Off to Sochi: Kwantlen journalism student joins Olympic News Service in Russia

Kwantlen student Brian Jones (right) interviews former NBA players Jerome Williams. - Contributed
Kwantlen student Brian Jones (right) interviews former NBA players Jerome Williams.
— image credit: Contributed

Brian Jones is a dreamer, and it's working out.

The 22-year-old Kwantlen Journalism student is already in Sochi, Russia, getting ready for next month's Winter Olympics.

Jones will be working, covering the games with the Olympic News Service (ONS). It's the sort of opportunity that would make any young news junkie both wildly excited and understandably nervous at the same time.

"I can't even describe the feeling, I don't think it's going to set in until I get on the plane and get over there," Jones said recently, before leaving on a Russia-bound jet plane. "I've been a huge fan and a huge watcher of the Olympics for years."

Jones is working in the Games' media centre up in Sochi's mountain area, in a community called Adler. He'll be going to live events, interviewing athletes in the mixed media zone, in scrums, and he'll be writing "compelling recaps" which he'll upload to ONS press wire services.

Jones, originally from Gibsons, B.C., is part of a three-person team in Adler and an ONS contingent of 80 people from around the world.

Hockey was his first choice. He's Canadian, after all. But the mountain brings its own fresh challenge.

"For sure, my number one choice was hockey, to be in that media scrum when Sidney Crosby and those guys walk about," he said. "But I think it's going to be a riot in the mountains.

"Just to be able to meet an awesome group of journalists from all over the world, that's gonna be fun."Brian Jones - Kwantlen Journalism Student

Jones remembers, of course, the early morning of December 13, when he was told he'd be heading to Sochi.

"I didn't sleep, I waited until three in the morning, and I got a buzz on my phone," he said. "I was in my living room, I just couldn't control myself. I just started dancing."

Jones had applied for the position with the help of Kwantlen Journalism grad Kimiya Shokoohi, who herself had worked with the ONS and is currently completing a Master's in Sports Journalism at the University of Southern California. Shokoohi mentioned Jones's name to Sochi's media co-ordinators, and Brian "incessantly" pursued the ONS crew, finally getting the team's manager on her cellphone in Russia.

His contract and accreditation then finally arrived that morning in December.

When Jones's Kwantlen classmates heard the news, they erupted into applause, said the school's acting program chair, Mark Hamilton.

"We are, I am pleased as hell for Brian," Hamilton said. "It's such a great opportunity for somebody to have, particularly at his age and his stage.

"He's a great kid, a really talented writer, and he deserves it."

The discussion around media and its job prospectus has been something of doom-and-gloom recently, depending on your field or your platform.

For a program like Kwantlen's journalism, they made the decision just a few years ago to go from primarily print-based education to a focus more "platform-agnostic," says Hamilton. The school has had students pulling off internships at major outlets like the Winnipeg Free Press, and had graduates moving on to places like MSNBC, the Globe and Mail, and the Tyee, and Shokoohi is studying at the University of Southern California.

And, of course, they have Jones's Sochi excursion now underway, too.

"To have something like this happen, it's great for our program because we get excited about it, too," says Hamilton. "It shows students, there are opportunities if you go after them.

"Journalism is still thriving… that makes me feel warm as a journalism instructor, too."

Jones joined up with the ONS on January 20, and he's returning to B.C. on February 26. He was in Moscow for two nights first, on his own, taking in whatever culture he could.

"I'm really excited to go to Russia," he said, before leaving B.C. "Just to sightsee, adventure, and get a feel for the country."

After the closing ceremonies and a quick, 24-hour train ride to the Black Sea, it's back to work and back to British Columbia, where he'll be covering the PacWest college basketball championships.

(Jones, who was born in 1991, says he fell in love with basketball when the Grizzlies were in Vancouver, around the same time Michael Jordan returned from baseball and the Space Jam set.)

He already has his eye on Rio 2016, and from there the soon-to-be-graduated, rabid basketball fan plans to aim his career cannon just south of the 49th.

"A year or two down the road, I want to be in an NBA city down in the States," he said. "Working for ESPN, Grantland, Sports Illustrated, something big down there.

"That's always been my goal."

*Brian Jones also blogs on his own site, Beyond the Bleachers...

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