Countdown to the Olympic Games: Vicki Michaelis

The Olympics in Tokyo will be the first Summer Games Vicki Michaelis has not covered in nearly three decades. Between Summer and Winter Games, Michaelis has reported from nine Olympics.

The press badges Michaelis has collected over the years. (Photo: submitted)

Her Olympics coverage for the Denver Post, USA TODAY and TeamUSA.org has taken her to Sydney, London and Athens, Greece, among other global hubs.

She witnessed every Olympic victory from Michael Phelps, including his historic performance in 2008 in Beijing when the swimmer won eight gold medals. Michaelis wrote about documenting that history for TeamUSA.org in 2016.

“The Olympics are a potent mix of everything I love about covering sports,” Michaelis said. “You have an endlessly rich array of athletes and their narratives to explore. You also have the social, political and cultural layers of the athletes and teams competing against each other.”

Michaelis is now rooted in Athens, Georgia, where she is the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of the Carmical Sports Media Institute.

Her first visit to UGA’s campus was for the 1996 Olympic Games when soccer was played in Sanford Stadium. Little did she know then that her career would one day be planted steps away from that same stadium.

After Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal in Beijing in the medley relay, Michaelis captured this image. Phelps and his medley relay teammates are visible in the background on the top step of the podium. (Photo: Christine Brennan)

“It is very special to me now,” Michaelis said. “But, to be honest, my memory of covering that game isn’t vivid or anywhere near complete. More than anything, I remember being deeply grateful for the cold hot dog that UGA sports information legend Claude Felton (ABJ ’70, MA ’71) offered after the game, as I filed my story from the Sanford Stadium press box.”

That small gesture of kindness was received with much gratitude considering Olympics coverage deadlines make sleep scarce and good meals rare. The multi-week grind was always worthwhile for Michaelis because it was a small price to have a first-hand account of athletic history.

In Atlanta in 1996, she covered the U.S. women’s gold-medal games in soccer, basketball and softball.

“I saw and chronicled those watershed moments in U.S. women’s sports,” Michaelis said. “Both soccer and softball were new to the Olympics, and it was the first time Americans — a generation after the 1972 passage of Title IX — really embraced women’s teams and not just individual women’s athletes at an Olympics. The Atlanta Games changed how we view professional women’s sports leagues and women in sports overall. That I was there for those historic Olympic victories is a career highlight.”

Michaelis was part of the ecosystem of professionals around the Olympics. Many of her best memories and connections were created in the shadow of the iconic five-ring logo. Now, she and the Carmical Sports Media Institute create similar opportunities for young journalists.

Students in the Carmical Sports Media Institute began covering the Paralympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and will continue in perpetuity thanks to the generosity of the Carmical Foundation. This coverage is in partnership with The Associated Press.

Professor Vicki Michaelis talks with Miranda Daniel, left, Nikki Weldon and Zoe Smith as they plan out coverage at the US Air Force Academy of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday, May 31, 2018. (Photo: Mark E. Johnson)

“The Paralympic Games offer all that I love about the Olympics, amplified,” said Michaelis. “Media outlets, though, generally don’t devote resources to amplifying the Paralympic stories. That gives us the opening to give our students the social, cultural and practical experience of covering a Paralympic Games while also giving them the chance to get their stories and photos published by high-profile media outlets.”

With every Olympic Games competition comes new stories from athletes and their home nations. It is where local cultures meld with sporting achievement serving as a common and universal language. For a sports storyteller, the Olympic Games are bountiful garden of meaningful narratives.

“You have the heightened drama and emotion of the competition, because every moment and every result is so consequential when the chance to shine comes only once every four years,” said Michaelis.

The Olympic Games in Toyko will be different for Michaelis. She will enjoy the spectacle as a spectator and through the eyes of the audience she’s long served. It will surely stir up a variety of emotions and memories.

Just as many athletes find themselves coaching the next generation of gold medalists, she now serves as a coach. Some Olympics content she consumes in July and August will be created by students she trained.

“As fulfilling as it was to be an Olympics reporter,” Michaelis said, “the reward of seeing our Sports Media Certificate graduates live their dreams is beyond compare.”

What happens when sports are canceled?

Editor’s note: this feature originally appeared on the UGA Today website.

Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society in Grady College, spent more than 20 years as a sports journalist, the last 12 as the lead Olympics reporter for USA Today.

Since 2012 she has taught at the University of Georgia and she leads Grady’s innovative sports media certificate program. With sporting events all over the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implications stretch far beyond the playing fields. Without sports an essential part of our culture has been shut down. And the economic impact of the multibillion-dollar industry is only now just being felt.

We spoke with her about how sports leagues led the way in responding to the virus; what the shutdown means to sports leagues, broadcasters, athletes and fans; what sports might be like when they come back; and much more.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of all these sporting events being canceled, isn’t it?

If you look back in history, sporting events have been canceled. And the events that precipitated that, those events are life-changing, even world-changing things, whether it’s war or natural disasters or other tragedies. But in those times, you usually didn’t see all sports canceled. You can go back to World War II and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked baseball to keep playing.

So, when you look at all sports – literally every single sporting event canceled—I think you see the level we’ve risen to. It’s unprecedented.

A good argument could be made that sports led the way to the awakening to how serious this was. On March 11, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was diagnosed with COVID-19 and the NBA postponed its season, the NHL followed and all sports seemed to fall like dominoes.

That’s a great reading. It didn’t seem real until we knew someone who had it. It humanized it in a way that not even Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson could. They were in Australia. But here Gobert was literally on the court ready to play a game for our entertainment. The NBA, by doing what it did, woke everyone up to the importance of thinking about this differently and approaching it differently.

What is the impact of the calendar being wiped out—from a media standpoint?

The economic impact is going to be deep and broad, no question. You are looking at major broadcasters who won’t be making any money on advertising. How will they pay their bills? And they make a lot of money off events like the Masters and March Madness. Readership is drawn to their websites because of the coverage of these events, so they are losing audience.

What might conversations be like in those board rooms as executives try to figure out what to do next?

I assume that they are approaching things with cautious optimism. Some of these things you just aren’t going to get back. The Final Four you’re not going to get back. The Kentucky Derby will probably have to go up against college football. Good luck with that.

What this is going to make people realize, if they don’t already know, is how we use sports to come together. Live sports is one of the last remaining places where you can watch something in real time and have the same experience as another person in another place. As human beings, we need that common experience. When sports come back, I expect the audience will be more fervent and more loyal than ever.

Sports history is as old as history itself. The Olympics, which were postponed, have been canceled before. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics was moved from 1940 because of the Second World War, for example.

Exactly. Think about how many stories you can do around that. My students are working on some new projects. There is a new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum opening this year. We already were working with the people who produce the museum’s digital site. We had decided to do something about the 1980 U.S. Summer Olympics team, which did not compete because of the boycott.

We have two things we tell our students that make a story: Why now? And why should we care?

Our “why now” and “why should we care” of the 1980 project been boosted in an incredible way. An exploration of what the 1980 coaches and athletes experienced can help us understand what some of these current Olympic and Paralympic athletes and coaches might be going through.

How are you addressing some of these issues as UGA classes return online?

The one thing we are going to emphasize to the students—and we do this throughout the sports media certificate program—is that 85 percent of sports stories happen off the field. We obviously teach them how to cover events and finish stories on deadline, but we also teach them how to find stories away from that. This is a teachable moment. “Remember what we’ve told you. Let’s start brainstorming stories that are there to be told.”

When you look through the rosters of the UGA spring sports, I guarantee you that every person on those rosters has a great story to tell: what they were hoping for this season, how their lives have been affected, what their training looks like, what their outlook looks like.

They all have compelling stories and that’s what we are here to do. Those kinds of stories can help people relate to these athletes and put it in perspective—the challenges they may be going through in their lives. That’s why we love sports. That inspires us.

Once all this is over, could sports be one of the things that brings us back to normal?

I think it’s served that role in the past. When you think about post-9/11, some of the first baseball games that were held, especially in New York, did that. Take that time and multiply it by 100.

Grady Sports Media students work 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Twenty-three days, 90 nations, 102 events and 15 sports made up this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the midst of the history-making moments, numerous surprises and inspiring action were two students from the Grady Sports Media certificate program, Emily Giambalvo and Cat Hendrick, experiencing the Games in a way few can relate.

After a competitive selection process, Giambalvo and Hendrick were selected by the United States Olympic Committee to report on the games for the USOC’s various information channels including its website, TeamUSA.org.

Cat Hendrick and Emily Giambalvo at the opening of the figure skating events. (Courtesy of Cat Hendrick)

“It was the best, longest, most trying and amazing experience of my life,” Hendrick, a second-year journalism major, reflected. “Every emotion you could possibly feel, it was in there. But, overall I just feel so lucky that we got to experience something that most sports reporters go their whole lives without experiencing.”

Giambalvo, a fourth-year management information systems major, agreed. “Overall, it was really awesome and it was such a cool environment to be in a worldwide setting that has a ton of chaos and a ton of exciting things with journalists from all over. I got to see and learn about a lot of new sports and cover really cool moments where history was being made.”

Over the course of three weeks, both Giambalvo and Hendrick worked under tight deadlines each producing more than 20 stories covering the different mountain and snow sports. These sports ranged from ice skating to snowboarding, hockey, speed skating, luge, bobsledding and many more. It was a chaotic and exhilarating environment where they not only worked closely with athletes but also with seasoned journalists.

“I was way more excited to meet journalists than athletes,” Giambalvo admitted.

Throughout this experience, both Giambalvo and Hendrick’s days were filled with traveling to the different sports venues, interviewing athletes and attending press conferences, working in the main press center and writing daily articles. It was not an easy task and each relied on the skills they acquired from their Grady Sports Media classes.

“Considering the fact that a year-and-a-half ago, I have never written a sports story, Grady Sports has helped me a lot,” Hendrick said. “The sports media certificate favors a trial-by-fire approach, but that has made all the difference in the world. I have Grady to thank for everything, because I was clueless a year-and-a-half ago. It wasn’t easy, but the professors care so much and have gone out of their way to help us.”

This opportunity was made possible with the support of Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports. Michaelis was the lead Olympic reporter for USA Today from 2000-2012 and her relationship with the USOC opened the door for students to attend.

 To view a complete collection of the features that Giambalvo and Hendrick wrote at the Olympic Games, please see Grady Sports Media students cover Olympic Games

While Michaelis was a valuable resource and pushed them “to find stories outside of the easy scope,” the Olympics was not without its challenges. Both Giambalvo and Hendrick battled freezing cold temperatures and the pressure to consistently crank out creative stories.

“Any journalist can feel good about writing a story in one day, but after getting into the 14th consecutive day writing a story, it was challenging,” Giambalvo said. “There is no way for [Grady Sports] to teach you every situation, but it can give you the confidence that no matter what the situation is, I can handle it.”

The most challenging part was keeping our stamina up,” Hendrick echoed. “I was nervous going into the Olympics as a first-time writer, but I just had to trust my training. Grady gave me everything that I needed to know, it was just a matter of executing at that point, but I had all the tools that I needed.”

Emily Giambalvo interviewing an Olympic athlete. (Courtesy of Emily).

By the end of the games, both Giambalvo and Hendrick walked away with countless memories, stories and experiences.

Giambalvo said she most enjoyed watching figure skating, and covering the U.S. gold medal curling game. “The curling gold medal game, was the last event I covered and the last story I wrote. The overall significance of what it meant for the sport and the athletes made it the perfect story. It was a nice way to end it.”

“You see the Olympics through a certain lens your entire life, so to actually be there behind the scenes and see all the work that goes into every single clip was really fascinating,” Hendrick concluded. “I’ve read a thousand stories in my life, but to be in the press conference and see the answers to the question I’ve asked on CNN, Fox and ESPN was really neat. This was literally the Olympics of sports journalism. I am super grateful to Professor Michaelis and the rest of the sports media certificate for working so hard to get us the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Grady College students to cover Warrior Games

Six students and two professors from Grady College will cover the Department of Defense Warrior Games as credentialed journalists in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1-7, 2018.

The Warrior Games is an adaptive athletic competition featuring injured and ill athletes from the military.

Three students from Grady Sports Media will write about the Warrior Games and will be advised by Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports Media. Three photojournalism students will document the stories visually and will be advised by Mark Johnson, senior lecturer in journalism. Michaelis and Johnson will be on site to supervise and edit the students.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to cover live sports action,” said Michaelis, who covered the Warrior Games in 2011 as a reporter for USA Today. “It’s also great opportunity for them to have to familiarize themselves with an event and with sports competitions that they don’t necessarily know.”

The student journalists will team up to produce packages with written features and photographs. The students are researching the athletes and sports now to identify potential stories. They are also researching enterprise ideas about adaptive sports and technology. The stories will be pitched to local and national media outlets.

Michaelis said the Warrior Games will allow the Grady’s sports and visual journalism programs to build on their experience from the 2016 Paralympics Games , which nine Grady students covered for The Associated Press.

“Every one of these athletes has an inspiring story,” Michaelis added. “The hard part isn’t finding good stories, it’s finding the best story. The only issue will be how much time we have to tell them.”

Fourth-year journalism student Michael Hebert is one of the Grady Sports Media students covering the Warrior Games and he looks forward to covering first-time athletes in the competition, as well as those who have not had a chance to tell their story yet.

“What I want to do is cover the athletes who are using the Warrior Games as a chance to heal, not necessarily physically, but more so mentally,” Hebert said.

The students selected to travel to the Warrior Games were chosen by a committee after auditioning with deadline coverage of athletes participating in a UGA-hosted track meet.

The experiential learning trip is being funded by support from the Carmical Foundation, donations to the Grady Sports Media program and funds from the Carter Endowment for Journalism Excellence.

Miranda Daniel, a fourth-year student who will be photographing the Warrior Games, anticipates a fast-paced environment, but looks forward to telling the stories of the athletes visually.

“I have no doubts this will be an amazing experience,” Daniel said.

In addition to Daniel and Hebert, students traveling to the Warrior Games are Brittney Butler and Nikki Weldon from Grady Sports Media and photojournalists Christina Matacotta and Zoe Smith.

“We are hopeful we can make this a perennial opportunity,” Michaelis concluded. “We think the adaptive sports space is just such a great place for us to do what we want to do, and not enough media are in this space. The students can get a really full experience being there.”

The Warrior Games is a nine-day competition featuring nearly 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans in eleven different sports, including sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and track. Each branch of the United States military will be represented—the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Special Operations Command—alongside military athletes from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The event takes place at the Air Force Academy.

UGA Amazing Student: Emily Giambalvo

Emily Giambalvo, a Ramsey Honors Scholar, started in sports journalism at The Red & Black on a whim. It led to nearly 300 stories, multiple awards and the opportunity to cover the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for The Associated Press

Giambalvo names Vicki Michaelis, director of the Grady Sports Media certificate program, as her favorite professor.

“She’s always willing to help, whether it’s editing a Paralympics story with me at midnight in Brazil or answering questions when she happened to walk by me in the MLC while I was writing,” Giambalvo said. “Professor Michaelis offers both encouragement and criticism, and every one of her assignments has the purpose of steering students toward success in the real world. Each time I leave her class or her office, I feel excited to be a journalist.”

In her profile, Giambalvo also reflects on how her time at The Red & Black has shaped her. “During my first week of freshman year, I attended an information session at The Red & Black on a whim. I thought it might be an enjoyable hobby for a semester or two. Three years later, I still haven’t left the student-run newspaper and have written close to 300 stories.”

Read more about Giambalvo at www.uga.edu/amazing/profile/giambalvo-emily.

Growing demand leads Grady College to offer additional online courses for summer semester

Grady College will offer 11 online courses for the 2017 summer semester to keep up with the continued demand from students for such classes.

“Again this year, we increased the number of online course offerings,” said Alison Alexander, senior associate dean for academic affairs for Grady College. “Students can find college-wide and major-specific courses to take during the summer term when they are off campus.”

Many of the courses offered are in high demand during the spring and fall semesters. Online summer courses give students the opportunity to take classes that normally fill up quickly.

Most of the courses will comprise very brief video or slide presentations presenting an introduction to the lesson, then will guide students through readings, web-based tutorials and projects to perform and evaluate on student’s own time.

Projects are the highlight of many of the offerings and the online medium provides a good way to share projects and encourage feedback among students. It is also a better medium for sharing long-form media like television shows in the case of the media and television study classes.

Sabrena Deal, a graphics lecturer who taught the course online last summer, will be leading the online graphics course again this year.

“The ADPR 3520E course will give students the opportunity to earn certifications in the most recent versions of the Adobe Creative Software through the Lynda.com platform,” said Deal. “These certifications translate directly to resumes, portfolios and LinkedIn.”

“We know that the industry is looking for students with these skills and are glad to offer the course to more students through the online offering,” Deal continued.

The courses that will be offered include:

Brand Communication Marketing (ADPR 5990E) —taught by Mark McMullen, this seminar is designed to synthesize and integrate many of the theoretical and practical approaches to the study and application of advertising, public relations, and related communication fields. Emphasis is on critical thinking, analytical processes and acquisition of specialized knowledge pertaining to the seminar topic.

Data Gathering and Visualization (JOUR 5380E) — taught by Bartosz Wojdynski, this course will familiarize students with the conceptual, procedural and technical aspects of telling newsworthy stories through visual depictions of information. Students will practice gathering and processing data, executing basic statistical procedures and creating original explanatory and informational graphics for news.

International Mass Communication (JRLC 5080E) — taught by Andy Kavoori, this course will focus on the mass media of the world — what they are like, how they operate and what impact they have. Philosophies of different systems will be compared, as well as efforts at development or regulation of these systems. Attention will be given to print and electronic media and to international news agencies.

Introduction to New Media (NMIX 2020E) — taught by John Weatherford, this course will explore the economic, technical, social and cultural aspects of media technologies. The course will take a historical perspective, covering three sections: Old New Media, Now New Media and Next New Media. Students will develop a solid working knowledge of the field and know where and how to further their own knowledge outside of the classroom.

Graphic Communications* (ADPR 3520E, this class is currently full) — taught by Sabrena Deal, this course will teach students the skills to design messages for particular audiences and to prepare designs correctly for print, digital and social environments. Students learn to analyze and to use the principles of design, typography, layout, color theory, art and illustration, and copyright law. Adobe Creative software is used to produce a variety of projects for student portfolios.

Multiplatform Story Production (JOUR 4090E) — taught by Ivanka Pjesivac, students enrolled in this course will develop enterprise news stories across platforms. Each student will produce a long-form web story with links and references, a video story (television news package), a photo essay, a radio story, a “back story” (explaining issues with the reporting) and a webcast explaining some aspect of the story in depth.

New Media Productions (NMIX 4110E) — taught by Chris Gerlach, this course will provide a solid foundation of technical skills that students can build upon for the rest of their careers. Students learn how to design and develop web products that function effectively with multiple platforms (desktop computers, cellphones, tablets, etc.) and are introduced to coding with PHP, MYSQL and Jquery.

Public Relations Research (ADPR 3510E) — taught by Michael Cacciatore, this course focuses on design, strategy and implementation of public relations research techniques. Study of research theory, methods and practices within the context of public relations case studies and client work.

Race, Gender, and the Media (JRLC 5400E) — taught by Maria Len-Ríos, this course teaches students about the relationship between men, women, and racial and ethnic minorities in the United States and the media. Course work includes discussions of representations in mass media (television, print media, advertising and film); impact of representations on audiences; inequities in media professions and institutions; and alternative, feminist and minority media.

The Peabody Archive: TV History and Genre (EMST 5990E) — taught by Shira Chess, this seminar is designed to synthesize and integrate many of the theoretical and practical approaches of the study of mass communication, giving opportunity through a variable topics seminar to analyze processes and effects of mass communication and to acquire specialized knowledge of specific mass media modes of presentation and production.

Topics in Sports Media (JRLC 5880E) — taught by Vicki Michaelis, this course will focus on an issue or trend that has become a social concern or transformational force in sports and sports media. Current examples include college sports realignment and related broadcast rights agreements, social media, the impact of sports concussions and sports analytics.

More information about UGA’s online courses can be found on the UGA Summer School website. Registration for summer 2017 is currently open.

Grady College students ‘dug deep’ to tell inspiring stories from 2016 Paralympics

To overcome physical challenges and rise to compete at the highest level of parathletics—the Paralympic Games—takes an awe-inspiring amount of training and dedication.  To report respectfully and responsibly on the amazing feats of those athletes takes a special kind of journalist.  That was the task for nine Grady College students who covered the 2016 Games in Rio in September.

Through a partnership with the Associated Press, 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’s Sports Media Certificate program) worked in teams to produce multimedia content from the first half of the Games that was distributed globally.

“They just completely knocked it out of the park,” said Mark Johnson, head of the college’s visual journalism program.  Johnson and Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports, supervised and edited the students’ work in Rio. “I know we brag about our kids a lot because we have spectacular students,” he continued, “but the way those nine worked the situation, the way they dug deep to find great stories, poured their hearts and souls into it for all the time they were on the ground in Rio, was just unbelievable.”

In advance of the trip, the students researched the athletes and events, and talked through possible story ideas to pursue.

“When you go to a Paralympics, everyone has an amazing and dramatic story,” Michaelis said. “So you have to apply a whole new standard to ‘what stories are we going to tell.’

“I always ask my students, ‘why now and why should I care?’’” she explained. “The ‘why now’ is really obvious—they’re competing at the Paralympics.  But the ‘why should I care’ became the question that needed to be answered before we’d continue with the story.”

Unlike at the Olympics—where it can be hard to get a unique story because there are hundreds of other reporters going after that same story—journalists at the Paralympics were granted more access to athletes and coaches, according to Michaelis, a veteran Olympics reporter and the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society.

“Our students could really operate as full working journalists,” she said. “They didn’t have to rely on hanging on the fringes of press conferences and group interviews to get what they needed. They were able to interact one-on-one with the athletes and coaches and set up meetings outside of the venues.”


“It forced me to ask some of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked as a reporter, all while being in the new environment of an international sporting event.”

  — Emily Giambalvo


One example was Kendra Hansey’s preview story about U.S. Army veteran Melissa Stockwell, a paratriathlete from Team USA who was competing on Sept. 11.

“Stockwell served in Iraq, she lost her leg to a roadside bomb,” said Michaelis.  “When Kendra sat down with her, Stockwell talked about what an honor it was to be able to go out and represent her country on 9/11.”

Stockwell won a bronze medal that day.  But the silver and gold medals also went to Americans, an incredible moment covered in an article by Emily Greenwood and captured in photos by photojournalism student Jenn Finch.

“Those pictures of the three women on the podium are pretty powerful to see,” said Johnson, “particularly being on the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.”

Another story shared by publications around the country was Emily Giambalvo’s piece about a table tennis player who was homeless as a teen.

“It quickly turned into a larger story than I expected when [the athlete] opened up about struggles during his childhood,” Giambalvo reflected. “It forced me to ask some of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked as a reporter, all while being in the new environment of an international sporting event.”

Added Michaelis: “That’s the kind of story that rises above…table tennis being this person’s refuge and guiding light through his early life.”

While in Rio, the students relied on skills they learned in Grady College courses, as well as on-the-spot advice from Michaelis and Johnson.

“The Paralympics is complex in terms of classifications of competition, because the athletes’ impairments are so varied,” said Greenwood. “It was a challenge to understand, and accurately report on, the different classifications in each event. Professor Michaelis has always stressed the importance of accuracy and doing your research, though, so I relied on checking and double-checking my work before submission to make sure I was accurate. Having Professor Michaelis as an editor is tremendously helpful, as well.”

Kennington Smith, who wrote about how sighted guides coordinate with athletes, among other stories, also leaned on Michaelis’ guidance.

“Professor Michaelis helped me so much throughout the process. There was one time in particular where I had about four or five story ideas that I had worked on that all fell through within an hour,” Smith recalled. “I was very frustrated but she worked with me and I ended up with a great story to tell at the end of that day. Overall, she taught me that in journalism, I must be patient and the right story will always come.”’

“The Visual Journalism program has instilled a sense of responsibility when covering any event or undertaking any job,” said David Barnes. “As journalists, it’s our duty to be objective reporters and, of course, that applies to the Paralympics. When we went to cover assigned events, I often reflected on class lessons to help deal with all the noise and focus on what was in front of me so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”


Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, upper right, runs in the men’s 100M T44 preliminaries at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Running a time of 10.81 seconds, Peacock set a new Paralympic record. (David A. Barnes/University of Georgia via AP)

According to Johnson, the students handled themselves like true professionals.

“I think it’s critically important that (the Paralympics) get covered in a professional manner, in a respectful manner,” Johnson said. “These are athletes who spend their entire lives striving to get to this place in the same way that Olympic or professional athletes do.  That was the big message that we tried to get to the students.  They looked at (them) not as disabled athletes, but as professional athletes.  That, to me, says a lot about our kids.”

As a public relations major, Greenwood produced branded content for sponsor Coca-Cola, in addition to writing for the AP. (Coca-Cola funded a portion of the students’ travel expenses, and ThinkTank Photo donated and Canon USA loaned equipment for the visual journalism students.)  Regardless of the career path she chooses, Greenwood, who plans to apply for law school, believes the experience will help her stand out.

“Few people can claim to have stories in the Washington Post and New York Times at 21 years old, but Grady Sports has given me that opportunity,” she said.

“The fact that UGA and Grady were willing to go the extra mile for us to have this experience further solidifies my love for this school,” added Smith. “This opportunity was everything I could ask for, plus more.”

Photojournalism student Josh Jones also gained a lot from the experience. “This trip helped to advance my career goals by showing me that I can perform at a high level and on extremely tight deadlines in an international setting,” Jones said. “I’m so thrilled with this amazing opportunity Grady provided for me and the once-in-a-lifetime experience I had in Rio.”

As remarkable as the experience was for the students, it was equally, if not more, special for Michaelis.

“It very well may have been the most validating experience of my life…how often does a teacher get to see her students apply what they learned in a real-world setting and have it be that high quality?” she asked. “I feel very fortunate that I was able to have that.”

Related stories:

#GradyinRio: Students cover Paralympics, Olympics (on Storify)

UGA students to cover 2016 Paralympic Games for The Associated Press

Students say Grady Sports Media program prepared them for demands of Olympics’ coverage

Grady College photojournalism and sports media students cover Paralympic Team Trials