Congratulations to the USC Annenberg Class of 2015


Journalism School graduates react prior to recieving their diplomas for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  The commencement ceremony took place on May 15, 2015..  © USC Annenberg; Photo Credit: Brett Van Ort

Journalism School graduates react prior to receiving their diplomas for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The commencement ceremony took place on May 15, 2015. © USC Annenberg; Photo Credit: Brett Van Ort

USC Annenberg celebrated the conferral of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to 844 students on May 15, as part of the University of Southern California’s 132nd commencement ceremonies.

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III joined a pair of influential leaders in the new world of converged, global media to deliver messages of congratulations and inspiration to USC Annenberg graduates at two satellite ceremonies. Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, spoke to School of Communication graduates; Jorge Ramos, anchor for Univision and Fusion, spoke to School of Journalism graduates.

Adding to the significance of the occasion, each USC Annenberg ceremony was led by a new school director. Sarah Banet-Weiser, head of the School of Communication, and Willow Bay, head of the School of Journalism, celebrated their first commencements as directors.

More than 6,000 family members, alumni and friends of USC Annenberg gathered under high, stark white tents as a cool rain soaked campus. Parents bundled up in ponchos, and sheets of plastic covered baby strollers, as supporters gathered to snap photos and cheer on their graduates.

By noon, as new graduates heard their names announced and crossed the stages, the sun was shining.

Continue reading our coverage of the 2015 commencement ceremonies here.

Commencement 2015Everything you need to know about the event.


Media luminaries headline USC Annenberg’s 2015 commencement ceremonies

USC Annenberg announced that two influential leaders in the new world of converged, global media will deliver keynote addresses at the 2015 commencement ceremonies. Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, will speak at the School of Communication ceremony; Jorge Ramos, anchor for Univision and Fusion, will deliver the address to the School of Journalism.

Dean Wilson offers congratulationsDean Wilson congratulates the class of 2015

Alumni columnists offer advice to the class of 2015

640-alumni-columnIn a new series of columns, USC Annenberg alumni have shared stories from their time at the school, discussed their careers, and offered advice to students. In this special edition, some columnists offer words of wisdom to the class of 2015.

Commencement throwback playlistA collection of USC Annenberg commencement speeches


Commencement throwback gallerya collection of photographs from the 2013 and 2014 commencement ceremonies

We’ll be updating this story as commencement nears, so come back for more. Also, keep an eye out for our full review of the 2014-2015 academic year.

media center namingUSC Annenberg’s future-focused Media Center named for Julie Chen, Leslie Moonves and CBS

The 20,000-square-foot, two-story hub of digital media production and education at USC Annenberg — the Media Center — was named on Feb. 25, 2015, for alumna Julie Chen, Leslie Moonves and CBS.

15286228347_085747b7fa_zUSC Annenberg unveils Wallis Annenberg Hall with grand opening ceremony

On October 1, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism inaugurated a new era of digital media education, communication and production with the Grand Opening of the visionary Wallis Annenberg Hall.

Wilson Bay Banet-WeiserUSC Annenberg welcomes Banet-Weiser and Bay as directors of Communication and Journalism Schools

On July 1, the USC Annenberg community heartily welcomed Sarah Banet-Weiser and Willow Bay on their first official days as the new directors of the Communication and Journalism Schools at USC Annenberg.


USC Annenberg survey reveals employment numbers for class of 2013

Every year, USC Annenberg alumni are asked to participate in a placement survey one year after graduation and the numbers — collected by the USC Annenberg Office of Career Development — are in for the class of 2013. Of the graduates who responded to the survey (82 percent of the 2013 class), 97 percent of students who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and 98 percent of students who graduated with a Master’s degree were employed within 12 months of commencement.

Annenberg Forum 2014: The Trillion Dollar Talent Gap-Opening

Annenberg Forum 2014 took place Friday, November 7, 2014 at Wallis Annenberg Hall on USC’s University Park campus. This invitation-only convening about the Third Space featured high-level executives from the business, non-profit, government, and higher education sectors.

16574360925_1e2864d1f6_z (1)Disney CEO and Vanity Fair Editor speak at USC Annenberg

What does the future hold for media in the digital age? This is the question that students and faculty at USC Annenberg are faced with, and are trying to answer each day. In February, the question was posed to two of the most influential people in media: Chairman and CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, and Editor of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter.

Co-founder of Bitch Media, Andi Zeisler, (left) joined USC Annenberg School of Communication director, Sarah Banet-Weiser (right), for conversation about why pop culture matters to feminism, activism and social justice.

Co-director of Bitch Media discusses intersection of feminism and pop culture

Co-founder and editor of the non-profit feminist media organization Bitch media, Andi Zeisler, came together with students, faculty and members of the USC Annenberg community in the Wallis Annenberg Hall auditorium for a discussion exploring just how pop culture has impacted the many waves of feminist action across history.

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USC Annenberg Celebrates the Conferral of 844 Degrees


Journalism School graduates react prior to recieving their diplomas for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  The commencement ceremony took place on May 15, 2015..  © USC Annenberg; Photo Credit: Brett Van Ort

Journalism School graduates react prior to receiving their diplomas for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The commencement ceremony took place on May 15, 2015. © USC Annenberg; Photo Credit: Brett Van Ort

By Gretchen Parker McCartney

USC Annenberg celebrated the conferral of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to 844 students on May 15, as part of the University of Southern California’s 132nd commencement ceremonies.

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III joined a pair of influential leaders in the new world of converged, global media to deliver messages of congratulations and inspiration to USC Annenberg graduates at two satellite ceremonies. Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, spoke to School of Communication graduates; Jorge Ramos, anchor for Univision and Fusion, spoke to School of Journalism graduates.

Adding to the significance of the occasion, each USC Annenberg ceremony was led by a new school director. Sarah Banet-Weiser, head of the School of Communication, and Willow Bay, head of the School of Journalism, celebrated their first commencements as directors.

More than 6,000 family members, alumni and friends of USC Annenberg gathered under high, stark white tents as a cool rain soaked campus. Parents bundled up in ponchos, and sheets of plastic covered baby strollers, as supporters gathered to snap photos and cheer on their graduates.

By noon, as new graduates heard their names announced and crossed the stages, the sun was shining.

“Class of 2015, it was your hard work, your discipline, your creativity that brought you to this moment of transformation,” Dean Wilson said, reviewing the narrative of each grad’s journey – admission, an engaged education with USC Annenberg faculty and, now, the conclusion.

“You will decide where you want to go, who you want to help, and you will act on those things,” Wilson said to graduates at the School of Journalism ceremony. “As you pursue your life’s dreams, as you pursue them with passion and a demand for truth and information in the public interest, write your own narrative. And as you do that, stay in touch with us.”

Bay noted that the class of 2015 made history, by ushering in a new era at USC Annenberg.

The school year brought a brand new, nine-month master’s degree program — the Journalism M.S. — and the opening of Wallis Annenberg Hall, a transformative building dedicated to digital media education, communication and production. Along with that, the class of 2015 was the first to see the opening of the cutting-edge Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center, a fully converged facility that is the hub of production in the new building.

Bay thanked graduates for helping shape a culture of innovation and collaboration — and for challenging conventional thinking.

“You have done more than learn about the profound disruption reshaping the media industry. You have done more than study its origins or analyze its consequences,” Bay said to journalism and public relations grads. “You have lived it. You have led it.”

School of Communication Ceremony

Drawing on material she uses in her culture and communication class, Banet-Weiser recalled a social theorist who writes about following not just common sense — but good sense.

“Our students at Annenberg get this, because they are intellectually curious and because, more importantly, they are imaginative,” she said. “This is what I know our students are equipped with, as they leave USC — the ability to look critically around them and to make difficult decisions.

“After all,” she added, “these students are not common. They are uncommon in the best possible way.”

Her remarks, delivered to those earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in communication, Communication Management, Global Communication and Public Diplomacy, also drew laughter. She confided that she’s plugged into popular culture thanks to her students, who have convinced her that watching reality TV is “real research.”

“I’m totally convinced of this,” she joked, drawing laughs and applause.

Lee delivered a personal message to graduates, from the perspective of a USC Annenberg mom. Her daughter, Ava Coleman, was one of the 500 School of Communication graduates celebrating commencement.

“To all of the parents in the audience today, I am one of you,” Lee said. “I know exactly how you’re feeling right now — equal parts pride, excitement and maybe a little anxiety.”

“Ava and all of her classmates are graduating from the prestigious Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism,” she added. “They will be more than OK. So, parents, relax and celebrate!”

From the perspective of a powerhouse in the entertainment communication field, Lee pushed grads to use their new responsibilities wisely and make the most of the influence it holds. The class of 2015 is part of a millennial generation that already is targeted for its digital media savvy and the economic power it wields, she said.

“You will be 50 percent of the workforce in 2020; you have a combined purchasing power of $2.4 trillion. … Because of your power, and because of your influence, everyone wants you. They want you to like them, retweet them or vote for them,” Lee said, citing research conducted by media companies including BET Networks, where she oversees several cable television networks, digital offerings and a home entertainment business.

“And because your generation is setting every trend, employers want you.”

Their generation also is unique in its diversity, Lee pointed out. “Your younger brothers and sisters barely know a world where a black man can’t be president, where a classmate doesn’t have two moms or two dads.”

“And they certainly don’t know a world where a woman can’t run a company, or a university or a country,” she said, as grads and their families cheered and applauded.

“The bottom line is that your generation will be the group that ends racism, sexism and all kinds of hatreds. You will do it,” she said, urging grads to volunteer with those fighting to eliminate injustice.

“And we are in a fight right now,” Lee added. “From Ferguson to Cleveland to Baltimore.”

The lesson learned from recent uprisings, she said, is there is still work to do in rooting out bias and hatred. And that there are vast groups who don’t believe the American dream belongs to them.

“As communicators, I encourage you to look for ways you can facilitate practical, dynamic and civil conversations about what’s going on across the country on all of our social issues. You can be the one who can bring all parties to the table for passionate, yet peaceful, discussions.”

And USC’s class of 2015 will always have the Trojan family behind it to help make its mark, Lee said.

“You’ll succeed and you’ll make your alma mater proud, because you are part of a legacy of excellence that is larger than you,” she said. “You are plugged into a progressive, dynamic, cosmopolitan network of incredible people whose vision and ideas have electrified the world.

“You have been well prepared, and when you step off of this campus, you will step into a world of possibility. And if no one ever tells you, remember that I told you: you are the power, you are enough and you are the change.”

School of Journalism Ceremony

Ramos, an internationally recognized journalist who’s often called the Walter Cronkite of Latino America, last month was anointed one of TIME magazine’s 2015 TIME 100, its annual roster of the 100 most influential people in the world. In addition, the outlet selected Ramos for one of its five printed covers.

Ramos delivered a rousing message that aimed to stoke the fires of young journalists and public relations professionals.

“You have to challenge authority. Be a rebel. Your most important social responsibility is to prevent the abuse by those who are in power,” he told the crowd. “Ask tough questions. Don’t be scared … And your attitude should be that if you don’t ask that question of the President, the mayor, the senator, no one else will. Don’t look around to see if someone else is going to do it — it is your responsibility.

“That’s why,” he said, “you chose to be a journalist.”

To the future PR practitioners, he counseled them that taking responsibility is vital to their careers as well. For ethical and successful PR professionals, their integrity and reputation is the capital they will use to build their livelihoods.

“Working in-house, PR pros need to be able to ask tough questions of their CEO, or their elected official or executive director — whether they are working at a for-profit, government or non-profit. You need to counsel transparency and always push for the truth to be shared. The secrets are never secrets.”

Ramos, who came to United States as a student when he was 24, is famous for asking high-profile sources direct, hard questions. He told grads that he left Mexico in the early 1980s to escape the censorship that plagues journalists there. He sold his Volkswagen Beetle and used the cash to settle in Los Angeles as a student.

“I didn’t know anything about this business, but I did know that I didn’t want to be a censored journalist,” Ramos said.

Ramos soon got a job at KMEX-TV, which became an affiliate of Univision. Within a couple of years, he was anchoring “Noticiero Univision,” the network’s evening newscast. He still holds that post and also hosts “Al Punto,” a weekly, in-depth public affairs program. On Fusion, he hosts the weekly “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos.”

He’s covered five wars, won eight Emmys, written 11 books and interviewed the last three U.S. presidents — in addition to other U.S. leaders, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and dozens of Latin American presidents.

In his speech to graduates, Ramos revealed what’s going on in his head when he interviews even the highest-profile sources and leads them into conversation that makes them both uncomfortable.

“When you think of a question, and it makes you tremble, and your hands start sweating, then you know that’s a question you have to ask. Do it,” he said. “Right there, when you’re having doubts, that’s when you have to have the courage to ask tough questions.”

The really good journalists are the ones that take a stand with those who have no voice and no rights, Ramos said.

“Maybe you don’t know it yet, but you actually chose to be a fighter. Don’t quit now.”

And don’t do it with the hopes of becoming famous — or rich. “If you want to be famous? Well, you better try ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” he said, drawing loud laughter from the crowd.

“But if hell is doing over and over again things you hate to do, then journalism and public relations is exactly the opposite of that. No day has been the same for me in decades. And that is paradise.”

Ramos acknowledged that journalism and public relations “are in the middle of a storm.”

“We are producing television programs for people who don’t even own a television set,” he said. And he admitted that he can’t compete with social media when it comes to on-the-street reporting.

But that doesn’t mean journalists are obsolete. Quite the opposite, Ramos said.

“I came here this morning to tell you that journalists are needed more than ever before. I came here to tell you that public relations is really about communicating the truth and connecting people to people,” he said.

“With millions of tidbits of information, videos and — honestly — a lot of trash, your responsibility is to put that information in perspective, to tell us what is relevant and what is not. And to be fiercely independent.”

Ramos implored graduates to “take a stand, be present, be bold, ask tough questions, tell the truth,” and meanwhile, enjoy the ride.

“This is the most marvelous profession in the world because the world is your newsroom. Now, go out there and start playing.”

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USC Annenberg Students to Take on New York City in Inaugural Maymester Program

nyc-600x308For two weeks this summer, a group of USC Annenberg students will experience New York City’s vibrant media ecosystem — visiting legacy and new media companies, veterans of the business and its newest pioneers.

Students will hear first hand what it takes to make it in the business from a diverse array of media professionals: content creators, journalists, researchers, communications experts and top executives.

Gordon Stables, assistant dean for student affairs and Maymester program organizer, believes this opportunity will continue strengthening the relationship between USC Annenberg and New York City, as many students have already worked in the Big Apple through various internships and job opportunities.

“The Maymester is a showcase,” Stables said. “It allows talented students to get a behind-the-scenes view of the kinds of careers that an Annenberg graduate can earn in New York. The showcase also lets a number of high-profile employers see, first-hand, what makes USC Annenberg students special. All of this helps to make the experience of current students interning in NY a more natural part of the USC Annenberg experience.”

Sarah Banet-Weiser, director of the School of Communication, and Willow Bay, director of the School of Journalism, will co-teach the program, allowing students to learn from a cross disciplinary perspective.

“The value of having the two directors lead the program means that it’s both their professional associations and their wisdom that really get to be added to the program,” Stables said.

As a native New Yorker, Bay said she wants students be immersed in the city and its media-centric opportunities.

“But even more so, I am looking forward to introducing key players in New York City’s media industry to our students,” Bay said. “I know how fruitful this dialog will be.”

On a typical day, the small cohort of 16 selected USC Annenberg undergraduates will meet with one or two senior executives and, on some occasions, tour broadcast facilities or meeting environments. During the meetings, companies will give presentations on current trends in their industry, challenges and potential areas for growth. This will allow students to gain deeper insight into the day-to-day of operations of these various organizations.

Companies confirmed to participate in the course include ABC News, Sesame Workshop, Time Inc., the Department of Education, MSNBC, Huffington Post, Democracy Now, BET, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The New York Times and the NBA.

Stables explained that the program’s goal is really a continuum to what the school is already working toward.

“Its part of our broader effort to engage the communities of practice that we work with, and New York is really one of our greatest communities in that way,” Stables said.

Approximately 800 USC Annenberg alumni live in the Tri-state area, including 600 that live in New York, according to director of alumni relations Mara Simon-Meyer. Students will be able to mix and mingle with about 100 local alums during scheduled group lunches and dinners throughout the trip.

USC Annenberg organizes and puts on a number of similar networking events every year. The most recent was the “Meet the Directors” event, which was hosted at renowned chef and USC Annenberg parent Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Bar Americain.

“We had a very successful turnout at our ‘Meet the Directors’ event in NYC, where more than 60 alumni, parents and friends attended,” Simon-Meyer said.

The school also hosts “Coast to Coast,” an event series bringing USC Annenberg alumni together in cities beyond Los Angeles.

“Our alumni are an incredibly enthusiastic, supportive and passionate group, and our goal is to provide them with opportunities to stay involved with Annenberg in a variety of ways,” Simon-Meyer said.

Before the two-week excursion, students will complete readings and short research papers on the companies and organizations they will visit. This preliminary research will serve to drive the discussion led by individual students at each company meeting.

“Because all of that is done in advance, the students leave for the program with a set of notes that they and their classmates have written to provide the foundation for those conversations,” Stables said.

At the end of the course, Students will also complete a final reflection paper on their biggest takeaways from the trip.

But beyond the prep work, Suzanne Alcantara, director of Career Development for USC Annenberg, said she believes the students will benefit largely from the person-to-person meetings and conversations.

“These opportunities for unique connections and a deeper understanding of the media business is what I think makes the program incredibly noteworthy and special,” Alcantara said.

New York City is one of the most popular destinations to work for USC Annenberg alums, Stables explained. Moving forward, he said that the school hopes to continue getting more students engaged in work and study in New York.

“There’s already a very strong [USC] Annenberg community in New York,” Stables said. “This Maymester program is an opportunity for current students to get a chance to a see that up close.”

Additional reporting byMcKenna Aiello & Caroline Kamerschen.

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Alumni Columnists Offer Advice to the Class of 2015

640-commencement-2015In a new series of columns, USC Annenberg alumni have shared stories from their time at the school, discussed their careers, and offered advice to students. In this special edition, some columnists offer words of wisdom to the class of 2015.

From Vivien Lou Chen, Class of 1992

My words of advice come from Madonna, who said “Believe in yourself and don’t take anything personally.”

From Mike Huckman, Class of 1983

“Do you want a job?” And with those five words my broadcast journalism career began.

Even all these years later, I vividly remember the painstaking and nerve-wracking process of trying to land my first on-air job in TV as if it all happened only yesterday. At the time, I was interning at what was then KNXT-TV (now KCBS) in Los Angeles for no pay and no credit. Graduation had come and gone, but I still had not found a journalism position where I actually made money. The Investigative Unit team at Channel 2 was gracious enough to keep me on board for several weeks after my internship had formally ended, but I knew I would soon overstay my welcome. Not to mention, my parents were applying not-so-subtle pressure to get out of the house and on my way.

A USC classmate heard through the grapevine about a job opening in Great Falls, Montana and kindly passed along the intel to me. I quickly fired off my resume tape, written resume and a cover letter to the news director at KRTV. And then began the fun part.

Do I call the day I believe my FedEx package would arrive? Or do I wait a day or two more to ensure delivery and give the news director time to read and view my submission? If it has arrived, but he has not gotten around to it yet, do I call back the next day or the day after that? It seemed like a fine line. When will I go from persistent to pest? I forged ahead with no clear answer.

I made several cuts as the news director winnowed down the field of finalists. And every other day for three straight weeks I would call him and ask for an update. “We’re down to four.” “We’re down to two, but we haven’t made a decision, yet.” I was dying. Did I mention that, when I was not calling him, I was sitting by the phone, hoping he would call me or nervously guesstimating the best time for me to call him again?

And then, I got lucky. One afternoon I called him and he asked if he could put me on hold. After what seemed like an eternity, he got back on the line and spoke those five life-transforming and career-changing words. My answer, of course, was “Yes!” I was so thrilled; I didn’t even ask him how much I’d make. I got that unimportant information the following day when I called him to learn what my starting salary would be and whether I should buy long underwear in Southern California or wait until I moved, sight unseen, to Montana.

It was 70-below with a wind chill my first winter in Great Falls. But it didn’t matter. I was the first person in my class of several now well-known TV journalists to get an on-air job. I was freezing, but I was working. After giving me my first break, that news director, Ed Coghlan, became a mentor and a lifelong friend.

I have asked Ed if my frequent calls had ever become a nuisance. After all, I couldn’t have been the only kid right out of college calling him up, hoping to launch their careers in Great Falls, Montana. Did I call him more often than the next candidate? Or did I call him less?

He jokingly told me that I had worn him down and caught him at a moment of weakness. OK, so that sounds like I had become a pest, but he also told me the other candidate had not followed up with the same frequency that I had. And since I got the job, I am going to say it was my persistence.

From Dina Gomez, Class of 1994

Dear Class of 2015: If I could offer you only one piece of advice, I’d say take chances. Don’t habitualize making only “safe” decisions when it comes to your career. Choose adventure. Go into any job as you would a new class — eyes open, listening more than talking, ready to use what you learn to achieve your goals. I graduated USC and went to work for Mattel Toys. I traded in toys for aerospace when I was hired to work at what is now Northrop Grumman. From there I worked for a 30,000 member teacher’s association and consulted for the 2.6 million member national arm out of Washington D.C. Then I went on to Campbell Soup Company and its international subsidiaries. Then a stint as Chief Marketing Officer for a hospitality company. Then Edison and the world of energy. Then branding for a London-based start-up. Then to Silicon Valley and micro-chips and cloud computing. Now bio-tech.

Looking back, I never would have guessed that my 20+ year career would span just about every industry imaginable (and some that weren’t even thought of yet when I graduated). My secret to happiness? Commit to your spouse and your children, but have an affair with your career. Love what you do and learn something every day. When that stops happening, open yourself up to other possibilities, even if it scares you. Follow your interests. Chase the opportunities. Stay curious and ask questions. Pour yourself and your experience into every new title, even if you’re on a steep learning curve. Say thank you to everyone who teaches you — from the CEO to the intern. Have fun. Life is too short to settle for a straight line to your end goal.

From Alex Gurley, Class of 2014

Expect the unexpected! Your after college plans may not always turn out exactly how you planned, but USC Annenberg has prepared you to take on whatever challenges you face. Be open to new adventures and opportunities and you could end up someplace unexpected that you truly love.

If you’re not heading straight into the workforce or have some time before you do, take advantage of that time! Travel, try something new or work on a creative project.

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Quoted: Week of May 4


At USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by USC Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others. The stories are listed in chronological order, the most recent story appearing first.

An Impartial Look at Ronald Reagan

seib-photoVice Dean Philip Seib contributed a review of newly published biography on Ronald Reagan for The Dallas Morning News. Seib’s review of “Reagan: The Life”, brings a different perspective to how Reagan has been usually viewed.

“A few decades from now, a new generation of historians will examine the Reagan presidency with the dispassion born of distance. I predict he will fare well; the scandals will seem less relevant, particularly when compared to the fact that he achieved what he wanted to, which is something few presidents have accomplished.”

Newspapers Place Bets on a Regional Strategy

KahnG_121x163.ashxNewspapers are increasingly trying to save costs by joining forces with other papers in the same geographical area. The latest publications to adapt this model are the Los Angeles Times and the U-T San Diego. Journalism professor Gabriel Kahn told the LA Times that the mergers could impact the quality of journalism.

“You basically risk losing the connection with readers by pushing out more content that comes from some type of central editing room that is all of a sudden charged with serving numerous communities as efficiently as possible,” Kahn said.

This Behavior Could Mean You’re a Digital Addict

Karen NorthIf you get anxiety from not knowing where your phone is or if you feel like your social media behavior is having a negative impact in your life, you might want to consider having a Digital Detox.

Professor Karen North told CBS news what to watch out for:

  • You find yourself transferring digital activity behavior like driving fast in the real world, as you would in a video game.
  • You get too caught up in your avatar, emoji or emoticons.

As USC Student Housing Increases, Affordable Housing Harder to Find for Residents

Tim PageAs USC increasingly focuses on becoming a more residential campus, residents of the communities surrounding the school are being affected. The community is experiencing gentrification and thus increasing rent prices in the area, driving locals to find a more economically friendly alternative.

Professor Tim Page told NPR: “Downtown is growing down and USC is growing north.”

Has Prime Time Faded for Cable TV News?

KahnG_121x163.ashxIn the last decade audiences have looked to other platforms for news and entertainment, and cable TV is failing to bring audiences back. Professor Gabriel Kahn told the Washington Post that he sees the major issue as adaptability.

“Cable TV, and TV news in general, is so ill-equipped for this,” Kahn said. “They’re still producing content for a screen in the living room.”

Geena Davis Launches Arkansas Film Fest for Women, Diversity

Smith_Stacey_news.usc.eduProfessor Stacy Smith‘s research with the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative has been featured in numerous publications. This week, the New York Times quoted her impressive research about women in film, when talking with Geena Davis and her recently launched film festival in Arkansas for women.

“In pretty much every sector of society, female leadership has stalled out in about the same range — interestingly, also around 17 percent,” Davis said, quoting Smith’s research.

SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg Remembered at Stanford Memorial

Karen NorthSilicon Valley was rocked last week by the death of SurveyMonkey’s CEO, Dave Goldberg. Many high profile professionals like Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff and President Obama payed tribute to the tech giant.

Professor Karen North told SF Gate: “He was the one who was able to build the tool and the reputation in a way that it caught the attention of Americans and became an important tool in everybody’s hands.”

Challenged by ‘Going Clear,’ another test awaits Tom Cruise

Jeetendr-SehdevTom Cruise has been in the media for more than just his acting skills in recent years, from pubic relations disasters to personal relationships. The latest: Cruise was included in the HBO documentary “Going Clear.”

Professor Jeetendr Sehdev told the New York Times that the public is perception of Cruise could impact his upcoming Mission Impossible film.

“Secrets in Hollywood are really no longer sexy,” Sehdev said. “Audiences are looking for transparency and authenticity in their celebrities more than ever before.”

How PR People are Portrayed in the Media

Saltzman_121x163.ashxThe public relations practitioner has long been associated with negative connotations and views. But is the portrayal of this profession in pop culture changing the way people think about that career choice?

Professor Joe Saltzman discussed findings from his research on 300 movies and TV programs with PR

“There are far more negative images in film than on television,” Saltzman said. “TV series may have more impact on the public because of the frequency and necessity to have likable people as leading characters, resulting in more positive than negative images of the PR man and woman.”

US Bullet Train: China and Japan Battle for Business

dubeChina and Japan already utilize high-speed trains for effective public transportation. Now, they want to bring that luxury to the U.S. Both countries are vying for contracts to be the first to build a bullet train in the U.S.

Clayton Dube, head of the USC U.S.-China Institute, is featured in a video by the BBC about the potential for a U.S. bullet train.

“It is striking that California is the site for this next struggle between these economic titans,” Dube said.

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If You Want Change, Tell a Culturally Relevant Story — Not Just Facts

Sheila Murphy

Sheila Murphy

Latin American women in Los Angeles County are twice as likely as white women to contract cervical cancer, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and are significantly less likely to understand the causes of the disease or to be screened for it.

That needs to change, say USC researchers, who are finding ways to make it happen.

“Latinas are the ones most at risk and yet health communication campaigns still essentially target white women,” said Sheila Murphy, professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Murphy teamed up with colleagues from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC School of Cinematic Arts to find a better way to communicate public health messages.

Tracking a group of more than 900 randomly selected women from Los Angeles that included Mexican-American, African-American and white women, the researchers demonstrated that a narrative video encouraging women to get screened for cervical cancer and featuring Mexican-American characters helped that group go from the least-screened to the most-screened within six months.

“It’s not just the narrative — it’s the cultural themes and the ethnicities of the people on screen. Telling a story stripped of those elements is, by default in the United States, just telling a ‘mainstream’ story. If you want to reach Mexican-American women, you have to tell a compelling, culturally relevant story,” said Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati of the Keck School of Medicine, co-author of the study.

Their findings were published by American Journal of Public Health on April 23.

Women from each ethnicity in the study were shown one of two videos about the cause of cervical cancer and how to detect it via Pap tests. One of the videos — The Tamale Lesson — featured a narrative story about a Mexican-American family’s preparation for a daughter’s quinceañera. The other — It’s Time — presented the same facts but with doctors and patients explaining them.

“Both the narrative and non-narrative films were produced by the same team and were high-quality videos that did a good job of explaining the reasons to have a Pap test. The only difference is the way the information is presented,” Murphy said.

The videos were crafted by Doe Mayer and Jeremy Kagan at the cinematic arts school’s Change Making Media Lab.

Before watching the videos, only about 32 percent of the Mexican-American women surveyed were in compliance with recommended cervical cancer screening guidelines. Comparatively, roughly half of African-American and white women had a Pap test in the past two years.

Six months later, 83 percent of Mexican-American women who watched The Tamale Lesson were in compliance, compared to 73 percent of Mexican-American women who watched It’s Time.

The narrative story produced a similar, though less-pronounced, effect on African-American women — holding about a 6 percentage-point edge over the non-narrative story. Among white women, the narrative and non-narrative films were equally effective in prompting women to be screened.

The researchers said they hope the study and future research along these lines will help inform the way public health officials craft health messages.

“Public health officials need to realize what advertisers have known for decades. You can’t just present facts and hope people will change their behavior. If you want your audience to engage, you have to tell them a story that they care about,” Murphy said.

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (grants R01CA144052 and P30CA014089).

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Event Welcomes Graduating Students to the #ASCJFamily

As graduation approaches, USC Annenberg students of all majors are excited to start their careers as professionals. One important annual event helps them start this journey by officially inducting them into the Trojan Alumni Network. The event welcomes graduating students into the #ASCJFamily that they will be a part of long after commencement ends. This year, the event was held in Wallis Annenberg Hall’s Alumni Plaza, where students got to enjoy an array of food and Trojan themed drinks and decor. Students got to make new memories and share them on social media with their peers by using the #ASCJFamily. Enjoy the full album of photos from the event on our Flickr.

Dean Wilson Photobooth 3 students Welcome

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Five Minutes with… Carmen Lee

640-five-minutesInside the classrooms at USC Annenberg, students are the ones typically tasked with answering the hard hitting questions. “Five Minutes With…” turns the table on Annenberg associate and adjunct faculty members to ask them the five questions we’ve been itching to know the answers to.  

Carmen Lee

Carmen Lee, Clinical Associate Professor of Communication

New to Annenberg this year, Carmen Lee is a Clinical Associate Professor of Communication. Lee is passionate about seamlessly merging the fields of statistics and communication to provide her students with skills essential to understanding research.

In her COMM 301L: “Empirical Research in Communication” class, Lee’s students learn about quantitative research methods and statistical procedures that are commonly used in communication research.

Lee’s fields of expertise includes interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, quantitative research methods and statistics. Her most recent research studies includes coping with obsessive relational intrusion and stalking, attraction in initial interactions and the effect of study abroad programs on cross-cultural adaptation.

What inspired you to start teaching a class that merges statistics and communication?

I had a fantastic statistics teacher while I was studying as an undergraduate. After I took her course, I realized how many of my fellow communication students would say, “I became a communication major so I didn’t have to do math!” However, once I realized how integrated the two fields were, I was inspired to begin teaching a class that would make communication students more comfortable with numbers and research.

What do you think is most significant about the relationship between statistics and communication?

We depend greatly on statistics and numbers as a society, even though we often don’t understand them. In response, the overarching goal of my COMM 301L class is for my students to be able to examine an argument that includes numbers and be able to decide for themselves if it is a sound argument. This includes seeing if things could’ve been done better, and examining to what extent students agree with or follow the data presented.  In other words, I want my students to question everything!

What makes you proud to be a professor at USC Annenberg?

The fact that Annenberg is a leader and so incredibly progressive. It makes me proud to think that I could be a part of cutting edge and new developments without the restriction of possibility.What is the one piece of advice you would give to USC Annenberg students looking to start a career in celebrity branding?

Do you have any primary goals in mind for your next few years at Annenberg?

Get to know your professors and participate in research studies or internships that allow you to practice your career path of interest. This is because often the ideal of careers can make students think they want to pursue it but they will not truly know until they gain actual day-to-day experience.

Are you working on any major projects or looking forward to starting any work outside of the classroom?

A project I’m interested in starting here is examining tourism, especially ethnic minority tourism. Specifically, looking at the factors which influence why certain minorities may not travel to foreign countries and what becomes the deciding factor for them to travel to specific countries. In addition, I would like to examine how traveling to a different country can free students of ethnic minority from limiting ethnic identifications to a more malleable cultural identification.

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Considering PR for a Living? Six Boxes to Check First


In a new series of columns, each week an alum of USC Annenberg will share stories of their time at the school, discuss their career, and offer advice to students.

By Maggie Habib

PR is among those rare industries that leaves many on both sides of the ubiquitous “What do you do for a living?” question stumped. Truly stumped. Though I won’t admit to it myself, I’ve heard many a PR colleague acquiesce after a confusing back-and-forth cocktail party conversation to say, “I work in advertising.”

After more than a dozen years and a degree in PR, here’s my take. PR is two-fold: 1. Strategic guidance on a brand’s positioning, messaging and communications strategies with key target audiences. 2. Solid, smart execution on all of #1 — from messaging frameworks and collateral material to media relations and social media

However you describe it, it digs deeper into brand and business strategy — often with far-reaching implications into sales, public affairs and legal issues — than the glitz and glamour portrayal of PR in TV land. That’s not to say I haven’t snapped photos with countless celebrities and attended thrilling parties and events. That’s just not a typical day-in-the-life … unless of course you choose to be mired in the depths of entertainment PR.

So is PR the right career for you? Here are six clues that pointed me in what has become a thrilling, 12-year adventure:

  • You’re the puppeteer and not the puppet. You have a critical role in what a brand says about itself and how it communicates with its most important targets — but that role is behind the scenes. You’re the one who wrote the remarks the corporate CEO is sharing on stage at a large conference. You’re also the one who coordinated product placement in a major feature film. You’re the one who made the hit in The New York Times happen. You’re also the one who recommended the crisis response you’re seeing unfold on TV. Your name isn’t associated with any of these efforts, but your hard work — and blood, sweat and tears — is.
  • You want to be immersed in an industry (or several) but not committed to any one. My colleagues and I in the PR world have been fortunate to get in-depth and intimate glimpses into organizations and industries, from the most nimble of startups to the most behemoth corporate giants. It’s a privileged glance into the inner workings of brands in all sectors. I’ve learned much more than I would have in a more straight-forward career path. I’ve become savvy in the businesses from high-tech SaaS solutions to worldwide laundry care.
  • You can tap into your left brain as much as you can your right. PR often finds itself on the annual “most stressful jobs” lists. There are a couple critical reasons for this, but needing to tap into both creativity and logic, often simultaneously and on-demand, is certainly one. Should we release this key announcement or hold it? How do we navigate a tricky recall situation? What grassroots ways can we usurp buzz at a major event? And my current favorite: How do we make this video go viral? You need to be able to advise on the serious business as much as you can roll up your sleeves and think big, bold and attention-grabbing. The truth is, brands need us for both.
  • You are a project master and a task master in equal parts. I am talking real Monica Gellar organization skills. This rings especially true if you sit on the consulting or agency side. You need to manage overall client projects, and individual projects attached to each client, across the portfolio of clients you manage. For me, that’s been up to 10 clients — at once. And you need to be able to do it all seamlessly, without missing a beat.
  • You like — no, love — to communicate. And you can do it in all shapes and sizes: creative tagline and campaign name ideas, news releases, pitch notes, company collateral, executive remarks, bylined articles, fact sheets. Today, PR professionals can add to that list blogs, social media posts, website copy and more, as the lines between traditional PR, social media and content marketing inevitably blur.
  • You’re a news junkie. Because you want to be and because you have to be. Bringing a diversity of experience and perspective is invaluable to our clients. Plus, how would you know the right section and editor to pitch in Cosmo? Or, how can you accomplish the famed “newsjacking” approach if you don’t know what’s going on in the world around you?

In PR, the highs are high — landing your first USA Today hit, successfully avoiding a company crisis, single-handedly landing companies major new customers, driving enough website traffic to crash a site — and the lows are tough. I hope you’ll consider joining this great industry. You’ll have plenty of professionals that will help navigate both the highs and the lows, and many a war story to share at the next cocktail party.

Maggie Habib

Maggie Habib

Maggie Habib (’04 Annenberg) is the founder of mPR, Inc., a boutique communications shop serving growing businesses nationally. She previously ran multiple award-winning PR programs for startups to Fortune 10 companies as a part of large global agencies. She graduated from USC magna cum laude and as “PR Student of the Year.”


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