The Future of Sports Journalism

With newsrooms being raided of resources, pro sports offer a golden opportunity to enterprising UNLV students.

Editor's Note

: This year we're celebrating UNLV's 60th anniversary with a full lineup of events and special coverage. This essay is part of a series exploring the future of UNLV and our impact in Southern Nevada and the world. Here, professor Jon Castagnino, '03 BA Communication Studies and BS Sports Injury Management, discusses how Las Vegas' evolution into a major sports city will help UNLV.

The Golden Knights are here. The Raiders are coming.

As a Las Vegas native, it’s been an arduous and downright painful wait, but Las Vegas is finally a major league city. There’s no question when the Knights take to the ice this fall for its first National Hockey League (NHL) game, Las Vegas will feel a sense of pride it never has before (with all due respect to the Runnin’ Rebels national championship, of course). Becoming a major league city brings opportunities and challenges for local news organizations and the young crop of professionals UNLV is churning out of the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies.

How will the local media landscape change with the addition of the Knights and the Raiders?

With the birth of the 24-hour news cycle, the proliferation of digital content, on-demand video, and social media, the traditional means of reporting news is drastically different than when I began my journalism career with a UNLV undergraduate degree in 2003. There was a time when you looked forward to the morning edition of the paper or made sure you tuned into the 6 p.m. news. Media outlets had captive audiences because there were so few places to get information.

Now information comes as quickly as a thumbprint to unlock your smartphone. Media outlets are everywhere (which ones are credible is a discussion for another time), but do you notice how they’re all typically sharing the same information?

The burden to be different lies on journalists to enterprise and discover original content, but the time to do that is shrinking. Reporters are required to do more work than ever before. Traditional print journalists are expected to upload digital content. Many television journalists are required to film and edit their own stories and write content for the station website. Both groups must be engaged on social media.

Local fans of the Knights and Raiders will demand constant information when news breaks; whether it’s related to contracts and injuries, coverage of practices and game days, or even feature pieces on what players like to do away from the ice/field. These stories need journalists to cover them. But here’s the rub: newsrooms across the country continue the practice of slashing payrolls; even the monster operation at ESPN recently laid off dozens of journalists to cut costs. While a few Las Vegas media outlets, like the Review-Journal, have been bolstering their sports staffs; many continue to lag behind, pushing crews to cover more with the same, or even fewer, resources.

To my point, I believe this spells opportunity for our journalism students to fill a gap for what will be a content hungry sports town. We’ve got eager bodies that want to be a part of the industry, ready to find their own stories and gain experience they won’t get at any other campus in the county.

The Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, and our student-run sports program, the Rebel Report, already are actively involved in providing local coverage of the Golden Knights and Raiders, both of which have received us with open arms. In March, we were the only college journalism program to travel to the NFL (National Football League) owners’ meetings in Phoenix to witness the relocation of the Raiders. In June, we attended the Golden Knights expansion draft at T-Mobile Arena. By the end of June, we received our first student production Emmy Award. While the job market in this industry is extremely competitive, covering two major league teams should give our graduates a leg up. We are adapting our curriculum to teach the nuance of digital storytelling and be different from other media outlets, to be Rebels, if you will.

Sure, it can be a little overwhelming for students to be thrown in the mix with seasoned journalists that have covered the NHL and NFL for years, even decades, but you’ll be proud to know many of our Rebels attack the challenge with a no-fear attitude and some naivety (which can be a good thing). I’m happy to show them the ropes.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but Las Vegas is a sports town. The Runnin’ Rebels laid that ground work decades ago, it just took a while for the rest of the country to realize it.

Oh, and that new NFL stadium? It’s going to attract other massive sporting events to the city that we’ve never seen before. Las Vegas will host a Super Bowl. Sure, we’ll have to wait a little while longer, but we’re used to waiting. We’ll be here when it happens.

Jon Castagnino has over a decade of experience as a journalist in Las Vegas. He joined UNLV's Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies in 2015 as a professional faculty member. The Rebel Report began its fourth season of production in October.

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