Reel tape, real experience for J-students

Student-produced news show offers journalism students broadcast practice, airs on KRNV-TV.

11/23/2011 - By: Tiffany Moore
Wolf Pack week anchors Christy Swartz and Ian Sorensen serve as anchors for the University’s Nevada Wolf Pack Week. The student-created and run program is in its third semester of broadcasting news around campus. Photos courtesy of Chris Zangara.

Each week, the University of Nevada, Reno presents Wolf Pack Week, a half-hour television news program completely produced by students.

The program was created in the fall of 2010 when Stewart Cheifet, assistant professor of journalism, and advertising student Lindsey Gross, the club president, decided broadcast students needed an opportunity to practice.

"I didn't think the students were getting the experience they needed in order to get a job in the real world," Cheifet said. "We have a campus newspaper, why not a campus news show?"

The club started as University Casting (U-Cast) with seven members. Soon after, Cheifet became the faculty advisor and helped facilitate funding for equipment from the University's Student Services division, the Charles H. Stout Foundation and the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.

Today, the club is self-sufficient with nearly 40 members, and their program is broadcast on the screens around campus, on the University's Reynolds School of Journalism website and on Facebook, with some of their stories aired on KRNV News 4, Reno's local NBC news station.

"Most students coming out of Wolf Pack Week get hired quickly all across the country - a higher success rate than the broadcast students not involved with the club," Cheifet said. "Upon graduation, students can walk into a job knowing what to do. Wolf Pack Week gives them the chance to have a reel tape to present, and to say, 'I know what I'm doing, I've already done it.'"

Gross, a 21-year-old senior from Las Vegas, agreed that enhancing the student's resumes was important.

"When working on a portfolio, the students need something to show the employer, stuff that will stick out," she said. "This provides an opportunity for any major, especially journalism students, to have a chance to get their stories on air."

Students with experience from Wolf Pack Week found jobs in several places, including Colorado, Montana and Hawaii. Locally, Wolf Pack Week is expanding its reach. The club was approached by the City of Reno with negotiations to air the complete 30-minute broadcast on local cable, and similar negotiations are in the works with the area's public television station, KNPB Channel 5.

"This semester, everyone started recognizing us," Gross said. "We're a hot commodity in the local news arena. Everyone wants our packages as well as the rights to our packages."

Students with limited experience, students outside of the broadcast specialization, and even graduate students can participate in the club.

"I'm not broadcast," Gross said. "It just happened to be a passion I had when I started the club. I'm an artist and designer at heart, not a reporter, but I'm still involved."

"Younger students with less experience can shadow their more-experienced peers within the club," Cheifet said. "We also have the 'Reynolds Rookie' segment for students who haven't had as much experience."

"Wolf Pack Week is popular with students because it's doing something real instead of sitting in the classroom," Cheifet said. "The club provides a critique process and a chance for the students to hone their skills."

This semester, the club broadcast from the KNPB building at the north end of the University campus, but the members have much to look forward to with the completion of the $8 million renovation that will upgrade the Reynolds School's digital infrastructure, making it a state-of-the-art learning facility.

"It's been a real challenge with the J-School torn apart," Cheifet said. "It will be fantastic when we get back into the building with new technology and our own facility."

In the meantime, Dave Santina, the vice president of production at KNPB, enjoys sharing the equipment, studio, control room, editing area and staff support with the students.

"It's also nice to have the students and that energy in the office," he said. "We like to interact with the students as much as possible. If I turn on the news at night, I will likely see a current or a former Wolf Pack Week participant on the air. It's neat to see that a student who was in the KNPB studio is now broadcasting for a local station. That speaks well of their program."

View complete Wolf Pack Week broadcasts on Vimeo.


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