What’s Behind the Curtain: Media Center announcement guesses

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On Wednesday, February 25, USC Annenberg officially announced the naming of the Media Center to be The Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves & CBS. For three days a black curtain hung in the Media Center, intriguing students and making them wonder what could it be?

Curious students took to social media in order to make their guesses.

Would it be a Hall of Fame, or a cupcake ATM? One user jokingly guessed “Are they gonna name the Media Center after me?” and @dlegas05 thought of a fun guess with “A wheel of fortune-style wall.”

On Twitter, alum Mike Huckman cleverly guessed “A significant contribution.”

ATVN interviewed a few students who had some colorful guesses from “free laptops” to “more screens” and even a “$5 Million bouncy castle”. One student even suggested naming the Media Center after Brad Pitt or Steven Spielberg, while another passionately stated that Annenberg needed a fountain of its own.

Enjoy the full video below.

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USC Annenberg Journalism Student Wins Hearst Journalism Award

Winner of Hearst Journalism Award Stassy Olmos (Courtesy of Stassy Olmos).

Winner of Hearst Journalism Award Stassy Olmos (Courtesy of Stassy Olmos)

When USC Annenberg senior Stassy Olmos opened three emails on her birthday each expressing congratulations, she didn’t understand why turning 22 would warrant such recognition. These messages were not for the broadcast and digital journalism major’s birthday, though: Olmos had just won a Hearst Journalism Award in the television news- features division.

Competing against more than a hundred other journalists from colleges and universities across the nation, Olmos received top honors and a scholarship for two packages she originally reported and produced in USC Annenberg’s JOUR 402: Broadcast Reporting class with professor Vince Gonzales. When director of Annenberg Television News Stacy Scholder — who has submitted USC Annenberg’s student work to the Hearst Journalism Awards for the past seven years — approached Gonzales for recommendations in November, Olmos stood out among the rest.

“Stassy jumps off the screen,” Scholder said. “She definitely has this magnetism. There is an energy and authenticity about her. When she is on the air, you’re just glued.”

And the judges agreed. Olmos is now eligible to enter Hearst’s semi-final round.

Throughout the academic year, the Hearst Journalism Awards host 15 different monthly competitions in writing, photojournalism, television, radio and multimedia. In the television competition, student journalists can submit entries in either features or news. From there, the top ten finalists from each division qualify for the semi-final round of judging and are required to submit one hard news piece and two features (one of which can be from the first round of submissions). Five finalists are then selected to participate in the Hearst National Television Broadcast News Championship held in San Francisco in June where competitors are given just one day to report, film and produce a day-of-air package on a given topic. The winner receives a $5,000 scholarship.

While USC Annenberg students have placed within the top ten for years, Olmos is the first to have won the television-features competition. The award was instant gratification for Olmos, who said standing out in classrooms amongst other talented journalists has proven difficult.

“I have been fighting for three years to be good enough,” Olmos said. “So winning was groundbreaking for me. I couldn’t believe that people actually liked my work.”

Both packages — one featuring a hot dog restaurant dedicated to serving non-profit organizations, and the other exploring increased bicycle traffic across Los Angeles — were labors of love for Olmos. She attributes her love for storytelling to the professors, courses and fellow students at USC Annenberg.

“I’ve learned that you have to do stories you’re passion about because those are going to convey more emotion and more knowledge than any other story you’re just assigned to do,” Olmos said. “The way I approach broadcast is really consuming everything around me. I believe that a real reporter gets stories by talking to people, not looking online.”

Olmos, who has worked for Neon Tommy and currently anchors for ATVN, also believes her entries’ standups were a crucial factor in the win. In broadcast journalism the standup plants the reporter in front of the camera, often serving as a transition from one scene to another or a moment to expand on previously narrated information. During both pieces, Olmos completely revamps the traditional standup by actually bicycling up to the camera in a crowded L.A. intersection — a scene she says took almost an hour to capture — and in the other, holding up to the camera one of the restaurant’s most exotic hot dogs.

“With my standups in particular, I probably wouldn’t have learned how to do any of that if it weren’t for [USC Annenberg],” Olmos said. “You just learn to be more interactive and to really use [the standup] to further the story.”

After graduating in May, Olmos hopes to attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. For now, though, Olmos is focusing on the months ahead, when she will submit entries for the next round of the Hearst Journalism Awards in March. Inspired by her minor in social entrepreneurship within USC’s Marshall School of Business, Olmos hopes to continue to shed light on social issues by “utilizing two minutes of someone’s life to motivate and impact them.”

Scholder, who will work with Olmos on her next submissions, is certain this journalist has what it takes to go all the way.

“Stassy definitely has a great sense of story,” Scholder said. “She talks to real people and just captures the essence of a story and captures real people in real situations. Stassy just takes me there, and that is the beauty of television news.”

Click on the links below to watch the winning pieces:

Stassy Olmos gives a new twist to the traditional broadcast news standup.

Stassy Olmos gives a new twist to the traditional broadcast news standup.

In the second award winning package, Olmos looks at the philanthropic mission behind a hot dog restaurant.

In the second award winning package, Olmos looks at the philanthropic mission behind a hot dog restaurant.

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Quoted: Week of February 16

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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.

Study: Oscar Win Lifts Brand Paydays

Jeetendr Sehdev

Women’s Wear Daily cited research by professor Jeetendr Sehdev on the benefits of an Oscar win.

According to Sehdev’s latest study, the exact value of an Oscar to a brand was an astounding 1.5% of annual sales.

“An Oscar has enormous symbolic value,” said Sehdev.

“There is so much credibility and trust that has been building in the Oscar brand over the years. It is the ultimate for an actor and I think people recognize that it embodies the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality of Hollywood.”

Sehdev’s research also found that Oscar winners are seen as 62 percent more admired, 40 percent less disliked, 25 percent cooler and 37 percent more trusted than non-Oscar winners.

The Sunday Times also cited the Sehdev study. His research found that the Oscar value has been especially applicable to British actors this awards season.

Results from Sehdev’s study include that Americans found British actors such as Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike up to seven times more likable than the thespians from their own country.


 

‘Two and a Half Men’ Stars and Creator Talk ‘Undignified’ Goodbye

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Entertainment Tonight quoted professor Mary Murphy about Charlie Sheen’s relationship with his Two and a Half Men co-stars. The show ended its 12-season run this past Thursday.

Sheen famously exited the show in March 2011 after publicly blasting the shows creator, Chuck Lorre.

“I don’t even think he was invited,” Murphy said. “It’s like a little kid who says, ‘I’m not going!’ when he wasn’t even asked.”


Oscars 2015: And the winner is… social media, for better and for worse

Karen North

The Los Angeles Times quoted professor Karen North on the role of social media at award shows.

Hoping to boost ratings for the Oscar telecast, particularly among coveted younger viewers, the motion picture academy has made a concerted effort in recent years to encourage the audience to engage with the ceremony via social media.

According to Twitter, the 2014 Academy Awards telecast was the most tweeted non-sporting live event of the year, with more than 17 million Oscar-related tweets over the evening. However, there are challenges that come with increased social media engagement by the audience.

“Once something goes out on social media, it’s no longer in control of the person who started the conversation,” North said. “We’ve become a participation culture. People don’t want to just sit back and consume media or experiences. They want to participate.”


Best-picture nod for ‘Selma’ caps big year for black women

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The Washington Post quoted professor Stacy Smith and cited her research on the lack of diversity in the Hollywood film industry.

Black female filmmakers have been one of Hollywood’s greatest rarities. In the past seven years, only three were connected to the top 700 movies, according to research by Smith’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative.

“The ecosystem of filmmaking is problematic for women and people of color,” Smith said.

According to Smith’s research, more than 95 percent of the directors of top-grossing films during the past decade have been men. In addition, looking at the top 700 films over a recent seven-year period, almost 90 percent of them were white.

“The number one barrier is financial,” Smith told the LA Times.

MashableKPCC, The LA Times and NBC also quoted Smith about the Selma nomination.


Hollywood’s necessary not-niceness

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Professor and Norman Lear Center director Marty Kaplan‘s column in The Jewish Journal discussed the mannerism of Hollywood executives. Kaplan’s column served as a response to the recent Sony email hack that revealed a great deal about recently fired co-chair of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal. Pascal has continued to make headlines in Hollywood by offering her often unfiltered two cents on various issues.

Kaplan said the hacked emails are proof that Pascal is correct in her belief that “not-niceness” makes Hollywood work.

“Hollywood isn’t the only endeavor whose principals, as Pascal described its stars, can be ‘bottomless pits of need,” Kaplan said. “Politics comes to mind, as well as Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the media, academia, organized religion and that bedrock of civilization, the family… I’ll take Pascal’s wager: Not-niceness is the weirdness that makes it work.”

The Huffington Post entertainment blog also published Kaplan’s column.


‘Fifty Shades’ success upends thinking about winter movies

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The Los Angeles Times quoted professor Stacy Smith on the past weekend’s success of the Fifty Shades of Grey film. The film dominated the box office, earning $102.7 million since its Valentine’s Day debut.

The film’s rarity in the industry comes from not only for its target audience but for the way it came to the screen, as the project was overseen mostly by women. In addition to being based on a book written by a woman, the movie was green-lit by Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley, directed by British filmmaker and photographer Sam Taylor-Johnson from a script by Kelly Marcel. It was the biggest opening weekend for a female director since the 2008 launch of “Twilight”, directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

Smith commented on what the film’s monumental success means for females in the Hollywood film industry.

“The industry is reluctant to support female storytellers and voices, [but] female filmmakers sell, despite what Hollywood decision makers think,” she said.


A race to the finish in the age of edge

Neal Gabler

The Los Angeles Times published an article by Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center Neal Gabler that examined the pervasive pursuit of edginess across culture.

“Edginess is the grail for almost everything, except movies,” Gabler SAID. “At the risk of being too edgy, at $100 million a pop, apparently risks alienating a large and diverse audience.”

Gabler also expanded on the cultural need for edginess.

“Edge is both more pervasive than noir and more elastic,” Gabler said. “That’s because edge, while an aesthetic and a genre and a correlative like noir, is also a metaphor for the world in which many Americans feel they live.”

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Series of events at USC Annenberg focus on South L.A. community relations

Postdoctoral fellow George Villanueva (left) moderates an October 2014 panel discussion on “Civic Action and Community Voice" in South L.A. For more images from the event, visit <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscannenberg/sets/72157648679892362/">USC Annenberg on Flickr</a>.

Postdoctoral fellow George Villanueva (left) moderates an October 2014 panel discussion on “Civic Action and Community Voice” in South L.A. For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

What role can a university play in the “civic and community life” of the neighborhood around it?

Students, faculty, administrators and community members confront this question daily at schools across the country, but it has become increasingly pressing during USC’s current growth spurt. Evidence of an unprecedented expansion dots the campus, from the still-new Wallis Annenberg Hall, to active construction at Marshall, to a brand-new dance school and a $650 million redevelopment across Jefferson at University Village. Walk a bit father though, and the available indicators become mixed at best. The area’s overall crime rate is continuing a longstanding decline even as the jobless rate in South L.A. remains the city’s highest.

The town/gown relationship is even more complex for black and brown youth who live and study at the intersection of these interlocked communities. Incidents of alleged racial profiling reinforce the sense among some of the university’s students of color that they’re surveilled and policed in ways their white classmates are not. Across the school’s literal and notional border, young people who call university-adjacent neighborhoods home all too often describe encounters with both LAPD and USC public safety officers as an unwelcome “rite of passage.”

This academic year, a multipart, school-wide discussion led by members of USC Annenberg’s communication school has taken up all of these questions and added another important dimension: What unique contributions can a communication school make to a town/gown conversation? Convened under the banner of the USC’s interdisciplinary Visions and Voices initiative and comprised of three events, “Voices of South L.A.” —organized by Alison Trope and Robeson Taj Frazier, professors of communication, and postdoctoral fellow George Villanueva — looks to deepen the USC community’s understanding of its neighbors through a series of critical engagements and carefully crafted cultural encounters. The goal is to break both parties out of roles often assigned by rote — victim/victimizer, powerful/powerless, leader/led — by focusing on the novel forms of agency and invention South L.A.’s residents bring to bear on their issues and lives.

Professor Alison Trope

Professor Alison Trope

“We’re not trying to solve the problems in one evening, or in two evenings, even,” Trope explained. “Our focus is on communicating stories, but also on the civics of those stories. Crafting a democratic lens through which these stories can be told becomes an important way [a communication school] thinks differently than, say, a cinema school. The cinema school works in documentaries, they do work in narrative, but the goal of their storytelling is slightly different. Here the storytelling really has a democratic purpose.”

Frazier agrees that democratic purpose is what makes these conversations different than previous gatherings.

“We don’t want to focus simply on the challenges,” Frazier said, “but on the unique and inspiring ways organizers and community members build a community. We want our students to get a sense of the richness of the community that surrounds them, show them that leadership takes different kinds of forms.”

The first of the Voices of South L.A. events, a spirited panel discussion on “Civic Action and Community Voice,” occurred last October and brought together journalists Erin Aubry Kaplan and Sahra Sulaiman, Los Angeles Human Relations Commission advisor Francisco Ortega, and executive vice president of the Community Coalition Alberto Retana. Moderated by Villanueva, the foundational conversation focused on the ways residents (in this case community members, bureaucrats, media and activists) have engaged with questions of identity and change South L.A. and encouraged attendees to share their own visions of the area.

Attendees of October 2014 panel discussion on “Civic Action and Community Voice" share their definitions of South L.A. For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

Attendees at an October 2014 panel discussion on “Civic Action and Community Voice” share their definitions of South L.A. For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

The exercise underscored a complicating reality: our sense of who, what and where “South L.A.” is varies wildly depending on who is being asked. Villanueva opened the event with a common tourist map of Los Angeles where South L.A. is, as he put it, “USC, really.”

“Our location is the northern part of a geographic boundary that’s typically called South L.A.” Villanueva said. “But if you go where some of the more drastic issues are happening, you find yourself even more south and then even more south. South of Watts toward L.A. County cities like Compton and Gardena. This discussion is not just about USC, but about a broader range of regional and structural issues.”


Watch full video of the October event.


This Thursday the conversation continues with Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice. Underscoring Frazier’s call to examine other, unexpected forms of leadership, a wide-ranging group of community leaders and cultural workers will share “visions for food justice, urban agriculture, community arts and recreation,” including Ben Caldwell of the Leimert Park-based Kaos Network media center, Karen Mack of community arts organization LA Commons, Javier “JP” Partida of Los Ryderz Bike Club; and Neelam Sharma of the food-justice minded Community Services Unlimited.

On March 7, the conversation will move out onto the streets, as LA Commons’ Karen Mack leads a walking tour of South L.A.

For Frazier, the combination of food and footwork are not just the bedrock of neighborliness, but they’re also directly tied to the work of the communications school.

Professor Robeson Taj Frazier

Professor Robeson Taj Frazier

“A benefit of working within the comm school is that openness to expanding our understanding of what we mean by communication and how we define the field.,” Frazier continued. “That’s what’s been fantastic to me: people aren’t close-minded about the definition of communication and community.”

In addition to being eminently comm, this talk of pleasure and community is also eminently optimistic. Asked if they’re bullish about South L.A.’s prospects, all three organizers settled on the notion of “critical optimism.”

“I’m not an optimist, actually,” Trope said. “I think most people that study culture, we have a pessimist/optimist kind of yin yang going on. I’m critical. Then I hope that change is on the horizon.”

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Co-director of Bitch Media Discusses Intersection of Feminism and Pop Culture

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-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. For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

Few would deny the power that popular culture and media have over the way we understand and form opinions about the world around us. We consume media almost constantly, perpetually shifting our social and even political beliefs. But how can either modes of influence act as a locus of activism for gender equality?

On Tuesday, 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.

The event, titled “Don’t Just Change the Channel: Why Pop Culture Matters to Feminism, Activism and Social Justice,” was opened by director of the School of Communication Sarah Banet-Weiser before Zeisler dove into a presentation hitting eight major points — noting the power behind harnessing pop culture as a positive force in advocating for feminism among other social issues.

Founded by Zeisler and high school companion Lisa Jervis “on the idea that if nobody speaks up, nothing is going to change,” Zeisler said it wasn’t the magazine’s slightly scandalous title that raised eyebrows when Bitch first launched in 1996.

“Having the word ‘feminist’ in the magazine subtitle has been far more controversial than having the word ‘bitch’ in the title,” Zeisler explained. “That’s because the word ‘bitch’, for better or worse, has become part of our cultural lexicon. Yet ‘feminist’ is still one of those words that people find very hard to understand.”

While Zeisler said “really exciting” improvements have been made in the diversification of women represented in pop culture, the everyday sexism seen in the media Bitch originally set out to bring attention to and critique has not completely vanished in the almost 20 years since the magazine’s inception.

“I tend to feel a big part of what people misunderstand about feminism is that it’s still very relevant despite the fact that some of what earlier feminists fought for has come to past,” Zeisler said. “There’s this idea that some women gained some ground in some areas, feminism happened and we’re all done. That’s absolutely not true.”

Now more than ever, Zeisler said we must pay attention to how we consume products of pop culture because, as she put it, the stories media tell are the ones we believe. Presenting images of women in mainstream media to the completely full auditorium of attendees, it became clear that many of the deep rooted stereotypes and narratives surrounding what it means to be a woman in modern society are largely connected to what we see in film, television and music.

The over-sexualization of women in alcohol advertisements, violence against women within the fashion industry and the laser-point focus on female celebrities’ bodies by tabloids were just a small sample of pop culture hypocrisy brought up by Zeisler.

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For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

Zeisler also addressed feminism as a trend, recently popularized by Beyonce’s version of female empowerment through music and actress Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign to “convert” men to feminism. Although grateful for the revival of gender equality by a more conventional, seemingly less radical group of feminists, Zeisler said it is crucial to remember the corporate motivation behind selling the idea of feminism for profit.

“The aspects of feminism that are currently amplified in media and pop culture are the friendliest and sexiest ones. Popular feminism doesn’t challenge identities so much as it offers nips and tucks to a larger un-feminist status quo,” Zeisler said.

First-year USC Annenberg Ph.D. student Courtney Cox agreed with Zeisler’s assertion that for every two steps made forward in feminism, we often move one step back.

“A lot of people are very excited that feminism is now popular and cool, so I thought it was great to consider what might be negative about mainstream feminism,” Cox said. “It’s useful to think about for every good thing happening in pop culture, there are some bad sides as well.”

But Zeisler didn’t use the presentation to just point out what is currently wrong in the intersection between feminism and popular culture. Technological revolutions by way of the Internet have bolstered feminist activism from grassroot movements to a widespread, digital crusade anyone can invest in.

“The Internet and new technologies have [made] activism not only more accessible, but less of a burden,” Zeisler said of the potential to effect social change through memes and Tumblr posts. “You no longer have to define yourself as an activist to do activism in a consistent and meaningful way.”

Audience members were also able to ask Zeisler questions, spanning topics from celebrity intervention into feminism, the political implications of companies selling feminism and the importance of educating youth on media literacy.

At the core of Zeisler’s presentation was the idea that pop culture’s significance in our lives is immutable and the crucial need to utilize a feminist lens on media to better understand women’s perceived role in society.

“The question at the heart of every wave of feminism has always been, are women human beings with the same liberties and rights as men?,” Zeisler said. “And that question, despite everything that is going on with feminism being a hip new club, is contested every day in politics, in entertainment, the workplace, in court and in academia.”

For those studying media or interested in paving a career in the field, Zeisler offered advice on how to bridge those passions with feminism.

“Figure out what you’re most passionate about because [pop culture] a big subject and it can be pretty daunting. Then figure out how to incorporate your feminism into that” Zeisler said. “These days it’s easier than ever to make your own media.”

Watch the event below:

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Meet the Master (Student) Behind Neon Tommy’s Social Distribution

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Alex Gold Neon Tommy_2

Alex Gold in the new USC Annenberg Media Center


Despite being one of USC’s newest student publications, Neon Tommy has established itself as one of the top student-run digital news sources in the country. The online magazine boasts an impressive list of alumni who now work at major media corporations like Time, Inc. and Yahoo! News.

Alex Gold, a second year Master’s of Strategic Public Relations student, is working from the inside out, helping the editorial staff at Neon Tommy create strategies for promoting stories through social media.

What is your title at Neon Tommy?

I am the social media director, which means that I lead a team that promotes stories across all social media platforms and is responsible for driving a large portion of our traffic to all the great content on Neon Tommy.

 When you say “all” social media platforms, which ones do you mean?

We create high-quality native content across on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.

 Wait a minute … did you just say Google+?

I did. It’s a medium that not only shouldn’t be forgotten about, but it’s incredibly important. Google pretty much owns the internet in the US and, therefore, a huge part of our web traffic and almost all SEO (search engine optimization) is tied to Google. An important aspect of its algorithm is Google+, so when you post a story, it factors heavily into its search value. If someone +1s that story, it has potential to be recommended to the rest of that person’s network.

Furthermore, Google+ recently released its business insights for pages. This enables us to monitor our actions on the platform in real time. This is big news within the tech community because it really opens the portal up as far as analytics goes.

It all boils down to understanding your audience and your users’ behavior. Google Analytics has a feature called user flow, which enables you to track where they come from, how much they navigate your site and when they leave. We’ve targeted our audiences through social, so the readership tends to stay longer and is more apt to read other stories we cater to them.

You’ve sold me on Google+, but how do you promote a story on Instagram or Pinterest?

Surprisingly, a large amount of our social traffic comes from Pinterest—almost as much as Twitter. Basically, we take the pics from the stories and pin them up as links back to the articles. Visual/social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are baked into our thought process when we’re selecting images for stories, and the team actively looks at which of these pics would do well on those media.

How do you manage updating all these platforms at once?

From a process standpoint, we’ve developed a workflow in which social media is baked into the writing process. Once writers have crafted their stories, they are responsible for sending their drafts to editors with suggestions for promotion on Facebook and Twitter. Editors then review stories for accuracy, grammar, etc. and mark them ready for promo. From there, web producers publish and promote the stories on Facebook and Twitter. Then the social media team promotes every story on Google+ and Pinterest.  When it comes to Tumblr and Instagram, I really encourage the team to be selective and curate the content when posting.

Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don’t, but I always try to encourage creativity among team members. Every week I put together a weekly roundup to recap what worked and what didn’t. We’ve gamified the process to encourage friendly competition and continued education across our organization. As a leader, I prefer to motivate our team with a balance of positivity, encouragement and constructive criticism. In that sense, I’m much more of a cheerleader than a micromanager. I’m very hands-off and will only step in if there is a recurring problem with the functionality of our system.

Can you take me through a typical day (if such a thing exists)?

Every day is different, and there are always new fires to put out, but I’m always monitoring social media analytics. I go through each twitter handle to see what’s generating traffic and what isn’t. All Neon Tommy social media accounts are linked to my phone, so I get real-time notifications that let me respond and engage in two-way communication with our readership.

At the end of the week, I put together my roundup email with “best three” and “worst three” social media content pieces. The goal is to get our staff thinking about individual posts and tweets as stand-alone bits of content and to strive to make them as high-quality as possible. In addition to it being informative, I try to give it a team-building element by using funny GIFs and memes. We also keep a tally of who is most frequently on the “best of” list with every monthly winner getting a prize.

Other than that routine, though, my goal is to constantly make Neon Tommy a better experience—both for readers and for our team. To that end, I’ve started a continued education initiative, in which I’ve offered social media courses for our staff. Social media training is mandatory for all incoming writers, editors and web producers. With such a large staff—150 writers, 50 web producers, 20 editors and an executive editorial board—it’s important that everyone is on the same page with respect to promoting our stories.

Social media is incredibly nuanced—especially something like Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm—so not only are we dealing with a fickle audience, our platforms constantly change as well. We write about news, which is always interesting and that helps, but it comes down to creating a marketing pitch for each individual story.

How would you describe the experience of working a PR position within a publication alongside journalists?

It’s an incredible space to be in, and it’s exciting to come to work every day. Annenberg is breeding the next generation of great minds in the media field—which includes both journalism and PR. We recognize the need to work together. Journalists recognize the need to market their own stories, and their PR colleagues can help them create the ownable hashtags and other elements necessary to get those stories out there to the people who want to read them. We’re all wordsmiths who work really well together, so it’s a union that works. Everyone at Annenberg is top quality, so it’s never backtracking.

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Covering Multicultural Communities

One day, it’s duck eggs (pictured above) as a popular street food — the next, it’s immigrant votes, nail salons, tofu, war orphans, refugee gay rights, English learners, the Post Office as cultural connector, and so on. I dig my beat covering multicultural communities and breaking news for the Los Angeles Times. I love and am grateful for its tempting menu of new faces, shy chatter, fascinating lives. What matters to me is balance, a sense of history, whimsy and being an alert listener — the crafting of that art. I immerse myself in the work expecting surprises and trying to find symmetry. Plenty of times, I stumble on folks who don’t want to talk, not having dealt with reporters or ever witnessing a free press. I try to honor their experiences, hoping to turn their dramas into something compelling. Their voices reflect the poetry of our collective voices. Every day, I celebrate the written word and the hope that storytelling can illuminate our soul.

—Anh Do (B.A. Print Journalism ’89)

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Augmented Reality, Not Just for Gaming

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By Anne Bergman (MA, Print Journalism, ’94)

AR3Augmented Reality Total Immersion is not just for gaming any more. Last fall, USC Annenberg Professor Robert Hernandez led a group of students through an immersive storytelling experiment that revealed nuances of the Los Angeles Public Library, while simultaneously providing a glimpse into the future of journalism and communication. Students created an app featuring digital content layered over real-world visual markers that can be viewed via mobile device. Students designed content that accessed the library’s special collections of rare books, translated Greek epigraphs, revealed how the library structure has evolved over the years, and even presented a full-on puppet show.

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Further experiments in this immerse technology span a diverse spectrum: Artists such as BC “Heavy” Biermann from RE+Public, scientists from NASA/JPL, even a Tokyo aquarium which wanted to boost attendance to its penguin exhibit, are already effectively fusing AR to their work. What’s around the next curve? Hernandez says that it will likely be the merger of AR with wearable, immersive technologies. Sony, Epson, and of course, Google with their Glass platform, have all entered the wearable arena. This fall, Hernandez will lead an entire course focused on creating apps for Google Glass, which he says will be a “strong baby step, creating content that I see as essentially augmented reality.”

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Annenberg Advantage Mentor-Mentee Meetup Event

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About 50 Annenberg alumni mentors and current student mentees attended a dinner event at Wallis Annenberg Hall, where USC Marshall Associate Professor of Clinical Management Dr. Sharoni Little guest spoke about the nature of mentorship relationships.

Little led the program, titled “Building, Leveraging and Maximizing Relationships,” which included an exercise in which mentors and mentees answered questions about each other — an exercise that highlighted the importance of getting to know each other on a personal, as well as a professional basis.

Part of the USC Annenberg Advantage initiative, the mentorship program matches current students with alumni in their respective fields, encouraging the pairings to meet at least once a month. Now in its sixteenth year under the guidance of the alumni office, the program hosts on-campus events for all of mentor/mentee pairings at the beginning of each academic semester.

View the full photo gallery of the January Mentorship event.

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Disney CEO and Vanity Fair Editor speak at USC Annenberg

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Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, and Graydon Carter, Editor of Vanity Fair, in conversation at USC Annenberg on February 17, 2015. For more images from the event, visit USC Annenberg on Flickr.

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.

Tuesday afternoon, 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.

The special event, “Managing Media in the Digital Age,” was moderated by Willow Bay, director of the School of Journalism. Bay introduced the two before handing it over to Iger, her husband, to lead to conversation with Carter. From magazine publishing to Disney princesses, an overflowing audience in Wallis Annenberg Hall was treated to anecdotes and advice from the media managers.

Starting with Vanity Fair, Iger asked Carter about the state of the magazine business and print versus digital.

As a monthly magazine, Vanity Fair covers news in a way that is “halfway between the first onslaught of the story, and a book,” Carter said. But in addition to the expectation of strong monthly content that tackles stories in a wider context, there is also the expectation that the brand offer content online in a more time-sensitive manner.

“How important is it that it exists in atoms instead of bits?” Iger asked Carter of continuing to publish a physical print magazine.

Carter explained there has been a generational shift in the consumption of media. He offered the example that 10 years ago, parents would have had a stack of Disney films in their living room. Then five years ago it would be a collection of DVDs. Now, there’s no physical object because those same films are being streamed online. Vanity Fair has experienced that same evolution, with their website and tablet edition, while maintaining their original magazine.

In discussing the magazine itself, Iger asked Carter about the role of longform journalism, now that stories can be broken down into lists or 140 character tweets. Length doesn’t matter, Carter responded, because its well-done people will read it.

“A great 30-page magazine article ends before you know it,” Carter said.

Soon the conversation turned to what sells content, and Carter turned the tables on Iger — taking on his more natural role of interviewer instead of interviewee. He asked the Disney CEO about the media company’s audience: Disney would grab kids’ attention around age two and would lose them around 10. Mixed in would be parents and grandparents, of course, but there were large generational gaps that Disney couldn’t seem to fill.

“We just had to get better,” Iger said. “We had to make things that were … more likeable.”

Iger explained that these conversations often centered on whether Disney should change its standards, adding more violence or “saucier language.” Rather than change Disney, Iger looked at acquiring other properties to fill these roles, like Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.

The conversation eventually transitioned into a question-and-answer session with the audience. Jonathan Taplin, professor and director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, noted the increased prevalence of piracy — he even mentioned how easy it was to find The Avengers online via a simple Google search.

“Do either of you think Google could be more supportive of the creative community?” Taplin asked.

Iger said he has spoken to Google, and that over time the search-engine has become more receptive. However, it is a “whack-a-mole” situation due to the sheer volume of pirated material that exists. Iger said the important thing for people to understand is that content has value.

“The distribution of pirated goods really has no value to society,” he said.

The final question was asked by a student, who was curious what Iger and Carter look for in young employees and what advice they’d give USC Annenberg students. Iger noted the value of classroom and practical experience, specifically commenting on the USC Annenberg Media Center as a great example of how these two qualities can come together.

“I benefitted a lot from showing an interest in learning and doing at the same time,” Iger shared. His went into his first job as a production assistant with more practical experience than his colleagues.

Carter said simply: “If you can write a great, really charming letter, you can get in to see anyone.”

Look through audience reactions to the event in our Storify recap of Disney’s Bob Iger and Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter visit to USC Annenberg.

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