Journalism students lead media coverage of games


A multimedia website, a nightly television broadcast and two new courses have been created by the College of Journalism and Mass Communications to enable students to cover and promote the Special Olympics 2010 USA National Games.

Fifty-two students in two journalism classes have joined forces with the games' media professionals to produce a website,, that will tell the stories of athletes and competitions in text, photos and videos.

The COJMC team includes (pictured at right, from far right) Johnnie Adcox, mentor Mary Jane Bruce (University Communications) and Jordan Mierau. The trio interviewed Team Michigan bowler Kolan McConiughey.

About 3,000 participants are competing in 13 different sports across the city of Lincoln. The games, the largest multi-sport event in the state's history, is expected to attract 15,000 family members and friends, 1,000 coaches, 8,000 volunteers and 30,000 fans.

As many as 300 local and national media personnel are using Andersen Hall's newsroom as a work space through July 23, said Sarah Leeth, vice president of marketing and communications for the 2010 USA National Games.

"Students' reports will be used by national media and by the athletes' hometown newspapers. And photos and the videos will be a great way to showcase the athletes to their family, friends and fans and to promote the Special Olympics movement," Leeth said.

"This kind of engagement with the community is the essence of what we teach," said Gary Kebbel, dean of the college. "Reporting, distributing, promoting - those are the means by which communications students help people use news and information to improve their lives and better understand the lives of others."

Students will gain invaluable experience in the field, said Amy Struthers, associate professor of advertising.

"Students will document and promote the Special Olympics under deadline, under pressure and under chaos," she said. "Our students will work side-by-side with media professionals from across the country."

Struthers and advertising lecturer Adam Wagler will teach a class that focuses on advertising and public relations, while the other course, taught by professors Jerry Renaud and Barney McCoy, will concentrate on multi-media journalism.

The college also will partner with the city of Lincoln to produce a live nightly newscast from Andersen Hall during the week of the games, said Bill Luxford, operations manager for Channels 5-City-TV and 21 Educational Access.

"We will send students out to the venues every morning to produce high-quality multimedia content for the website," said Renaud, professor of journalism. "It is an intense environment that is hard to normally create in a classroom."

The college began preparing for the games last year. During the fall semester, students in three courses developed promotion strategies and athlete profiles. During the spring semester, students in Wagler's advanced new media design course created the website. College faculty and staff have been meeting with Special Olympics officials since January to plan the event coverage.

"The synergy of the games, the feeling that the sum of what we are doing is greater than all the separate parts, will be the most powerful result of reporting on the Special Olympics," McCoy said.

Struthers said the games' organizers are excited to work with J school students and faculty who are committed to conveying the lives and messages of the intellectually disabled.

"Special Olympics organizers will find they have 52 advocates with a richer and deeper understanding of friends and neighbors with intellectual disabilities," she said.

- By Cassie Fleming, Journalism and Mass Communications

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