Self-Expression through Journalism

Nino Paoli
Nino Paoli / The Immigrant Story

Growing up in a small town in Montana, Angelo Nino Paoli did not foresee that he would want to pursue journalism. He loved writing, but was also an athlete and a student of science.

Paoli was born in 2000 in Medellín, Colombia, to a single mother who could not afford to keep him. He was placed in a local orphanage, and at the age of about six months, he was adopted by a family in Montana. When they came to Medellín to formalize the adoption, Paoli’s parents had planned to stay for a couple of weeks to fill out the required paperwork. But while they were in the hotel room soon after they arrived, a bomb went off nearby.

“Because they had me and my young sister, and they were in a foreign country that obviously wasn’t very safe,” says Paoli, “they went to the US Embassy in Medellín and were able to expedite the process and to leave for the US the next day.”

Paoli grew up in Missoula, Montana. His father is a lawyer and his mother was a political fundraiser but she took time off to raise their two children. Paoli was very active at school, playing both basketball and soccer. He remembers being full of energy, always running around. His parents tell him that he used to run full force into doors, apparently just for fun. He was skilled at soccer, and  with his team, traveled  to the Pacific Northwest.  His high school team won the state championship three times.

Paoli always had an interest in writing. In elementary school band class, he remembers creating a fantasy story about spiders, possibly because  he hated spiders and thought it would be scary to write about them. In high school, he was the sports editor for his school’s newspaper.

“But I didn’t really like interviewing  or that process,” he explains. “And I didn’t really understand the necessity of journalism yet. So I remember thinking that is  not really, for me. I prefer creative writing.” 

Mandatory science courses in high school led him to discover a passion for biology. When applying for college, he struggled to decide whether to pursue biology or creative writing, ultimately choosing creative writing.

Paoli attended Seattle University, where he received a merit-based scholarship. He had visited the city before with his soccer team and loved it. It was a big city unlike what he knew.

He made close friends at Seattle University, but struggled there. It was racially diverse, but not socioeconomically varied and he didn’t relate to some of his wealthier peers. Paoli had planned to remain there for another year but at the end of his first year, COVID hit. He moved back home for the summer and began looking at new schools. He transferred to Oregon State University.

In journalism courses at OSU, he discovered a new passion. He also took a science writing course and loved how it blended his two passions, science and writing.

“When I was growing up, I thought there was a very rigid structure to journalism, which there still is,” he says. “But then when you start reading articles from The Atlantic, or just long-form articles in general, you realize that they’re, that these writers are using more general techniques for storytelling than just the inverted pyramid. And it’s effective, because it helps people bring people along with the story.”

Paoli recently graduated from OSU in May of 2023 with a Bachelor’s in creative writing and a minor in journalism. He plans to go into journalism, and recently completed an internship at The Observer in La Grande, Ore., through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism at the University of Oregon.

“The town was a small, eastern Oregon town,  and I learned so much about reporting daily on local news and juggling multiple short or breaking news stories each day while also doing more enterprise reporting as well,” Paoli explains. “I pitched stories, took assignments, conducted interviews, found sources to talk to about different stories and got to know the community as I reported the news there. It was a great experience and I am so thankful for it and the supportive newsroom I worked in. I didn’t expect to already have professional experience in a newsroom yet, and I think it was a vital first step in my journalism career.”

Paoli is currently pursuing jobs in journalism and hopes to work as a political reporter for a major news outlet. He loves telling stories and dreams of one day writing a book.