Students sprint to first place with Commonwealth Games coverage

Date 10.08.2022

Student ‘hacks’ had the scoop of a lifetime with some real-life snooping from the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Four Multimedia Journalism and Multimedia Sports Journalism students volunteered their time and expertise to cover the Games that featured more than 5,000 athletes competing in 280 medal events.

The quartet of budding journos also had their accommodation costs funded by the University’s Changemaker Team, reducing their travel time so they could gain as much experience and insight as possible.

Jessie George was one of them, reporting from the rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics contests. Jessie is a former gymnast herself and has just completed the first year of her degree. She says: “When I heard about the chance to volunteer at the Games from my lecturers, I immediately knew I wanted to do it because opportunities to get involved in big sporting events like this do not come up often, especially for young women journalists.

“I chose to cover gymnastics because it is what I grew up doing. I was no Commonwealth Games competitor by any means, but my parents did take me to classes from a very young age, and I competed in regional and school competitions for several years. I think having experience in the sport allowed me to empathise with the gymnasts and to speak with them on a more personal level after their performances.

“On my first day of coverage, I was very apprehensive of how, as a student, people would see me. But after a couple of days, I got to know the people I was working with and made useful contacts. I feel this was because I put myself out there, got involved and spoke to people, this I was initially hesitant about.”

Richard Smyth worked for the Northern Ireland press team producing content for their various social media outlets and interviewed athletes across various sports. He says: “I have always wanted to represent my home of Northern Ireland in the sporting field. To work directly for Team NI at the Commonwealth Games was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.

“I was thrown into the deep end with some of the world’s greatest athletes and had to be professional getting interviews arranged and done. To be able to write on my CV that I worked at Birmingham 2022 is special and something that is going to go a long way with my future employability.”

Will Oelrich is someone you will usually find reporting from a football pitch. He stepped aside from the footie to cover the 3×3 basketball and beach volleyball games. He adds: “First and foremost, I’ve learnt about beach volleyball. I was given the sport to cover and knew nothing about it, but now I am a big fan and would go and watch it again. I also gained experience being in the media centres and the mixed zones.

“Working at such a historic event and working around established journalists will help me a long way. I’d like to say a massive thank you to the University for paying for my hotel costs as this was a massive help and meant I could stay in Birmingham.”

George Halfhide reported from the hockey games and, like Jessie and Will, also filed reports for the official news service. He says: “This was a massive opportunity to have my first taste in the world of sports journalism and gain some vital experience for my second and third year at university.

“My typical hours were 8-hour days, either 8-4pm or 4-12am, and my main duties were to watch the games of hockey and study the standout players of that game and then, in the mixed zone, to ask the athletes of your choice open questions to get some insight on the games.

“To say that I have worked at the Commonwealth Games is not something many people can say they have achieved, especially after only one year of study at university.”

In addition, students also acted as media coordinators, giving them their first, paid-for roles as journalists. One of those is Adam Scott who has just finished the final year of his degree. He reported from and was the Media Centre Coordinator for the lawn bowls, held in Leamington Spa. He says: “The main role of the Coordinator was to run the Media Centre that journalists and photographers use. This meant answering their questions, helping them out if they needed it, posting the results, the running orders and overseeing the volunteers for the Media Operations department. The job also required me to do a lot of research into lawn bowls, a sport which I knew nothing about beforehand!

“My time at the Games gave me a good look behind the scenes at what goes into an event as big as the games to allow journalists to do their jobs. Likewise, it gave me insight into how to arrange things, so the athletes are as comfortable as possible when giving interviews.”

Adrian Warner, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the University Northampton, organised this unique experience for students. He concludes: “At the University, we believe in giving our Journalism students the best education and the broadest range of practical experiences, experiences which can change their lives, professionally and personally. They learned how to work in a reporting team and, more importantly, how to think on their feet when asking the competitors questions. These are skills which are crucial to being a successful journalist.

“They also worked alongside reporters who have decades of experience in covering the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and had expertise in the various sports. All of us in the Journalism team are incredibly proud of what these super students have achieved, something they will no doubt continue in their future careers.”

Find out more about degrees in Multimedia Journalism and Multimedia Sports Journalism at the University of Northampton.