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Seven students of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University spent much of their spring semester covering the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training for JSOnline, the website of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Students Harper Babin, Tyler Emerick, Andrew Gruman, Jordan Johnson, Grant Martin, Kati Shearer and Corie Stark followed the Major League Baseball team through spring training, producing daily coverage of the games, players and coaches.
The students, who were competitively selected and received special training and press credentials, were part of a pilot class in multimedia sports writing and reporting at the Cronkite School.
Their work was supervised by Cronkite Faculty Associate Greg Boeck, a 37-year sports writing veteran with 17 years of experience covering sports at USA Today.
Highlights of the students’ coverage included live blogging of games and stories such as one about how the Brewers’ reliever and translator were affected by the tsunami that hit their homeland of Japan and another about the kinds of jobs players had while working their way up to the major leagues. Student Andrew Gruman also contributed a seven-part series on every member of the 2011 Brewers coaching staff.
The students’ blog, “Peanuts and Cracker Jack,” received 190,000 page views in February and March, making it one of JSOnline’s most popular blogs.
Boeck said he is proud of how well the students performed in their role as real reporters.
“They exceeded everyone’s expectations – mine included, and I really attribute that to them being ready for this,” Boeck said. “I believe the Cronkite curriculum gets them ready for anything and everything.”
Marty Kaiser, top editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and immediate past president of the American Society of News Editors, said he, too, is impressed with the students’ work, which JSOnline frequently promoted on its home page.
“I am thrilled to have the students’ work on our site,” Kaiser said. “As we have seen how good the work is, we have increased the promotion on our site to drive traffic to the students’ work.”
Shearer, a graduating senior, said she loved being a part of sports journalism.
“The Brewers’ fans were amazing to us. They were so supportive of every story we wrote,” Shearer said. “You feel like you’re actually giving those stories to people and making them feel connected to their home team.”
The program is expected to continue and expand next year, said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan.
He told the students that their “coverage has done precisely what we had hoped – bringing the stories, sights, sounds and feel of spring training to fans back in the frozen north by employing solid reporting and a wide array of multimedia tools. I have no doubt that due to this impressive work, the spring training project will expand into a full-blown program next year.”
The spring training project with the Journal Sentinel is one of many professional reporting experiences available to Cronkite students. These include Cronkite News Service, in which students provide public affairs coverage for news outlets across the state; Cronkite NewsWatch, a live, 30-minute, student-produced newscast that airs on Arizona PBS; AZ Fact Check, in which students investigate candidate and campaign claims in partnership with The Arizona Republic and 12 News; the Multimedia Reporting Project, in which students report breaking news for azcentral.com; and News21, which produces in-depth multimedia packages of national significance.