14 May 2012

Why be a journalist? Hint: not the salary

Alright. Time to ‘fess up. I had an ulterior motive in starting this Olympic program—getting back to Ball State’s awesome Worcester Centre in Worcester, U.K., where I spent summer 2010 with my family and about 35 BSU students.

But that’s only partially true.

The other reason that I wanted to go to the Games was to show my journalism students just how cool it can be to be a working journalist.

It can be hard sometimes to show that back at Ball State. Oh, most of us try in our own way, but all too often it’s tempered with news of newspaper layoffs and starting your careers in some backwater market that pays under 20K a year. And that’s not cool.

But there’s something magical about this job. Colleen actually calls it “journalism magic.” And it’s true. It works. It’s this cool Zen moment when all of your training and all of your instincts come together in this perfect combination. And you are on it. You are living in the moment and you can’t be stopped. You can’t wait to get back to your computer to input photos (like I’m doing now at 2 a.m.) or bang out a story or edit that package.

Coming to Dallas reminded me of it. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had picking up a camera again and shooting sports—shooting people for that matter.

It’s brought the coolness back to me.

And I’m hoping it does for my students too. I hope that when they go home from London they reflect back and think, “That’s what I want to do everyday for the rest of my life.” And I hope that they bring that kind of passion back with them to the DN or to Ball Bearings or to Sports Link, because lord knows journalism needs passion right now.

We need to be cool again.

Ryan Sparrow  |  Adviser



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


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