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UGA students to cover 2016 Paralympic Games for The Associated Press

Paralympic Kendra Hansey-h
Curt Chandler

Athens, Ga. – Nine students from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will cover the 2016 Paralympic Games, which open Sept. 7 in Rio de Janeiro, for The Associated Press.

The students-David Barnes, Jenn Finch, Josh Jones and Casey Sykes (from visual journalism) and Jamie Han, Emily Giambalvo, Emily Greenwood, Kendra Hansey and Kennington Smith (from Grady College’s Sports Media Certificate program)-will be fully credentialed press, producing multimedia content for global distribution by the AP.

“It will be a great experience for the students,” said Michael Giarrusso, the AP’s global sports editor, “and a great service to newspapers, broadcasters and digital operations in the U.S. and around the world.”

Two Grady College professors, Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports, and Mark Johnson, head of the college’s visual journalism program, will supervise and edit the students’ work in Rio. Michaelis was the lead Olympics reporter for USA TODAY from 2000-2012. She has covered nine Olympic Games.

Student David Barnes is looking forward to photographing the Paralympics. “The Paralympics are in a league of their own and will require a level of diligence and efficiency that I have not yet experienced. I’m excited to see how the demands of the job will inspire me to push myself creatively and professionally,” he said.

Michaelis also accompanied two Sports Media Certificate students-Nicole Chrzanowski and Jaylon Thompson-at the recent Olympics in Rio. The students wrote stories about U.S. medalists for, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s website.

For the student coverage of the Paralympic Games, Grady College is collaborating with Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism program, directed by John Affleck. Now a professor, Affleck worked at the AP for 22 years, covering two Olympic Games and managing AP’s coverage of major sport events, including the Final Four and college football national title games.

“The bureau will contribute to the students’ social and global awareness and give them a deadline-driven, real world experience that will improve their readiness to navigate the ever-evolving media landscape,” said Michaelis. “The students also will be providing a public service to the Paralympic audience.”

The students will be helping to meet an underserved audience demand for coverage of Paralympic sports.

“We have a lot of members and customers interested in the Paralympics, particularly stories about athletes from their state or region,” said Giarrusso, a 1992 UGA alumnus. “We can’t devote as many resources to the Paralympics as we do for the Olympics, and working with the students from Grady and Penn State allows us to get more content to readers.”

The Grady College students will cover the first half of the Sept. 7-18 Rio Paralympic Games and Penn State’s students will cover the second half. To prepare, several of the students covered the Paralympic Team Trials in early July in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“It speaks to the strength of Grady Sports and the commitment professor Michaelis and (Grady Sports associate director) Dr. [Welch] Suggs have to continuously present us with opportunities that enrich our young journalism careers,” said student Emily Giambalvo. “[They] have always pointed students toward gaining real-world experience, and giving students a chance to cover the Paralympics epitomizes that philosophy.”

Coca-Cola is funding a portion of the students’ travel expenses, and ThinkTank Photo donated and Canon USA loaned equipment for the visual journalism students.

“As a graduate and long-time supporter of the Grady College, I believe a strong foundation in communications is very important. I also know that some of the best learning comes from hands-on experiences beyond the classroom,” said Scott Williamson, a1992 UGA graduate who is vice president of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola North America Group. “Coca-Cola is proud to support this group of Grady journalism students as they set out to cover the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games firsthand, helping to share the inspirational stories of athletes from across the globe.”

Brian Erwin, marketing consultant for Think Tank Photography, says the organization “strongly believes in photojournalism. [It] tells the truth, and by supplying [students] with equipment, we’re helping propagate that truth in their stories.”