13 May 2012

What do I have in common with Olympians? A dream

I have to admit that I’m pretty star-struck. I’m halfway through Day 1 of the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas, and I’ve been able to interview several gold-medal contenders. Not only am I surrounded by competitors in the single largest international sporting event, but I’m also working alongside media professionals from all over the country.

During the first event of the day, I interviewed shot-put champion Jillian Camarena-Williams. One of the aspects that stood out most during my interview with Camarena-Williams was her nails—all are painted hot pink with the exception of her right index finger, which is painted gold.  Camarena-Williams explained that the gold on her “No.1” finger is a reminder of what she’s working toward.

Although I certainly won’t be competing in the Olympic Games anytime soon, I can relate to Camarena-Williams in terms of working toward a specific (and sometimes seemingly unachievable) goal. Working alongside media professionals from the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, Twitter and more is completely and utterly nerve-racking.

But in the same way that Camarena-Williams is constantly reminding herself of her Olympic goal with her nails, this opportunity to network with both athletes and media professionals is a reminder that my goals to succeed in the field of journalism are within reach.

With all the opportunities with which I have already been presented in the past 24 hours, my goal is getting that much closer to becoming a reality.

Emily Thompson  |  Features Reporter



13 May 2012

This big project has me sleepless in Dallas

It’s 5 a.m. in Dallas, and I can’t sleep.

Can’t sleep because I’m tired and thrilled and terrified all at the same time, a deadly concoction for trying to get some shut-eye.

A small group of us made our way to the Olympic Media Summit to make some contacts and inroads for our summer adventure. I think the idea was to come down and start making a name for ourselves so that we weren’t starting from zero in July.

But guess what? We’re already known. As the incredible Vanessa Virbitsky—remind me when this is all over that we need to send her a BIG thank you note—introduced us to press agents and athletes, many of them said they’d heard the name or heard of our project already.

And that, my friends—that is cool.

That means reaching out to athletes and coaches and parents and sponsors will be that much easier. That means that getting followers and posting stories will be seen by that many more people. And that means that we’ve succeeded in a first step.

It also means something else. It means that we have the potential to do something new here. In the beginning of this project, I really wanted to get our stories into big media – the Tribune, TV, on websites. And don’t get me wrong, I still do. One of my plans tomorrow night at a barbecue will be to start collecting media sources and contacts for that exact purpose.

But it also means that we have the potential to just do it on our own and build a brand in this new media world. It means that in today’s day and age, getting stories seen by a large audience doesn’t necessarily mean utilizing a mouthpiece of old.

As I’ve been telling people here, we’re trying to fill a hole. As more and more media companies struggle with the financial problem of sending people to London, we’re ready to jump in, find stories, shoot hours and stacks of photos and video. It will be great if our stories are seen in newspapers and on newscasts and websites, but it will be even greater if we can build something to last and be proud of that others will come to and respect.

And that’s thrilling. And that’s terrifying. And that’s why I can’ sleep in Dallas this morning.

Ryan Sparrow  |  Adviser


11 May 2012

U.K. sports: dreary or daring?

I grew up in a family centered around athletics. My dad is a coach, my mom was an athletic trainer, and my brothers and I combined probably played every popular sport in the U.S. As I prepare for my trip to England this summer, centered around the biggest sporting event in the world, I’m becoming intrigued about the sports culture in the U.K. On one hand, ravenous European sports fans can be as intense as a Raiders fan during a playoff game. On the other hand, sports from across the pond do have a reputation to be rather … dreary. Is the difference between U.S. and U.K. sports so different?

Rugby is the grandfather of football, American football that is. Basically, it’s football on steroids. There are fifteen players, and literally everybody on the field, or pitch, is in danger of taking a blow. Backs, essentially the scorers of rugby, can kick, throw and run the ball to score just like a football quarterback would. However, you are not allowed to throw the ball forward. Forwards are the linemen and they do all the tackling. There are also these weird team huddle groups called scrams, and they’re used like a face-off in hockey.

Honestly, I’m really intrigued by rugby. It’s is all about brute force and quick feet. It’s minimal protection and massive muscle. The average weight of a professional rugby player is 238 pounds. Bloody hell. What more could a female sports fan ask for?

No matter how much I read up on cricket, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand the game. It’s sort of like baseball, in that there is a bat, a ball and to score you need to make runs. There are some fun twists that include wickets and bails. There are three wickets, or posts, that stand behind the batter. On top of the wickets are two pieces of wood called bails. If a batter knocks off the bails, then they’re out. There are only two “bases” that the batters run between. The positions are essentially the same: pitcher, batter, fielders.

It’s baseball mixed with Jenga. Did I also mention that cricket uniforms make the players look like they’re going out for tea afterwards?

Interestingly enough, Polo originated in India. It is legitimately the fastest sport in the world. The U.S. doesn’t really have a sport to compare to polo. We do have a men’s cologne named after it though.

Players on horses race full -peed towards a tiny ball, swinging giant mallets. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe not so ironically, a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 64 percent of polo injuries were considered major, the most common of which were fractures and facial lacerations. So if you like demolition derby mixed with croquet and horse racing, polo is the sport for you.

Tennis, soccer (football), boxing, golf
Tennis, soccer, boxing and golf are other sports that are really popular in the United Kingdom. Soccer is an especially beloved pastime. Don’t call it soccer though, unless you want everyone to know that you are an uncultured American.
Some other sports words that you should know are: pitch (field), boots (cleats), kit (uniform), footie (game/match), etc., etc.

Even though cricket and polo are the only sports on this list that aren’t an official sport of the summer Olympic Games, I’m still excited to see all of these games and athletes in action.

Jessica Pettengill  |  Features Reporter 


23 Apr 2012

Covering Games means stepping outside comfort zone

Although it wasn’t quite as far as London, the first story I wrote regarding the Olympic Games involved traveling. It was the first time I really had to travel to interview a source (except for when I commuted for my internship last summer), but the interview was only an hour away and was well worth the drive.

The story is about an Indiana Olympian who is now the mayor of Marion, Ind. Wayne Seybold competed in pair skating with his sister, Kim, in the 1988 Winter Games. I’ll admit that making the drive to meet up with someone I had never  met before in person was a bit intimidating. As a student journalist, most of my reporting experience has been very local. But Sara Schaefer, another student on our team, came with me to videotape the interview, so at least I had some company. We’re also both fairly outgoing, so that worked in our favor too.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Mayor Seybold was more than willing to help with my story. He was patient enough to sit through multiple interviews with me and provide contact information for other sources. He even gave me a CD by a Marion musician!

I’ve just recently finished the final draft of the story. From here, our wonderful public relations team will work to get my story published in local media. Not only will this experience hopefully give me a published clip for my portfolio, but it’s also the beginning of a base of content for my portion of this Olympic Games project.

Most importantly, this story was a great place for me to start. A lot of the personal challenges I will face with this project will be stepping outside of my comfort zone. Reporting in a new place is always a little nerve-wracking—not to mention the fact that I’ll be in a foreign country during the single largest sporting event in the world. But like anything else, I’m trying to approach this with baby steps. Muncie to Marion was a great place to start.

Next stop: London.

Read Emily’s piece on former Olympian Mayor Seybold here.

Emily Thompson  |  Features Reporter


17 Apr 2012

10 features to scope out on london.bsuatthegames.com

I’ve been spending long days working on the BSU at the Games website (and sometimes punching my computer screen). Here’s some of the features you can look forward to.

1. Behind the Scenes: Weekly Blogs

Good job! One down because you’re reading this post. Each week on Monday/Wednesday, we’ll have a member of our team write a post to tell you what we’re up to. During our trip to London July 23-August 15, we’ll kick it up a notch and blog daily!

2. Stories

The reason we do what we do. Check out our stories section to see our inside perspective of the people, places and events of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Don’t like to read? It’s OK, we have graphics and photos too.

3. Multimedia Section

Again, our unique coverage. Only this time you can watch it, hear it, see it.

4. Social Media Links

Get all of our updates in real-time via @bsuatthegames, #BSUOlympics, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames. Follow us on Instagram (bsuatthegames) and YouTube.

5. British Dictionary

Think you know what a hole-in-the-wall is? What about a lorry or a uni? Rubbish! Check out our British Dictionary to find out. It’s spot on!

6. Photo of the Week

Our best photo featured weekly on the homepage. Tell us what you think.

7. Interactive Map

Confused about all of the event venues for London 2012? This will help.

8. Official Video

Hear from our outstanding advisers about the trip, the class and immersive learning at Ball State.

9. Our Team

Meet our FABULOUS team of journalists, designers, photographers, advisers and public-relations students.

10. London 2012 Countdown

We’re counting down the minutes until London 2012 is here! Follow it on our homepage.

Kait Buck  |  Public Relations Team


12 Apr 2012

How we made our BSU at the Games logo

Our team of journalism, telecommunications and public-relations students have been working hard since the start of the semester to get the ball rolling for our trip this summer. Along with getting our Olympic projects together, we have to build our brand—BSU at the Games—to become a reliable source. If we don’t look like a legitimate team, we won’t be taken seriously once we’ve gone overseas.

With building our brand, a logo is very important. When talking about how we wanted our logo to look, we wanted to incorporate our name and the Olympics. One thing that jumped out at me is the torch. The torch is very symbolic of the Olympics, and I think it is very recognizable.

After hearing what our professors wanted and getting critiques from the entire group, I managed to make a logo that I believe captures the essence our team was looking for. My design was simple and to the point yet gave us a professional look. With help from the critiques and a fellow teammate, I adjusted transparencies to have more depth in the torch and flames. I loved a lot of the other designs my teammates created, but I’m very proud mine was chosen.

Creating a logo was just the first step in really branding ourselves. If we are going to be paired with large household news-media names, it is key that we demonstrate that we are doing exactly what they are doing for this opportunity.

Annie Gonzalez  |  Graphic Designer



09 Apr 2012

No photo’s too humble if it gets me to the Games

Taking photos is one of my absolute favorite things to do. But it’s not always the most fun thing in the world. Sometimes your only job is to make your subject look good. This was the case with the professional head shots that I took of our team. The photos are nothing special—simple head shots. Nothing too exhilarating about counting down from three and pressing the shutter release. But in the end, I’m still taking photos and doing what I love.

Right now, it’s all about doing what I have to do until I get myself over to London to take the “fun photos.” I am extremely (and I can’t stress “extremely” enough) excited to have the opportunity to combine travel and photography. So as far as what I am excited about, well, I’m excited about everything: the food, the culture and especially taking photos.

Corey Ohlenkamp, another team photographer, and I also plan on making a food blog that will include photos and reviews of all of the food we have eaten at different restaurants. Check for links here!

Documenting my experience as a tourist and as a journalist is what makes this trip most exciting.

 Tyler Varnau   Photographer


09 Apr 2012

Spending an hour with New York Times’ Joe Ward

Being on the graphics team for BSU at the Games is an incredible experience.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to go to London and strengthen my skills as a journalist as well as broaden my horizons as a person.

One of the ways that we’ve been preparing ourselves before we go to London is figuring out what type of graphics to make.  Last week, we had the opportunity to Skype with the graphics editor of The New York Times, Joe Ward.

Joe was very helpful when he spoke with the class.  He and his graphics team have created incredible graphics for coverage of past Olympic Games. Their projects range from interactive maps of medalists to video features of specific winners and sports.  Their concepts and creativity within the end product is simply amazing. We wanted to know how to pull off the same type of professional work and how to get our audience interested.

Joe’s advice was to search for interesting stories that are unique. When the Olympic GUames start, everyone will be covering who won each event and what times they scored.What Joe told us to focus on are stories that revolve around individuals–stories that people will remember. It’s not about the number of medals or certain times that athletes make; it’s about the emotions and the way they reached where they are  now.

I’m very excited for all the opportunities that this trip will give us, and I know that our team will create outstanding graphics that will be remembered. Joe was so helpful, and I’m glad we had the chance to get his opinion.

Jennifer Prandato  |  Graphic Designer


21 Mar 2012

Let us take you behind the scenes

BSU at the Games is a group of 40 students from Ball State University who will be traveling to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Our class is comprised of students majoring in photography, graphic design, public relations, journalism, telecommunications and sport administration. Read our blog as we spend the next few months preparing for the trip. Be sure to check in daily beginning July 23 so we can give you an inside look into our college minds as we take on the city in search of  great media content. As part of the public relations team, I’ve been organizing this blog, helping create media lists, producing website content and developing ideas for our social-media plan. You’ll see my tweets from time to time, and I’ll be sure to have my classmates blogging for you!

I can’t really describe how privileged I feel to be involved with such a prestigious immersive learning project. Last spring, I spent four months studying British culture while living in London. I’m excited to return to a former home and show my classmates around the city!

Double-decker buses, rides on the Underground, brilliant accents and the 2012 Olympic Games—here we come!

Alix Sappington  |  Public Relations Team