This week, millions of people will watch the 2018 Winter Olympics, which open this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Athletes and spectators from all over the world will flock into the 565-square-mile county; however, six of them will be from the Muncie corner of the world, specifically Ball State University.
This trip is one of the university’s immersive learning opportunities sponsored by the Department of Journalism. Five media students – two reporters, two videographers and one photographer – led by journalism instructor Ryan Sparrow, make up the student-led freelance agency known as “BSU at the Games.”
Sparrow, who developed the BSU at the Games immersive experience, said he did so because he wanted students to be able to develop their skills through high-level experiential learning.
“I thought it would be neat to bring that kind of sense of adventure and excitement of [traveling abroad] to journalism students,” he said. “When I was in England in 2010, I started hearing all about them preparing for the 2012 Olympics, and so, that’s how it started.”
Pyeongchang will not be the department’s first Olympic experience. In fact, it will be the fourth; but this year is special: Team USA has granted the students full media credentials. This will allow access to sporting competitions, press conferences, medal ceremonies and Team USA athletes, which has never before been offered to previous student groups.
The primary goal of BSU at the Games is producing daily original content on the Olympic games. News organizations, such as WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC, will all be receiving exclusive content from the group. Other news organizations from around the country will also be offered use of original content. Previously, student have seen their stories appear online for Time magazine and The Huffington Post.
“It’s exciting for students to be able to say that they have had a clip in TIME magazine,” Sparrow said. “Getting out as a student and going in for job interviews and what not, that actually does give them a little bit of a boost I think.”
Grace Hollars, the sole photojournalism student making the journey to the other side of the world, is keeping a blog about the team and her experiences.
“This thing, this mess, this insanely huge extremely ridiculous adventure we are planning is easily the largest event in my career, thus far. For everyone else in the group, I am sure they will say the same thing,” Hollars wrote. “We’re students trying to execute a plan to distribute content as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our mess continues to get larger and our heart rate gets faster.”
The six BSU at the Games “Korea Team” members will be leaving for Pyeongchang Thursday morning, while four members of a “Home Team” will stay in Muncie to manage the incoming content.
Hannah Patton is a reporter for a Ball State University arts journalism class.