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Rebels on a Deadline

Student-produced show Rebel Report wins an Emmy Award while its student reporters go on to land jobs.

Campus News  |  Aug 3, 2017  |  By Afsha Bawany
Shakeria Hawkins

UNLV student Shakeria Hawkins anchors an episode of the Rebel Report, a weekly sports and entertainment news show produced by the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

Just months after launching, The Rebel Report news team hit a homerun with their coverage of the city’s sports and entertainment events.

The program, created and produced by students and faculty at the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, received a 2017 Emmy Award from the Pacific Southwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The show won for the category “Student Programming.”

UNLV journalism alum and faculty member Jon Castagnino launched the weekly, 30-minute show in January 2016. The winning episode aired April 14, 2016, and included student stories on athletic and entertainment events around UNLV and in Las Vegas:

  • Students covered the grand opening of the T-Mobile Arena where Clark County commissioners handed the "Crystal Key" to the Las Vegas Strip over to the band The Killers.
  • Justin Guzman reported on Big League weekend at Cashman Field, where he interviewed players for the New York Mets.
  • Natalia Lancellotti had access to the MGM Garden Arena to cover fight night between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
  • Victoria Bass interviewed UNLV football head coach Tony Sanchez.

It was all just a week’s worth of news coverage.

A Sports News City

Las Vegas is quickly becoming a major league sports city where the intersection of business, athletics, entertainment, and politics all intersect, Castagnino said. Having access to signature events and prime interviews is one of the benefits students have of studying journalism at UNLV.

Cassie Soto co-anchored the winning episode and also produced, wrote, and reported on the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate for the New York Mets.

Soto, 22, graduated from the journalism school in May and lined up a job at the Mountain West Network as a production assistant and host.

“This is the next best step because of how much I learned from the Rebel Report. This is the Rebel Report on steroids. It’s definitely a dream come true,” said Soto.

Soto’s resume includes her favorite Rebel Report assignment ­— going to Phoenix for the NFL owners’ meeting where she interviewed Raiders owner Mark Davis on the decision to relocate the football team to Las Vegas.

Learning All the Roles

Students in the Rebel Report class switch roles every week. Each student gets a turn in anchoring, reporting, writing, producing, camera operation, developing social media strategy, and direction.

“I really enjoyed my experience,” Soto said. “Jon, being from the industry, taught us like colleagues and not students. He didn’t beat around the bush with anything. It really prepared me because I came in working with professionals and not being uncomfortable and it prepared me for the real world.”

Castagnino, a former Fox 5 Vegas news anchor and reporter, said he wants students to take on multiple roles so they know what it takes to be in a newsroom. The show is live-to-tape and there are no re-recordings or last-minute changes, unless breaking news happens.

He sets high standards but is aware that anything and everything can go wrong in a newsroom or a student production. Being adaptable and owning up to mistakes are lessons he imparts on students. That’s why the winning Emmy episode carries weight.

“We weren’t scrambling. It’s rare when that happens. Everything came together nicely. Cassie Soto and Nakia Berry were natural on air as co-anchors. The stories came in without issues. None of the interviewees backed out. No breaking news. It was a smooth production. Students throughout the show brought their A-game and met their deadlines,” Castagnino said.

And now with Emmy accolades, Castagnino said, the Rebel Report students  “are able to add this to their resumes in a very competitive job market.”

Watch the Rebel Report on YouTube or follow the show on social media for live broadcasts.