BSU at the Games: Taking Sports Journalism to the Next Level

22 student journalists and staff from Ball State University have traveled to Sochi to cover the Winter Olympics, they are sharing their exclusive stories on the Work in Sports Blog, and giving us a taste of what it is like to cover one of the largest sports events in the world.

Written by Adam J. Kuban/BSU at the Games

sports journalism sochi olympics

Adam J. Kuban (pictured right) and some of his Ball State students enjoy the Men’s ski jumping event

It’s not money.  It’s not fame.  It’s not prestige and accolades.

I teach because of the altruistic ideal: helping students come into their own to maximize their strengths.

I am a third-year assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Ball State University.  I typically teach multimedia storytelling, but in the past, I’ve also taught basic reporting and writing strategies as well as editing.  It is that latter-most qualification that connected me to BSU At The Games, the immersive-learning academic opportunity for students to travel to the Olympics, capturing the essence of the athletic fortnight via multimedia storytelling.

Program directors Ryan Sparrow and Colleen Steffen asked me to assist as a content editor for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; I enthusiastically agreed without hesitation.  I knew about their previous success with the 2012 Summer Games in London, and I thought it’d be a welcome challenge to teach and advise students in an international setting for an international event.

We are now a week into it — and I have been sufficiently challenged!

Entering the Unknown

Students almost always enter a class environment with myriad expectations, conceptual knowledge and technical skills.  As a teacher, I view it as my responsibility to bridge the chasms and ensure students’ progress.  That feat requires time and assumes basic familiarity with local culture and access to resources such as Internet.

Neither of which has been a given on this trip.

Indeed, while my students have undoubtedly been pushed beyond their comfort zone, so have I.  On multiple occasions.  I have never before led a group of students abroad, so I have learned much in the past seven days—about them but also about me.

For one, I’ve noticed how students have transitioned from dependent to independent (or close to it) in such a tight duration.  sports journalism bsu at the games

Trial by Fire

I remember an instance where students bombarded me with questions when the flight attendant passed around a customs form upon our arrival in Russia.  I’ve never before visited Russia, so I, like them, didn’t really know how to answer, and I had to reveal my ignorance.  Honestly, such a moment of vulnerability bothered me, as I’m used to either having the answers or at least being resourceful enough to know where to look or whom to ask.  But where do you look in that situation?

There is limited or no Internet on a plane unless you pay for it.  And the flight attendants are messengers; they just distribute the requisite documentation.

Of course, instances like this have occurred frequently over the past week to the point that students have realized that we faculty are not personal Wikipedias.  They surely have come to understand that you problem-solve when you don’t know.

Simple as that.  And you can’t be afraid to ask.

As evidenced by a student walking with me one day who, when we were denied access at a usual entry point into Olympic Park, turned to me and asked if he could search for a taxi driver to see about a ride to the other side of the Park for another entry area.

He didn’t stand there aimlessly.

He didn’t break down because things didn’t work out exactly as planned.

He didn’t ask me to do it for him.

He solved the problem.  I just happened to be alongside him at that moment.

Taking Control of the Story

As another example, I’ve noticed that students have also taken control of their sports-media output. They’re no longer asking me for permission to conduct interviews or waiting for my input.  They just get what they need in order to compose the story.

Early on, I recall fielding many questions from my student writers about what story ideas to pursue and potential source materials for those angles.  To be fair, that’s part of my role: advising students along the way.  But I’ve been increasingly impressed with their journalistic motivation and mental fortitude, especially as the long days continue to compile.

They’re now seeking stories that interest them and not me.

They’re now trying to fulfill the professional demands of their clients and not just completing stories for a course grade.  They’re now trying to stand on their own feet rather than on my shoulders to find their way in the global community that envelops all of us.

That is a strength that translates into a life skill.

I’m glad that, at certain points throughout this experience, I’ve been unable to hold hands.  While it initially made me feel inept and useless, I’ve learned that direction doesn’t have to be direct; rather, I can help students come into their own through a shared experience like

sports journalism jobs adam kuban bsu at the gamesAdam J. Kuban, a 3rd-year assistant professor in Journalism, grew up in Geneseo, Ill., and previously had been an editor for an education e-magazine & broadcast meteorologist assistant.

In his spare time Kuban enjoys being a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and playing Tennis.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

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