Former FOX5 Reporter Leads UNLV Sports Show to an Emmy

By Annabel Rocha | August 27, 2017

Cameras flash as Conor McGregor puffs up his chest and stands face-to-face with his legendary opponent, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. In the T-Mobile Arena, all eyes are focused on the rumbling trash talk from both fighters, building anticipation of the upcoming match.


Jon Castagnino, Social Media and Sports Coordinator with Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies for New Faces profile on December 14, 2015. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

As they jab at each other’s character in the ring, Jon Castagnino, UNLV social media sports coordinator, mentally designs a highlight reel of the press conference to edit and share on “The Rebel Report.”


Instead of basking in the final days before the new fall semester begins, Castagnino and some of his students are hard at work producing summer content for their social media following. The dedication has paid off. “The Rebel Report,” a student-run sports news program, was recently awarded an Emmy for student programming by the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.


“When you hear the word Emmy that brings some cachet with it,” Castagnino said, expressing excitement for his students.


“The Rebel Report” is a relatively new show, debuting less than two years ago. It received recognition when the award-winning episode aired April 14, 2016, during the show’s first season. Castagnino takes pride in successfully creating and preserving the program.


“It’s really rewarding for me, having started something new at the university,” he said.


Castagnino realized the potential of the show while working as a sports anchor at FOX5 News.


“I come from a local sports background, where local sports get very little time,” Castagnino said. “I saw that nobody’s really doing a 30-minute local sportscast. There was a hole in the market for this and the students grasped this idea.”


The Las Vegas native attributes the success of the show to being the only program in the city specifically focused on local sports.


“We have so much access to so many events. Las Vegas is the best sports event city in the world,” he said.


Castagnino’s passion for the industry began with his love for baseball. As a young Chicago Cubs fan, he grew up idolizing their colorful announcer, Harry Caray.


“Harry Caray was my favorite of all time and I wanted his job,” he said.


He realized his dream could become a reality when ESPN became popular in the ‘90’s, leading him to pursue his degree in communications at UNLV. His studies included classes taught by Gary Larson, associate professor and undergraduate coordinator of the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, often referred to as “Doc’” by his students.


“It’s just awesome to come full circle. Doc’ was my leader, the guy who told me I could go out and do this, and I went out and did it,” he said.


He believes his former professor, now colleague, shares his enthusiasm.


“It’s really fulfilling for me, and he hasn’t told me this, but I feel like it’s really fulfilling for him, too, to have his students come back and teach.”


Castagnino is enjoying his time as an instructor, although he does not refer to himself as a teacher.


“I’m a journalist. The students are my team. They’re my staff,” he said.


He says one perk of his job is no longer having the pressure of daily assignments on his shoulders, but instilling a deadline-driven mindset into aspiring journalists has been a challenge.


“It’s nice not to have a story in every night for the 6 o’clock or 10 o’clock news. But teaching that is hard for students to grasp. They’re used to turning in an assignment late and getting partial credit. They don’t know that if they don’t turn their story in by 5 o’clock, it doesn’t air,” he said.


Throughout the duration of the class he sees improvements in his students’ timeliness and craft, which is his ultimate intention.


“My goal is to pump out as many great journalists as I can, who will represent the university, and Las Vegas, positively. Awards are nice, but the legacy here is when we get these students into the industry,” he said.


Now an Emmy award-winning show, Castagnino sees opportunity for “The Rebel Report” to continue growing by producing more social media friendly content. This semester, students will have access to Las Vegas Golden Knights games alongside local and national media.


“A lot of people know us in the Las Vegas market. You kind of get the vibe that some outlets look at us like rivals ‘cause we’re out here covering so many things. They think we’re competition,” Castagnino said.


Castagnino is furthering his education by pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at UNLV. He plans to continue teaching upcoming generations of sports journalists and hopes to eventually hold a full-time academic faculty position, although his aspirations of becoming the next Harry Caray live on.


“I think this job was like my burning bush. I made a right turn and ended up here,” he said. “But if, for some reason, someone happens to give me a call and it happens to be ESPN, then who knows?”

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