December 5, 2013

The Associated Press

Students at Ball State University will cover the Sochi Olympics from Sochi early next year, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. BSU at the Games will take 22 students to Sochi with the “student-managed freelance news agency that will produce stories, photos, videos and graphics from the Olympics.”

Students from Ball State University took some time off of reporting to cheer on the U.S Women’s Soccer team at the London Olympics. Photo from BSU at the Games.

There, as part of the school’s immersive learning experience, students will “gain unparalleled career experience in journalism, telecommunications, digital sports media production, photojournalism, public relations and graphic design,” according to the project’s web site. The program is part of a class and costs students extra, said journalism instructor Ryan Sparrow in a phone interview.

BSU at the Games launched in 2012, taking about 40 students to London to cover the summer games. During that trip, the AP reports, students produced more than 250 multimedia pieces.

Sparrow started the program after noticing the despair of the industry was impacting his students.

“I wanted to create a program that showed students that working in journalism and working in the media is actually a really cool job, and what cooler place to go than the Olympics?”

Their London coverage focused on sports and athletes that don’t get covered as much as they once did, thanks to shrinking budgets for coverage, Sparrow said. Stories ran in Huffington Post, USA Today, and the school worked through an agreement with the Chicago Tribune. This year, 10 graphics students will work from the Tribune office with designers there during the Olympics.

And BSU at the Games has partnered with a few media organizations as well, including WTHR in Indianapolis and The Colorado Springs Gazette. Gary Graham, the editor of The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review and a Ball State alum, will “be joining us as a student mentor” in Sochi, Sparrow said.

Mat Mikesell went to London with the program in 2012. Now, as a chief reporter for Ball State Daily News, he covers Ball State football. Mikesell graduates next week, so he won’t be making the trip to Sochi, but he said in a phone interview the cost of going to London was worth it. Before leaving, students were assigned loose beats and spent time making contact with U.S. athletes. Ball State students don’t get credentials for the games, but working alongside reporters from around the world, they didn’t have to focus on who won and who lost, Mikesell said.

“We focused on more of the features and the behind the scenes side of it,” said Mikesell, who’s looking for his first journalism job now.

While in London last year, Mikesell also made good use of Twitter.

In August, Mikesell wrote about having coffee with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

The best piece of advice he gave me for trying to land a job after I leave Ball State is to have something on a résumé that makes you stand out. He laughed and said my experience for BSU at the Games will be the thing that makes me stand out on mine.

You can follow BSU at the Games on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Correction: Originally this story said more than 40 students were going to Sochi, which the project’s web site reports. Actually, 40 students are enrolled in the class, Sparrow told Poynter, and 22 are traveling to Sochi.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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