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Persona Gradita - Oliver Pritchard

What’s your name and where are you from? What can you tell us about your life?
My name is Oliver Pritchard, and I'm from Bristol in the UK.

What reasons made you come to Colombia, and why did you decide to stay?  
I lived in Japan for a while and after that I travelled through Asia.  I had always wanted to go to Latin America, so in 2011 I started looking for information and asking people.  I got very mixed reviews of many places, especially Argentina and Brazil, but everyone who had been to Colombia was very positive about it.

At the moment I'm very happy here in Bogotá, and I should be clear that I mean Bogotá and not Colombia.  Most of what I love about Bogotá is very hard to find in other parts of the country.  The cultural events (just in the past few weeks I have been at both FITB and FilBO), the liberal attitudes, the art scene, the feeling of change – these things are not found everywhere.  Also, I adore large cities.  Somewhere like Cartagena would bore me very quickly.

Can you tell us when The Bogota Post was created?
We started in April 2014, responding to a need for English-language news in the city.

What’s the purpose of The Bogota Post?
We give an alternative view to many things both in the city and throughout the country.  Also, a lot of the local media assumes a lot of local knowledge, which is confusing for some people – especially new arrivals.  However, it's not just for foreigners!  About half of our readers are Colombian, and we receive plenty of feedback from them.  There are a lot of people here who are interested in other points of view and things that sometimes seem obvious, but are not when you think about it. 

Also, the style of our writing and our journalism is very different to more traditional sources.  For example, I read a guide to Bogotá restaurants the other day – everything was above 80%, and most places above 90%!  That's not useful to anyone, whereas an honest review always is.  It's the same with Rock Al Parque, every year there are some old and lazy bands, but no-one wants to criticise them.  I even read positive comments about Coldplay's concert – that can't be serious!  Really, Coldplay?  I would rather cut off my ears than go to that concert.  In terms of style, we're much closer to Dos Orillas or Silla Vacia than EL Tiempo or El Espectador.  Not so formal, not deferential, with no political agenda to push.  We generally celebrate Bogotá, rather than complain about things, because most of us have chosen to live here.  It would be easier for me to leave Bogotá than to stay, but I stay here because I love the city and I want to show everybody the great reasons why.

Finally, I think we show a side of Bogotá that doesn't always get shown.  To give just one example, we've highlighted sports such as roller derby, rowing, rugby and cricket.  Some of these appeal to foreigners for obvious reasons, but also they are often excluded from mainstream media.  It's only VICE and a few magazines such as Origami and DC that are talking about the same things we do.  There's so much to talk about in Bogotá!

Don't just take my word for it, Andrés Botero Philipsbourne, president of Coldeportes told me “What I really like is the quality of the information. It’s first-hand and first-rate information. So much is written about Colombia that is just not true. It’s clear that you guys do research and take the time to check things”. Any favourite parts? “Well, of course, the sports coverage. You know, that’s something that’s so hard to find in English, even though Colombian sport is enjoying so many successes right now, not just football and cycling but also powerboating and athletics, all these sports. You give the people useful information”.  Or the head of the journalism faculty at the Rosario, Danghelly Zuñiga “It’s something new for us here in Bogota print media. There are many things we think of here in Colombia as normal, so it’s interesting to see them from a different point of view, with a different context”.

How can The Bogota Post encourage our students to learn and practice English?
Well, I don't want to be arrogant, but I write a good language column every week.  Also, there are many ways you can use the paper in order to learn.  Look at the use of language, new structures that have similar forms to ones you already know – why are they using “take” in this case, for example?  Another good method is to read articles and then write notes on what you can remember.  Look back at the article to check your information.  Of course, reading the paper gives you plenty of reading practice and there are plenty of links and guides to language events across the city.

Unlike many media outlets or reading opportunities in English, everything in the BP is easy to relate to students' life.  You liked that article about beer?  Look up the breweries, give them a call!  Most of all, though, I would encourage you to look at the language and think about how lovely it can be.  Hopefully you know how elegant and beautiful Spanish can be if you use it correctly, why not learn the same in English?  This won't be important for all students, but I always want to inspire those who have a real lust for language.  Compared to many other resources, we offer a large range of different writing styles, from detailed, forensic reports right through to gonzo rock reporting.

Can our students participate in The Bogota Post?
A lot of people seem to assume that all our writers are English native speakers, but that's not true at all.  We have a number of Colombians that write for us, as well as Venezuelans, Dutch, German, Nepalese, Polish, Congolese and many other nationalities.

I teach journalism and media as well as English.  I always tell students that it's not your words but your mind that is important.  We edit everybody's work, mine included, so language shouldn't be a worry.  If you have something to say and you have your facts straight, that's the important thing.  Of course, we receive many ideas for articles, and we don't accept all of them – so be warned!

Where can we obtain The Bogota Post?
We drop 7,500 copies around the city in more than 370 places.  There's a full list online, but close to the Politecnico we deliver to a number of places in Chapinero.

Author

Oliver Pritchard 
Editor of The Bogota Post