Mary Pilon – New York Times

“We don’t like being the story.”

Mary Pilon was emphatic.  But it was a simple request from a humble reporter. Reporters like to tell stories not be stories. No problem. Ok, so this won’t be a post about Mary Pilon. It will however, be an example of how a journalist can re-purpose considerable talent.

Oregon native Mary Pilon has written about everything from the Wall Street to board games to track and field. In December, the New York Times hired her away from the Wall Street Journal. She would now be a sports reporter. At WSJ she’d been reporting on the financial crisis on Wall Street. I got a chance to meet Pilon last week in New York City when I was pitching her on Lopez Lomong, the former Sudanese Lost Boy and U.S. Olympic track star. I told her Lopez was a remarkable young man using the flame of his Olympic story to help the kids back home in South Sudan gain access to the basics like clean water, education and food. I’ve been telling as many people as I can about Lomong because he’s partnering with World Vision, the charity I work for.

Pilon knows the Lomong story.  You have to look hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Sudanese Lost Boy kidnapped from his village at the age of six, held captive by Sudanese rebels intent upon turning him into a child soldier. The six-year old was deemed too young and left to starve. But thanks to the help of three other boys (to this day Lopez considers them his “angels”) Lopez escaped the detention center. The boys ran three days and nights until they were captured by Kenyan soldiers and brought to the safety of a refugee camp. After ten years, Lopez was sponsored by an American couple and brought to the States. Soon he discovered he was the fastest kid in high school, then the fastest in the state, then one of the fastest in the nation. In 2008, he qualified for the mens 1,500 meter in the Beijing Summer Olympics. His teammates elected him the U.S. National Team flag bearer.

As you’re guessing by now, the story from here on out is about Lopez Lomong.

Here’s what Mary Pilon wrote about Lopez. It was a Q and A.

Lopez Lomong, left, and Galen Rupp running in the finals of the 5,000 meters at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last month.

Eric Gay/Associated PressLopez Lomong, left, and Galen Rupp running in the finals of the 5,000 meters at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last month.

Lopez is running in the mens 5,000 meter qualifying heat on Wednesday, August 8th in London. He has his sights set on a gold medal but what makes Lomong unique is that fact that he wants to partner with Team World Vision to help the kids back home in South Sudan.

Or maybe it’s the new book he’s written, “Running for My Life” (Thomas Nelson Publisher).

One last thing: In December, Mary Pilon was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 for media. She is 26. Currently she is writing a book about the hidden history of the board game Monopoly.


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