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BrockZych Photo
Brock Zych, senior journalism and electronic media student, shoots the judging of last year’s World Food Championships. Zych will be returning to the event as a videographer.

A team of seven UT journalism and electronic media students is heading to Orange Beach, Alabama, today to cover the World Food Championships.

For the second year in a row, Professor Rob Heller and Associate Professor Nick Geidner are taking a group of students to practice their skills by producing written and video stories from the event.

The World Food Championships was established in 2012 by Mike McCloud, a UT alumnus. 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 stayed 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.

Journalism students photograph contestants bringing food to the judges’ table during the burger competition at the World Food Championships.
Journalism students photograph contestants bringing food to the judges’ table during the burger competition at the World Food Championships.

This year’s team includes videographer Brock Zych, a senior from Kingsport, Tennessee; 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; and photo editor Kellie Ward, a graduate student from Chattanooga.

This year’s crew also includes a member devoted to social media. Payton Boyd, a senior in journalism and electronic media from Knoxville, will be posting her fellow students’ work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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

“I want to put out fun and engaging content for viewers that will give them an insight into the World Food Championships,” said Boyd, “and an insight into what our students in the communication school are up to.”

Zych, who also participated last year, said he expects the experience to be even more valuable this year since the group knows 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.”

Keep track of the students’ journey at the website or by following @InsideTheFoodFight on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Rob Heller (865-974-3463,

Lindsey Owen (865-974-0937,