Asbury University sophomore Matthew Pertz scored a TV reporting credit when Lexington’s WLEX-TV used a piece he had worked on for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Pertz got to be the on-camera talent for a segment from the Olympics that featured Skyler Faulkner, a Williamstown native and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor who went to the Olympics courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Asbury has for decades sent teams of students to the Olympics. The arrangement was initially set up by Jim Owens, dean of the school of communication arts. Owens is a former Associated Press photographer.
Since 1984, communications students have served as broadcasters both global and local at each Olympics. Around 600 have worked in paid media positions; others have worked in non-paid media jobs.
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Olympic cities visited have included Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sochi, Japan; London, England; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Beijing, China; Torino, Italy; Athens, Greece; Sydney, Australia; Atlanta and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Asbury students have worked in media positions including video editors, reporters, camera operators, public relations and audio for a variety of national networks, local TV stations, newspapers, magazines and online sites.
“The Olympics is the biggest media event in the world,” said Pertz, an Asbury sophomore from Raleigh, N.C. “There’s nowhere better to practice.”
Asbury sent two groups of students to the Rio Olympics, which ran from Aug. 5-21 — the media communications group, which got paid, and the journalism group, which chased daily stories in small groups supervised by professors.
Pertz, who was in the journalism group, said his main focus was “trying to find Kentucky athletes and Kentucky connections.” For example he worked on a story about a man from Denmark who had gone to Eastern Kentucky University competing in the steeplechase, a track event in which competitors run an obstacle course.
With the experience he’s getting at Asbury, and as a broadcast and print major, “That means there will be at least one job somewhere,” Pertz said.
Student Savannah Riley said in an e-mail that the experience was noteworthy because of the high level of performance expected from the students.
“We were all hired individually and treated like real working professionals and that definitely comes with its ups and downs, but overall it gives us the once in a lifetime learning opportunity,” wrote Riley, who is from Rockford, Ill. “Some of us work crazy hours late into the night in aquatics shooting Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold medal and others of us work the 9-5 with people from all over the planet making sure this event goes as smoothly as possible.”
Jonathan Heffley, a junior, said that although he had to pay for his own trip, working at the Olympics “was worth the experience.”
“It was different every single day,” Heffley said. “We would go out, get the stories and then edit together.”
Heffley enjoyed meeting people from around the world as well as having the opportunity for professional development, he said. “It was definitely being on my own some days, not having a professional right behind me.”
Speaking no Portuguese was also a challenge: One night his group took more than an hour to order a pizza. Still, the experience was worthwhile for Heffley’s future, which he sees as being “anywhere on a film or TV set.”
“I’d be happy there,” he said.