Leah Uko ’10 doesn’t take assignments lightly. Now, this alumna and Fox 11 Los Angeles reporter is nominated for an Emmy Award.
Her feature story, nominated in the human-interest news story category, was a live interview with rapper Nipsey Hussle while touring the businesses he and his family own in Crenshaw, a community in South Los Angeles. Uko’s story, “LA Rapper Nipsey Hussle Creates Change in South LA,” aired in November 2018, four months before the rapper was shot to death outside one of his stores.
The four-minute feature then went viral.
Uko was among 122 Emmy nominees within 35 categories. The Television Academy’s 71st Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards will be presented on Saturday, July 27, at the academy’s Saban Media Center in Los Angeles.
“When I was approached by the producers, I took it to the heart and wanted to do a good job,” said Uko of her profile on Hussle. “The story had been a big deal before he passed, so I had a big responsibility to provide viewers the best I could. The big takeaway here is that there are great stories, gems in every community, waiting to be told.”
Since she was a little girl, watching coverage on local TV stations, Uko knew she wanted to be a journalist.
At UCR, she majored in interdisciplinary studies and minored in journalism. She began writing on a volunteer basis for The Highlander, focusing on entertainment. She wrote movie, concert, and music reviews. Eventually she was hired as a staff writer, earning $10 per article.
“There was something about having the authority, the power, knowing that my voice mattered in those reviews,” said the 30-year-old Uko who was raised in Chatsworth, a community in northwestern San Fernando Valley.
While at UCR, she worked hard to become a better reporter and writer. She had two part-time jobs, earning enough gas money to drive herself to unpaid internships at television stations in Los Angeles.
Her dedication paid off. Uko landed her first job in Texas, and over the years she worked in other TV newsrooms in Georgia, Nebraska, and Arkansas, until she returned home to Southern California. She joined Fox 11 Los Angeles two years ago.
“Going to UCR was the best decision I ever made. UC Riverside really taught me work ethic, how to make ends meet,” Uko said. “UC Riverside was such a great community. The black community is a tight-knit family; the unity at UCR is something you don’t experience anywhere else.”
Minoring in journalism from UCR can be seen as a disadvantage by many because there is no big-name journalism school attached to it, Uko said.
“But that did not matter to me. You make it work, and it actually makes you a better asset,” Uko said, noting UCR’s diversity and the students she associated with helped her understand that grit and a good attitude were just as valuable as any journalism school in the country.
“If you have a good attitude, you can make it,” Uko said. “Your news director is probably not focused on your social media numbers, but he or she does focus on your work ethic. It’s not about who you know, it’s about your work.”