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UNLV Journalism Facility Augurs New Educational Era

The Hank Greenspun School of Journalism now has one of the most noteworthy homes on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. Brand-new and beautiful on the outside with a full array of industry-standard production technology inside, Greenspun Hall is more than just a stunning building--it represents a new era of journalism education for UNLV and the Las Vegas community.

Inspired by the storied life of former publisher and journalist Hank Greenspun, the Greenspun family donated 40 percent of the building cost as part of a private-public partnership with the State of Nevada. This was the family’s third donation to UNLV, each given to honor Hank Greenpsun’s legacy as founder of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and as one of Nevada’s most prominent media professionals. The family’s express desire was to create a technologically sophisticated facility to prepare a new generation of multimedia journalists for the local community and beyond. At groundbreaking ceremony in 2007, the Greenspun Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer Brian Greenspun described his family’s third gift to UNLV as the “latest step on our journey to build a better community.”

In keeping with the desire for a better community, the family insisted that Greenspun Hall be designed with the environment in mind, a goal the university supported from the outset. Now newly opened, and meeting the requirements of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the building includes: a louvered canopy to shade the courtyard and support an extensive solar array that provides about 15 percent of the power needed to run the building; a chilled beam heating and cooling system; extensive use of sustainable interior and exterior building materials; and, of course, drought-resistant desert landscaping.

Currently the fifth largest building on the UNLV campus, Greenspun Hall is also home to the College of Urban Affairs, the Brookings Institute, and the Lincy Foundation. The building officially opened its doors to students in September 2008, and the media facility, housing UNLV TV and KUNV FM radio, was completed in December 2009.

Moving from an analog tape-based environment to a high-definition file-based facility was challenging but rewarding for both faculty and students. The old facility was built in the 1960s, and cobbled together with donated equipment, isolated edit bays, and antiquated wiring. Precious classroom time was lost while old equipment was repaired or while the campus engineer tried to devise ways to make disparate production systems work together. As technology evolved in the broadcast industry, administration knew that that the costly move to a file-based production process was greatly needed. The Greenspun gift made discussions toward this move possible. The campus began outlining what was needed in a new facility to best serve journalism students today, while gearing them up to the industry’s best multimedia news professionals of tomorrow. As part of the planning process, the team spoke to local and national industry leaders, including Emily Nielson, general manager of KLAS-TV, a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas. Time and again the message rang clear: The industry was changing and UNLV needed to educate its students in a drastically different way, if the school wanted its students to be professionally competitive in the future.

The Next-Generation Media Lab

During outreach to news professionals, Neilson and other industry leaders told us that increasing competition from the Internet--wired and mobile--was driving demand for journalists who knew how to write, produce for a Web site, and have a presence on Facebook as well as other social media. In essence, station groups like KLAS-TV needed multi-faceted journalists comfortable working in every aspect of today’s media landscape.

Leveraging an unprecedented opportunity to build UNLV’s new journalism studio from scratch--made largely possible by the Greenspun family’s investment--administration designed the new facility with an eye toward the future. On the top of our equipment list were state-of-the-art Avid production solutions that would provide a cohesive workflow from ingest to air. After years of toiling in isolated edit bays with limited storage capacity, shared storage was the understood solution. Avid Unity ISIS and Avid Interplay now provide the file-based workflow and sophisticated media management system that the studio needed.

Today, the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism media center is an all-Avid shop with 17 non-linear Avid Media Composer edit stations in the instructional lab, four Avid NewsCutters in the newsroom, and two Media Composer Nitris workstations in the post-production bays. Content is sent to air with Avid Air Speed and to the UNLV Web site with Avid Active Content Manager. Our students use Avid iNews to create rundowns, and Avid Interplay Access to locate and organize footage. As the most respected industry professionals in the world utilize Avid to manage every aspect of today’s multimedia newsroom, faculty and students alike are thrilled to work and learn in such a top-tier equipment environment.

A Modern Curriculum

After 20-odd years struggling to cobble together various pieces of mismatched solutions that could work together, talk to each other, and work with reliable consistency, UNLV has finally received an end-to-end solution that takes the emphasis off fixing mismatched technology and puts it where it belongs--on the education of our students. All present components work together, all of the time, every time, allowing each student to access and work with the same content, see what everyone else is doing, and participate in a truly collaborative environment.

This has had a profound impact on the ability to produce quality journalism. While the heart of the school’s curriculum is and always will be based on effective storytelling, rigorous reporting, ethical decision-making, and constitutional law, the new tools let us teach without worrying about the equipment. The time that used to be spent taking projects from external hard drive to DVD or tape is now used to experiment with new ways of producing and delivering content. This, in turn, leads to discussions about the impact of technology in journalism, the role of new media, and implications for the future of journalism. UNLV students are truly becoming multimedia journalists, able to produce content for both traditional and new media platforms.

Perhaps it’s because students are much more media-centric today, but they love the new program and have fully embraced it. In fact, students are already a-buzz about extending boundaries, experimenting with mobile delivery, and building an on-demand Web site to showcase the new programming. Students are now more energized and engaged in the creation of news and media programming, and they are thrilled to be a part of the changing media landscape.

University administrators also recognize the value of Greenspun Hall and appreciate the school’s contribution to the university. The Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and the facilities in Greenpsun Hall are mentioned frequently by university administrators as the shining spots on campus.

Director Ardyth Sohn, the media faculty, and the outstanding students of UNLV firmly believe that the school has the potential to one day become one of the top five journalism schools in the country. With the new facility and the latest in state-of-the-art production technology, it’s a goal the school is well on its way to achieving.

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