liberians. The video focuses on one such worker named Gordon Kamara. Solomon provides striking footage of enraged, distressed and suffering Liberians; the opening sequence shows a dead body laying on a street, surrounded by a large crowd of angry and frightened Liberians. As there are only three treatment centers in Monrovia, the nation’s capital, Kamara’s job is immensely challenging. He even evacuated his family to keep them safe, so his work is as lonely as it is nerve-wracking. Said Kamara: “I’m tired of seeing people getting sick.”
Solomon opens another video titled “Dying of Ebola at the Hospital Door” with a disheartening shot of a 20-year-old male, literally groaning in the dirt, shouting, “I will die.” He lays there with his parents in front of the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Liberia, but has been turned away. Solomon explains in his narration that hospitals are always overstaffed and are turning away people every day. With more cases of Ebola diagnosed each week, Liberians are forced to wait, and wait longer, not knowing what to do. Health care services are doing whatever they can to help whoever they can, but even their greatest efforts are not enough to contain the vicious virus.
In The New York Times’ cover letter for entry in the Pulitzer Awards, Solomon is mentioned several times, and listed as part of “an all-star team.” Of the “dozens” of reporters who worked on the Ebola coverage team, Solomon thrived in his visual storytelling. One of his videos, in fact, “was played during an emergency Congressional hearing in October.”
Solomon’s success as a visual journalist is found in his fearless and relentless search to capture the horrors of the deadly Ebola virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 18, 10,715 combined deaths have been recorded in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and of “suspected, probable and confirmed” cases, 25,863 have been recorded. The DePauw is proud to see one of its alums make such on impact on one of the most important international stories of the decade. Ben Solomon has given the world a glimpse into Ebola’s lethal threat and the overwhelmed health-care systems that work tirelessly to contain it.