WILMORE — It’s no big news Asbury University sent students to help broadcast the London Olympic Games this summer — the institution has had students working in broadcasting for every Olypmics since 1984. What was big news was that of the eight journalism students who went across the Atlantic in July, one was from Garrard County.
Courtney LeMay, now a senior, is majoring in media communications as well as journalism and thought her chances of going to London were gone when she didn’t hear back about going with the media-communications department.
But her hopes were revived when she found out Jim Owens, the dean of the school of communication arts who has coordinated Asbury’s Olympics invovlement for decades, had asked journalism professor David Wheeler to pick some of his top students to send to the Games. LeMay was one of them.
Several months later, work began while the contingent was still in the United States. They would be working with Lexington TV station LEX 18, and LeMay spent a week working with fellow student Amy Patterson and professor David Wheeler to put together a news package on a Lexington sportscaster who has been broadcasting the Olympics since 1988.
“Our first interview was before we left, and we went and talked to Tom Hammond in Lexington, so we interviewed him at his house and then we spent the rest of the week putting together that news package and making sure we knew what we were doing with LEX 18,” LeMay said.
LeMay flew out of Lexington on July 24 after a delayed flight caused some tense moments but ended up giving the students’ their second bags that contained most of their equipment free. Upon arriving in London, they settled into the house that would hold the seven female students and one male student — who got the couch — for the duration of the Games.
“I think that was a better experience than what I would have had with media because I would have had to be in my own room, and I might not have known people, because they were spread all over London,” LeMay said. “So I really enjoyed being in the house.”
The media students from Asbury were assigned to work at specific Olympic venues, but the journalism students were seeking out stories for LEX 18, Kentucky Monthly magazine and other media outlets.
Working with a TV station was a shift for journalism students. Several got to write articles for the magazine, but LeMay stuck to the camera work, as she was the only student who had taken the digital-film-production class at Asbury.
“I was one of the two people who knew how to use our editing software to make news packages, so I made news packages the whole time,” she said.
Sending students to the Olympics was an excellent opportunity for Asbury’s revamped journalism program to implement its new strategy that includes “digital storytelling” and focuses on “convergent journalism,” Wheeler said. Journalism students now take classes in camera technique, video editing, blogging, print media, graphic design and photography.
“They really are exposed to a wide variety of storytelling techniques, and that’s what the new journalism landscape demands to be competitive and get a job in the industry,” he added.
LeMay sought out stories about people with Kentucky connections, many of whom Wheeler already had on a list of prospective interviews.
“When we got there, there was a big long list of people we wanted to try to talk to, and we got to talk to most of them, but a few of them just didn’t work out,” LeMay said. “Some of them we had intended to video and we ended up just making short stories about them. It was a lot of prep, and then wait and see when we got there what would actually come through.”
The packages put together by Asbury’s journalism students were posted online and still are available for viewing at www.lex18.com/pages/asbury-at-the-olympics. Among Le- May’s favorites are a feature about a University of Kentucky graduate now at the University of Nottingham who got to carry the torch and a piece on what foreigners thought about Kentucky soft drink Ale-8-One.
“We took it around to different London landmarks and had people try it and tell us what they thought about it,” she said. “Most people liked it; some people didn’t, and some people wouldn’t be honest about it.”
While she wasn’t writing stories, LeMay did get to write some scripts for the video voiceovers.
“I still think I¿like writing better than making news packages — I really enjoyed writing the script,” she said. “I like editing, too, though; it was good to get lots of different experience. It was good experience, and it helped me be more confident in my ability to produce news packages.”
When she wasn’t working all day and staying up into the wee hours editing video, LeMay had some time for sightseeing as well as watching some of the Games. She and fellow journalism student Hillary Fisher swim for Asbury and were elated to find out they had a chance to see Olympic swimming events.
“We ran all over London trying to get tickets, and it turned out you had to get them online from a specific website and you couldn’t buy them from the park, so we ended up running to the Apple store in the mall next to the park and buying our tickets there,” LeMay said. “We got tickets to see (U.S. swimmer Michael) Phelps win a few more medals, and we got to see a world record in women’s breaststroke, so that was really cool, too, because Hillary is a breaststroker, so she was absolutely psyched.”
Wheeler said he has continued to be impressed by LeMay from the first class she took through her work at the Olympics.
“She was an excellent writer, and then I discovered that she was also a great videographer, and then I discovered she was also a great video editor; her talents are wide-ranging,” Wheeler said. “The success of our project for channel 18 depended in large part on Courtney, and she hit a home run every time.”