Going into the Games as a student journalist is hard. Going into them as a student journalist with no media credentials, no real connections and basically as a normal spectator, trying to find fresh and original content—that felt almost impossible.
Since the USOC Media Summit in September, we had plenty of contacts and connections from athletes for our stories leading up to the Olympics, but we knew those would expire as they started seriously training for the Games. After that, all we had left to rely on were man-on-the-street interview sources for any stories in Sochi.
Luckily, two of our broadcast crew, one other writer and myself were given access to the Main Press Center outside the Olympic Park for two of our six days in Sochi. The MPC sits next to the International Broadcasting Center, where NBC, CNN and other national networks were working. It was essentially a massive, diverse, open version of a regular newsroom.
While we were working in the MPC, we had the opportunity to meet and interview two sports professionals for advice and ideas. We met with Gerry Ahern, managing editor at USA Today Sports, and Ball State alum and Chicago Tribune sports editor Michael Kellams.
Although Ahern and Kellams wouldn’t give us the easy way out and hand us good stories, they started to give advice for finding a story with no credentials, just starting out, on a stage as colossal as the Winter Olympics. Both gave their own tips for one of the basics—to always keep our eyes and ears alert for any good tip.
They also gave us some insight into how we could tackle a problem like this, as well as other problems in the future as a member of a larger, credentialed staff.
The short time we had as a group in the MPC around professionals in sports is what really flipped the switch in me from feeling like a student journalist scrounging for stories at the Olympics – and failing miserably – to a young professional ready to do what needs to be done to find an amazing story. The first day in the MPC, when we spoke to Kellams and Ahern, was one of my most productive and positive days in Sochi.
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.