UNLV students learning TV skills on University Speaks

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UNLV journalism students are gaining the hands-on experience of running a television show, while highlighting all aspects of UNLV and the Las Vegas community, through UNLV TV’s University Speaks. 

Coined as a show “for students, by students,” University Speaks, which debuted at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, is a monthly show put together by students who are a part of UNLV TV. 

Students shoot, write and produce their stories. They also run the behind the scenes aspects of the show, like producing the show, running cameras and working in the control room. 

“It’s a great experience to just be able to be doing things in front of the cameras and behind the cameras and knowing the in’s and out’s of everything,” said Maria Dibut, a UNLV senior and one of the co-anchors for University Speaks. “It makes me have more passion for what I want to do moving forward.”

All members of the show meet at a monthly pitch meeting to discuss story ideas for the show. This is where students can discuss and help determine special themes or angles they want to take for that month’s show. Since the TV show is monthly, the show’s topics and stories need air on the side of being evergreen, so viewers can watch the show whenever they want. 

Ana Saia, a junior at UNLV who is the show’s producer, works with the team to fill in the rundown of the show, putting in stories into iNews, checking the script and making sure everything is ready one the show tapes. When looking for stories and topics for the show, she sees an opportunity to find ideas around UNLV’s diverse campus. 

The camera viewfinder focuses on Maria Dibut as she adjust for taping of the final show. Photo by Jimmy Romo.

“They always make it known that [UNLV] is a diverse campus, that we have so many things,” said Saia. “You hear from different people who go to different universities, about the opportunities that we have here and to highlight a show about those kinds of opportunities to be proud of the university that we are at. It’s something that no one can take away from us. And it’s kind of a school spirit that we’re very proud of doing with each other.”

It takes roughly three weeks for the production to get set up, while the reporters shoot and edit their own stories. Once that’s done and the rundown is complete, the show members meet the week of filming to go over any final adjustments to the show and both anchors practice their scripts for filming day, which takes place on Friday mornings. 

While the student journalists control what content makes the show, the faculty at UNLV TV never leaves the students in the dark by providing guidance at every step as they make the show on their own. 

“The way that UNLV TV is operating, it really does set you up for success in both a collaborative and an independent way,” said Anthony Ramos, a UNLV senior and a co-anchor for University Speaks. “They kind of give you the space to play around with your show and to play around with your content. But at the same time they will critique you and they will help you grow and develop more and more.” 

University Speaks is not affiliated with any class taught at UNLV, students purposely choose to be a part of student-led journalism at University Speaks. Any student who is passionate about journalism or television production can join and gain valuable experience with peers who share the same interest. 

“You’re surrounded by people who want to do what you’re doing who enjoy doing broadcasting,” Ramos said. “It was a nice opportunity to get some more experience and to do something not for a grade but still tailored towards something I want to eventually do with my life.”

Both Dibut and Ramos want to get into broadcasting after receiving their degrees already work with local news stations in town. Dibut is an intern with KLAS Channel 8’s lifestyle and entertainment show, Las Vegas Now. And Ramos works as a video editor for the morning shows at KSNV Channel 3. 

Their time in the professional newsrooms also serve as another classroom for them. They can show off the skills they have gained at UNLV and bring back to University Speaks new things they have learned at their jobs.

“It’s just like getting inspiration and ideas of how to show off myself as an anchor,” Dibut said. “And I’m just grateful that I get to do schoolwork, like in the sense of UNLV TV and University Speaks and then I get to go to the station and apply everything that I do over there and vice versa.”

A behind the scenes shot shows all of the cameras on the production floor of the studio while University Speaks shoots the last show of Fall 2021. Photo by Jimmy Romo.

When Ramos interviewed for the position at KSNV, part of the process was going into a booth and cut different formats of a newscast, which he had experience of doing at UNLV. Being able to apply what he learned in school to a real newsroom helped boost resume and his confidence. 

University Speaks has provided all of its students greater knowledge on all possible careers in television by being a part of the show. Every student gets the opportunity to obtain new skills and grow their resumes. 

“It gave me a lot more insight about what it means to produce a show, what it means to have anchors and really a team built with each other to communicate,” Saia said, who wants to get into producing. “I think it really made the show what it is now.”

“It has been the best thing ever…The confidence I have towards my work, my skills, compared initially at the beginning of the year to where I am now, I can’t even explain it,” Dibut said. “I am so grateful to be a part of UNLV and University Speaks because I get the full experience of everything.”

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