A group of students has been preparing all year to bring the Olympic Games to Ball State.
The twenty-four students and instructor are on their way to Russia today to cover the Olympics for 10-13 days, while some students in the United States are working in Muncie or at the Chicago Tribune.
Sophomore journalism and telecommunications major Zach Huffman is one student traveling to Sochi to produce audio and news packages.
“I’m excited to go to Russia,” Huffman said. “Not many people can say they’ve been to Russia, first off. America and Russia always have their quarrels together, but it’s exciting to go over there and it’s exciting to be with the athletes.”
Huffman has reached out to radio stations across Indiana and the nation to get the pieces he will produce in Sochi put on air. So far, Indiana Public Radio, WCRD, the Smiley Morning Show and WLBC are some of the stations that have agreed to air the pieces produced by Ball State students in Russia.
For Huffman, covering the Olympics in Russia gives him a taste of what his future career will be.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be real-world experiences. It’s going to be things that we are all striving to do every day,” Huffman said. “As for what’s going to happen and when, we don’t know off the top of our head yet. My goal is to go wherever the wind or the news take me.”
This opportunity will take junior Stephanie Redding to the Chicago Tribune, where she will work for two weeks starting Thursday. Redding is a part of the group who will cover the Olympics from the United States.
“It’s going to be crazy because we’ll look at a real-life experience about what we might be doing in the future,” Redding said. “It’s preparation for the future. It’s going to be an experience of how a… real, professional, well-established newsroom [works].”
Redding has already started developing graphics for stories she will cover when she works at the Chicago Tribune. She said she is still a little nervous to start working.
“So far, (I’ve learned) not to be afraid to ask questions, because everybody is at a different stage,” Redding said. “You could be the best graphics person at Ball State, and you would probably still be scared going to the Tribune and not knowing what will happen, but it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to be a little nervous.”
Jenna Spadafora, a sophomore telecommunications major, will work in WTHR’s newsroom in Indianapolis for this project. Although she isn’t traveling to Sochi, she said she is still just as excited to cover the Olympics from Indianapolis.
“I know a lot of people are going to Sochi and reporting there, so I’m on the home team, they call it,” Spadafora said. “I’ll be focused on anything I want to. I don’t have to just talk about the sports. I can talk about trends and weather and things like that.”
Traveling abroad is nothing new to sophomore Robiyabonu Ibodullozoda, who grew up in Tajikistan speaking Russian. Ibodullozoda will be traveling to Sochi with the journalism students as a translator.
“I will be translating, helping the students and guiding them in Russia,” Ibodullozoda said. “I believe none of [the students] know Russia, so it’s a completely different place. At some point, it’s just another foreign country depending on how you accept it for yourself. I am just going to be there as a guide to help them out.”
With the safety concerns in Russia, Ibodullozoda said she is confident in her own safety. Since she has been to Russia before, but she is worried about making sure the other students don’t get lost.
““I’m concerned for the students,” Ibodullozoda said. “I know what I’m doing and I’ve been abroad already—I am abroad right now. I’m concerned for the students because even if I’m a student myself… I know I have a privilege of knowing the language and being familiar with the culture a little bit.”
Huffman said he was similarly unafraid of security concerns. He said he is sure he will be safe, and he is more focused on enjoying being in Russia.
“Covering the Olympics as a student doesn’t have to mean stories aren’t as excellent as those of big news companies,” Huffman said. He said that he and the rest of the Ball State team are working to get quality stories that other news organizations wouldn’t think to cover.
“As journalists, we may not have the press passes or access that NBC is going to have… but we are still able to put out great information,” Huffman said. “In order to be a successful journalist, you don’t have to be with a network. You can just be in a small town organization and still get as great quality and as great of stories as the network news agencies.”