Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Immersive Learning

July 17, 2014

For the first 17 days in August, Ball State University students will be at the Indiana State Fair to find the stories behind the state’s biggest sow, deep-fried Twinkies and the giant tomato contest.

BSU at the State Fair will include the university’s best feature writers, photographers, videographers, graphic designers and public relations students as part of the student-managed news organization. The immersive learning experience will provide content to various Indiana media outlets during the games. Students also will be reporting almost around the clock on every aspect of fair life and disseminating their work via social media and the Web.

Calling the state fair a feature writer’s dream, Colleen Steffen, a Ball State journalism instructor, will lead the group.

“The fair is our Hoosier junk drawer, the place we put people who love to quilt, a meticulous re-creation of an old-timey drug store and fifth-graders who know how to make electrical extension cords from scratch,” she said “It’s funny, a little weird, a compelling cross-section of humanity and, most importantly, a litmus test. It tells us who we are and how we’ve changed and how we haven’t.”

BSU at the State Fair builds upon BSU at the Games, the news-gathering project that sent student reporters to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia last winter.

The team placed more than 200 photos, graphics, videos and stories with the national media during the Winter Olympics and was featured by CNN, CBS and NBC. BSU at the Games made its debut in 2012 at the Summer Olympics in London. More than 250 student-produced stories, news graphics, photos, and videos were featured in major news outlets such as the Huffington Post, USA Today and Chicago Tribune.

Steffen, who served as a faculty adviser during both the Moscow and London games, believes there are plenty of stories to be uncovered during the state fair in Indianapolis.

“I’ve led two groups of young writers through the exhilarating, crazy-making, unforgettable experience of gallivanting off to a foreign country without invitation or credential and having the audacity to act like a real-live professional journalist,” she said. “But I don’t think a collection of world-class athletes, a spark of ancient flame from Athens or even Vladimir Putin are required to replicate this experience more often than every two to four years. Why not look in our own backyard?”