College students to go behind the scenes to cover 2012 London Olympics

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Immersive Learning

May 14, 2012

As the world's top athletes compete this summer at the 2012 London Olympics, Ball State University students will be there to provide behind-the-scenes stories of the international sporting event.

About 40 students from eight fields of study have created BSU at the Games, serving as a news agency to create original content for websites, newspapers, radio and television outlets across the U.S. Tentative agreements have already been reached with several national media outlets, including the Tribune Company.

The immersive learning opportunity marks the first time a large group of American students have covered the Olympics, said Ryan Sparrow, a journalism instructor and project director. Also participating in the project are Chris Taylor, a telecommunications instructor and director of the Emmy Award-winning Sports Link; Colleen Steffen, journalism instructor and Suzy Smith, a telecommunications professor.

"Providing students the opportunity to cover one of the world's most reported on and watched sporting events will give them an experience not many journalism students will have," Sparrow said. "The students' original reporting will be showcased in a variety of mediums through our community partners, providing them with terrific experience and exposure."

In addition to media outlets, fans of the Olympics can keep track of the students' work through the group's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames), YouTube channel and Twitter feed.

"Our students will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the thrill, commitment and challenges to cover an event of this magnitude with such a worldwide impact," Sparrow said. "They also will learn about working as a highly cohesive team functioning on an international stage, a necessary skill in today's world economy."

Months of preparation

During the last few months, students participated in a class devoted to planning the trip, creating mentorship opportunities and crafting a blueprint for stories that will be covered while in London. They have researched relevant story and illustration ideas for print, broadcast and web.

The students produced advance news and feature stories for media outlets, and they already have posted stories on American diver Thomas Finchum, Olympic gold medal gymnast Jaycie Phelps and American wresting hopeful Jarod Trice on their Facebook page.

The group also has been working with College Sports Information Directors of America, providing content to universities and colleges with athletes at the games.

"We've been making connections with athletes in training who may make it to the games in order to get access to them once they are in London," Taylor said. "Once we have established a relationship, it's much easier for the students to pick up the phone to set up an interview."

Students also will produce a post-Olympics television show that will showcase some of their best stories from the games. The program will be provided to Fox College Sports, Indiana Comcast and WIPB-TV, Ball State's PBS affiliate.

Calling Worcester home
During the games, students will reside at the University of Worcester, about a two-hour train ride northwest of London. Teams of student photographers, reporters, videographers and illustrators will rotate in and out of a flat in London, where they will decide what stories to cover. 

Sparrow said faculty members will guide the coverage but ultimately the students will be encouraged to write about everything from sporting events and the lives of athletes in the Olympic Village to the carnival atmosphere on the streets.

"We think Americans will be interested in what life is like in London," he said. "We know the major networks will cover the events around the clock, but we want to give people a taste of what life is like for athletes and visitors while the games are going on. "

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