Diamondback Reporter’s Excellence Came at “Right Place, Riot Time”

A stomach ailment.  A game of hoops.  Police.  Horses.  A viral video.  There were many disparate elements that came together to launch Ben Present into the biggest story of his student journalism career.  The bedrock beneath them, however, was a common one among great newshounds: a reportorial enthusiasm that his editor knew was always just a phone call away.

The 30-second rundown, recounted in much more detail in a new Washington Post profile: Last March, University of Maryland students took to the streets in College Park to celebrate a big win for the school’s basketball team over eventual national champion Duke.  Police were called in to deal with the crowd.  Some sported riot gear and some rode in on horseback.

Diamondback editor Marissa Lang, recently named editor in chief, knew a story was brewing.  But the paper’s police reporter was in the hospital with stomach issues.  Who could she call?  Ben Present, even though his beat at the time was facilities management and dining services.  In her words, “Ben has always been very eager. If you give him something to do, he will just jump on it.”

Click to see video of police beating student during riot.

By night’s end, police had severely beaten a young man on the street who did not appear to provoke such action- and it was captured on video.  Cue YouTube, and suddenly the riot had gone viral– leading to criticism worldwide and the suspension of four officers involved.

After Lang’s call, Present left a frat meeting to head to the scene.  He has been on the story ever since.  As the Post notes, “Present has written 11 stories on the beating. In addition to chronicling daily developments in the story, Present wrote a story about the student who videotaped the incident.”  The headline of the latter piece: “Right Place, Riot Time.”

He will remain on the Diamondback reporting staff next year.  His new beat: police and crime.

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