Missouri Journalism Students Develop English-Language Content for the China Open Tennis Tournament

The Crash Course in Culture and Tennis Was a Big Hit with the Reporting Team

Missouri Students at the Forbidden City
Missouri journalism students outside the Forbidden City in Beijing. They are, from left, Travis Zimpfer, Calvin Lewis, Madison Heinsohn, Karen Miller, Stephanie Halovanic, Trevor Kraus and Alex Silverman.

Columbia, Mo. (Oct. 30, 2012) — Working side-by-side with journalists from The Associated Press, China Daily, Getty Images and other international news outlets, a team of Missouri School of Journalism students recently covered the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing.

Over the 10 days of the tournament the students helped the world keep track of the action as the field funneled down from 64 women and 32 men to the final two winners. They were on hand as top-seeded Victoria Azarenka defeated second-seeded Maria Sharapova. On the men’s side, second-seeded Novak Djokovic defeated third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The students were the English-language reporters for the China Open website. They covered the most important matches each day and some of the special events, such as autograph signings.

Travis Zimpfer at the Great Wall
Travis Zimpfer leaves a temporary mark on the Great Wall in China.

They were enrolled in an independent study course that combines cultural studies with sports reporting. For some, this course served as an introduction to sports reporting or the peculiarities of covering tennis. The first eight weeks, held on campus, prepares the group to cover the event. The course culminates with a two-week trip to Beijing.

Stephanie Halovanic with Hat
Stephanie Halovanic strikes a serious pose while wearing a souvenir hat and holding a souvenir flag of China.

The students met with members of the University of Missouri‘s tennis team to learn about different shots, the parts of the court, defensive and offensive plays and scoring.

The orientation also included a brief history of China, an overview of the city of Beijing and a meal at Q’s restaurant in Columbia where eating with chopsticks was mandatory.

Upon arrival in Beijing, students had about four days to tour and experience China, including a trip to the Great Wall. This year’s group toured everything from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to various silk markets and the 798 arts district.

Karen Miller at the China Open
Karen Miller seems to blend in with the crowd at the China Open. The background is actually a large mural at the Open.

The China Open host committee treated the students to a formal dinner on their second night in Beijing. For most of the students this was their first exposure to authentic Chinese food. This menu did not include some staples of the American versions such as sweet and sour pork.

Students covered the China Open during the final 10 days of the trip. They reported on the routine and the unexpected, including No. 3 David Ferrer pulling out with an injury to the history-making run of No. 165 Zhang Ze. He became the first Chinese player to advance into the third round in any Association of Tennis Professionals tournament. The students learned about reporting on the fly through one-on-one interviews with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and Britain’s No. 52 Laura Robson, the youngest player on the women’s tour. They took advantage of an open press conference to ask questions of Djokovic, Azarenka and hometown favorite No. 9 Na Li.

Calvin Lewis at Beijing's National Tennis Center
Calvin Lewis works in the media center at Beijing’s National Tennis Center. He is an international studies major at MU.

The team of reporters from Missouri covered the tournament as volunteers working for the China Open website. They covered two or three matches a day in the early rounds, which included going to the match and the post-match press conference. That made for some long days, often covering an 11 a.m. match, a 2 p.m. match and a 7 p.m. match. As the field was narrowed, the students had fewer matches to cover, giving them a chance to sleep in – and do laundry.

Remarkably, senior Trevor Kraus took advantage of the opportunity to practice his Spanish skills. He met Xavier Fontdegloria, a Beijing-based reporter who works for a Spanish-language news agency. Fontdegloria invited Kraus to join him in an interview with Spain’s Carla Suarez-Navarro, currently ranked No. 22.

Missouri students and faculty members have now worked at the China Open for four consecutive years.  The program began in 2009, after 59 Missouri students and two faculty members worked directly with the Olympic News Service at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“This is a great opportunity for students to experience China and how a major sporting event operates,” Karen Mitchell, assistant professor who taught the course, said. “The opportunity to work along side national journalists and covering professional athletes is unmatched in the J-School. I hope the School of Journalism can sustain this relationship for years to come.”

Updated: July 10, 2020

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