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Journalism Students Cover World Food Championships

Brock ZychA team of seven UT journalism and electronic media students and JEM professors Rob Heller and Nick Geidner traveled to Orange Beach, Alabama in November to cover the World Food Championships.

This marked the second year in a row that Heller and Geidner’s students covered the live event.

The World Food Championships was established in 2012 by Mike McCloud (BS/JEM ’90). The event brings together champions from other food competitions—barbecue, chili, burger, dessert, sandwich, bacon, recipe, steak, seafood and chef—to compete for the ultimate food crown, prize money, and exposure that can serve as a springboard to well-known food shows and acting opportunities.

Heller had McCloud as a student in the 1980s and the two have continued to stay in touch. After McCloud came to speak at a college event a couple of years ago, they hatched the idea of having journalism students cover the World Food Championships.

“It takes what we’re doing in our classes and brings it into the real world. The students get real-world experience finding and producing feature stories on deadline, while the World Food Championships get quality copy to use in promoting the event online, through social media, and in other outlets,” Heller said.

This year’s team included videographer Brock Zych, a senior from Kingsport; videographer Lindsey Owen, a graduate student from Knoxville; video producer and host Jake Albright, a junior from Knoxville; photographer Kendall Basham, a senior from Nashville; photographer Bradley Blackwelder, a senior from Knoxville; photo editor Kellie Ward, a graduate student from Chattanooga; and social media journalist Payton Boyd, a senior from Knoxville who posted her fellow students’ work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Students film Food FightAs an employee at E. W. Scripps, Boyd has covered live events on social media for Knoxville radio stations. She’s was excited about this new challenge.

“By putting out fun and engaging social media content for viewers, I was able to give them insights into the World Food Championships and into what our communication students are up to,” said Boyd.

Zych, who also participated last year, said he found this years’ experience even more valuable since the group knew what to expect.

“The best thing about this event, in regards to learning, is the deadlines,” said Zych. “You find a story and cover it, and then it’s figuring out how to post it so lots of people see it. And everyone wants to see it fast. It’s also great hands-on experience.”

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View the students’ journey at the website insidethefoodfight.com or by following @InsideTheFoodFight on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.