DreamWorks Producer Bonnie Arnold Visits USC Annenberg During Trojan Family Weekend

DreamWorks producer Bonnie Arnold shares advice on changing media industry . Image via Twitter user Katie Walsh, ‏@katiewalshstx.

DreamWorks producer Bonnie Arnold shares advice on changing media industry . Image via Twitter user Katie Walsh, ‏@katiewalshstx.

The opening of Wallis Annenberg Hall has granted USC Annenberg students access to a unique, educational workplace. From the media center to speakers visiting the auditorium, students have learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond.

Trojan Family Weekend at USC Annenberg featured one such opportunity for students and parents. On Friday, November 14, professor Stacy Smith invited DreamWorks Animation producer Bonnie Arnold for a discussion regarding the dynamics of today’s media industry. Over the course of the discussion, both Smith and Arnold touched on topics ranging from Arnold’s successes (“How To Train Your Dragon 2”) to some of the challenges associated with being a female filmmaker in an industry dominated by males.

Bonnie’s message on the matter was simple.

“Whether male or female, you have to work harder than anyone else,” Arnold said. “And even that’s no guarantee. If you have something that you are passionate about, I think it shows … You can’t be lazy. You have to take risks.”

Arnold said that risk-taking was an integral part of her career from the get-go. She recollected times in her career when she had to be fearless and negotiate with investors, studios, and companies with absolute confidence – regardless of her gender.

Arnold also progressed her goal of female empowerment through her casting of several strong female characters in her films. Most notably, Astrid and Valka from the “How To Train Your Dragon” franchise, and Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent,” portrayed characters who defied the damsel in distress stereotype. According to Arnold, filmmakers in Hollywood bear the responsibility of depicting female characters in unconventional roles in order to break stereotypes. Smith, whose research focuses on diversity and representation in the media, agreed with Arnold’s vision.

“This is why we bring in people like Bonnie Arnold to speak with our students,” Smith said. “She is simply inspirational and kind and humble at the same time.”

Arnold’s words resonated with the audience as parents and students joined the discussion by posing questions during the last 10 minutes of the event. Justin Marsden, a junior at USC Annenberg who attended the event with his mother, enjoyed the open-forum discussion because Arnold focused on issues such as under representation, which Marsden is currently studying in Smith’s COMM 203 class.

“The amount of real world professionals we get access to – people from big studios and high positions – is very rewarding and it’s a great resource to have here.”

USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III also attended the event and engaged in conversation with parents and students at the end of the discussion.

“There are a couple of things that this events shows us,” said Wilson. “It allows our students to hear directly from leadership within the field the tricks of the trade. You can’t get this unless guests come into our building. It’s also good for the professors because they can adjust their teaching in the classroom to reflect the ideas discussed. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

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The Comeback: Actress and Comedian Lisa Kudrow Visits USC Annenberg to Talk About Media and Her Latest Project

Lisa Kudrow speaks with Professor Mary Murphy during her visit to USC Annenberg.

Lisa Kudrow speaks with Professor Mary Murphy during her visit to USC Annenberg.

Lisa Kudrow, actress, comedian, writer and producer, visited USC Annenberg on Tuesday to discuss media and her latest show “The Comeback.” She spoke to students in Professor Mary Murphy’s class, JOUR 381: Entertainment Business and Media.


15829616755_8703b404ea_zTo view more pictures from Kudrow’s visit, visit our flickr album.

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USC Impact: Fermented Foods, Fancy Rats, Urban Gardening

ImpactUSC Impact recently released a new episode of their award-winning television newsmagazine. See an excerpt from their monthly newsletter below:

“Welcome to the 2014-2015 season of Impact! My name is Ashley Velez and I am this year’s supervising producer. We have been busy at USC, settling into our brand new Media Center at Wallis Annenberg Hall. With new equipment and technology, we’re excited for our upcoming shows and can’t wait to share them with you!

For our latest episode, we explore some unconventional topics with some unconventional people. First, we learn about the possible health benefits of eating fermented food. Then, we meet a few rat enthusiasts who just might change your mind about the four-legged rodents. And finally, we visit with four gardeners who are challenging the law by reclaiming unused public spaces for growing fresh produce. 

As always, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook to keep up with happenings at Impact.

Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you enjoy the show!”

Sign up for USC Impact’s newsletter here.

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Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

640-quotedAt 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 Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

banet-weiser_121pxFor Modern Women, ‘Ladylike’ Means Strong And Sporty

Annenberg School of Communication Director and Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser spoke with NPR about the shift in “ideal” female body type from being very skinny to being healthy and fit.

“That notion that we should be strong and that our own self-empowerment comes from strength is trending, if you will,” Banet-Weiser, who is currently working on a book about female empowerment, said.

However, she added: “If we’re emphasizing being fit and being healthy and playing sports, I think that’s a good thing. But I think we can’t just say we’re in a better place. We’re in a different place, and we have different things to work on.”

Kun_150pDays of the dead: Time to say ‘enough’ to extreme narco-culture?

An essay written by Associate Professor Josh Kun was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about Mexican narco-culture.

In the essay, he cites Tijuana writer Heriberto Yépez who argues that “Mexico’s cartels have gone from being an economy to becoming an ideology that saturates society.”

“The term narco can refer to both ‘drug trafficker’ (el narco) and ‘drug life’ in general (lo narco),” Kun wrote. “For Yépez, narco was once a prefix, an adjective that described an aspect of Mexican culture. Now it is Mexican culture; ‘narco and culture are synonyms.’ ”

HollihanLong vote-by-mail tallies change the art and science of conceding

Professor Tom Hollihan was quoted in a San Jose Mercury News story about how longer periods for vote tallying affect political candidates’ decisions to concede.

“You don’t want to either concede or claim victory before it’s certain, but particularly it’s worse to concede too early,” Hollihan said.

But, he added that concession speeches are “places candidates gain grace points for style and courtesy,” especially if they intend to continue working in politics.


Marty Kaplan

Why Mel Brooks and Bill Moyers Will Always Idolize Norman Lear

A Huffington Post story quoted Professors Marty Kaplan and Richard Reeves about Norman Lear and his Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA.


Richard Reeves

“He opened up the most popular medium in history to a range of topics, and to a kind of discourse, that had never been part of that mass culture,” Kaplan, who is the director of Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center, said. “[‘All in the Family’] is without question the most influential entertainment program in the history of American television.”

The story commended Lear’s sensitization of the newsroom through his shows and Reeves noted that he “heard people tell about sitting and watching [Lear’s] shows who now have a voice in the public dialogue.”


From left: Nomi Morris, John Cyrus Smith, Amara Aguilar

Lessons Learned After Merging Broadcast, Writing, Digital Classes at USC

Associate Professor Amara Aguilar wrote a story for PBS’ MediaShift about teaching her Digital News Immersion class alongside adjunct professors John Cyrus Smith and Nomi Morris.

The course combines broadcast, print and digital journalism and is taught as part of the nine-month master’s program in specialized journalism.

Aguilar wrote that teaching with two other instructors was a challenge because all three instructors had a lot to say about their area of expertise.

“I think it’s been really chaotic, but so is the news business,” Morris said. “It’s a great real-world, hands-on type of experience right from the get go.”

They all agreed that the class became more cohesive throughout the semester and they were all able to grow from the experience.

“Three heads are better than one,” Smith said. “No one knows everything. I learn from [my colleagues] just like I learn from my students.”

Under-SpringFour Iconic Books in the Landscape of L.A. Letters

Assistant Dean of Public Affairs and Special Events Jeremy Rosenberg’s new book “Under Spring” was featured in KCET’s “LA Letters” column.

“Rosenberg’s experimental narrative weaves all of these voices together to tell the tale of the transformation of space beneath the North Spring Street Bridge adjacent to the Los Angeles River,” columnist Mike Sonksen wrote. “Essentially the book is an oral history of the years Rosenberg spent documenting the spaces’ transition from a no-man’s land to an experimental art project with dynamic live events.”

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Ampersand: Annenberg Radio gets a New Podcast

Associate Professor Sasha Anawalt helps a student edit her script at the Media Center’s arts and culture desk.

Associate Professor Sasha Anawalt helps a student edit her script at the Media Center’s arts and culture desk.

Ampersands are visual characters that simply represent the word “and.” But for a new Annenberg Radio News podcast, its symbol is being used to exemplify passion. Ampersand, which uses the character as its logo, covers everything that is arts and culture related throughout the Los Angeles region and USC campus.

Sasha Anawalt, associate professor of professional practice and director of the USC Annenberg Arts Journalism program, oversees the new podcast. Personally, she believes that arts and culture reporting is in poor shape in this country because people are telling far too many stories that don’t move.

In an effort to change that, Anawalt is encouraging Ampersand journalists to create well thought out stories to allow listeners to, in a sense, see blood on the page.

“To be a really good journalist you have to be able to imagine what it’s like to be somebody else,” Anawalt said. “You need compassion and you need to have empathy.”

Concurrent with creating stories that move, Anawalt wants her students to make a difference in the lives of the people they interview. She explained that often people in creative fields are misunderstood or ignored. The podcast is making an effort to have these artists gain recognition through their show.

So far that objective has been fruitful. Recently, Ampersand did a piece about two punk bands, The Julie Ruin and the Sex Stains, who performed for Visions and Voices last Monday.

Two weeks before the show, Meghan Farnsworth, the social media manager and website designer for Ampersand, interviewed the punk musicians. When the interview went up on their website, it gained a lot of attention.

“We haven’t even begun to do PR or advertising for Ampersand,” Anawalt said. “All the attention is due to Twitter and because those musicians have tweeted it out.”

Launching Ampersand would have almost been impossible without a traditional classroom setting, Anawalt said.

Her course Jour 592: Specialized Journalism: Reporting the Arts has helped pilot the new podcast because it’s laid the foundation for arts coverage. Most of the students in her class have never done journalistic work before, Anawalt explained.

For the new podcast, an ampersand represents passion for everything arts and cultures related.

For the new podcast, an ampersand represents passion for everything arts and cultures related.

“Because we’ve built this media outlet from scratch — developed our own name, logo, website, social media and content — we are truly learning how journalism works,” Farnsworth said. “There is a natural sense of rhythm and spontaneity with Ampersand, which is truly rewarding because it keeps you on your toes.”

Farnsworth is excited about all the attention her story has received especially since she and some of her colleagues worried that their stories wouldn’t be discovered.

“We were afraid that no one would listen to our pieces or even look at our website unless someone was directed towards it,” Farnsworth said. “However, we’ve been able to reach some amazing people that the public love, who have also shared our stories of them through Ampersand.”

Her interviews were possible through the podcast’s collaboration with Visions and Voices. The organization has given Ampersand journalists access to interview performers, which has also helped to inform listeners who the performers are before attending the shows.

A new arts and culture desk in the Media Center currently hosts Ampersand and ARN productions, and it will eventually be used across all media platforms.

As the new building was nearing its completion, the idea of adding an arts and culture desk was on the mind of Willa Seidenberg, professor and director of ARN. During a collective meeting with ARN, ATVN and Neon Tommy it was decided to put the idea into action.

“Now that there’s an arts and culture desk is in the Media Center, they’re interacting with ARN,” Seidenberg said. “Before, Ampersand would have been completely separate from anything that anyone else was doing.”

Last year every USC Annenberg media organization had its own room to produce work, and ARN was located in the former digital lab of the ASC building. Seidenberg explained that adding an arts and culture section within to the former ARN headquarters would have made it difficult for all students to work communally.

Seidenberg explained that she worked on developing an arts and culture segment on ARN for about five years prior to Ampersand. In fact, ARN tried a trial run last semester but it was unsuccessful.

“When we started talking about the Media Center, one of the obvious ideas was to do an arts and culture desk,” Seidenberg said. “It was the right time, the right place and we had the right students.”

The new space has been instrumental for the podcast since its helped forge collaborative work amongst Ampersand journalists and other organizations in the Media Center.

“This room is a game changer because it gives us a place to do our work together with the benefit of having expertise everywhere you turn,” Anawalt said.

When Anawalt’s course began earlier this fall, she asked each one of her students what their first creative act was and she discovered that the majority of her students continue to be interested in or practice that art form today.

Having Ampersand journalists write about what they are interested in has allowed them to tap back into their imagination and creativity, Anawalt said.

“You don’t hear the word ampersand a lot in your life,” Anawalt said. “However, because my students are covering arts and culture, and entertainment, and creativity, they liked this idea that creativity knows no bounds only ‘ands.’”

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Connecting a City with “Chinese Twitter”


By Daniela Gerson*

WeiboIn a conference room packed with 17 members of Chinese ethnic media and Los Angeles-based foreign correspondents, Alhambra Police Chief Mark Yokoyama announced last December that he was launching the country’s first municipal Sina Weibo — or “Chinese Twitter” — account. The move was an effort in conjunction with USC Annenberg to engage the suburban Los Angeles community’s large immigrant population.

L.A.-born Yokoyama was not prepared for the response. Scores of questions from Chinese-speakers from Alhambra to the Midwest to Beijing eager to better understand American policing overwhelmed him. In just five days, the account attracted more than 5,000 followers, about five times the “likes” for the Facebook account the police department had spent more than a year building.

The Weibo frenzy slowed after the first week, but interest remained strong, and within four months followers were more than 11,000. The immediate impact is clear: Chinese or Mandarin calls to the department requiring translation increased 64 percent since launching. Police departments from New York to Seattle to Monterey Park have inquired about how to create their own accounts, the initiative won the California Police Chief’s Excellence in Technology Award, and Yokoyama is convinced Weibo has transformed his force’s relationship with Alhambra’s Chinese immigrant population.

“We’re answering those questions that have probably been on the minds of people for a long time. They just didn’t know how to ask or who to ask,” Yokoyama said. “It tells me people have some sense of trust in at least asking the question of the police. That’s the outcome that I’ve most enjoyed.”

Weibo has proven an innovative way to fortify the city’s communication infrastructure, according to Annenberg Professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach. She teamed up with Journalism Professor Michael Parks in 2008, in an effort to investigate how local news in a multiethnic community can impact civic engagement and cross linguistic and ethnic barriers. The result was Alhambra Source, a multilingual community news web site with more than 80 local contributors who speak 10 languages. Weibo was a serendipitous outcome of the project that resulted from bridges forged between local media, immigrant residents and policy makers. “The fact that now there is increased communication between the police and the ethnic Chinese community is critically important,” Ball-Rokeach said. “Weibo is kind of a mobile community relations department. It’s a way in which new technologies can actually facilitate police community relations, particularly with hard-to-reach populations.”

Indeed, Alhambra’s venture into Weibo added a cultural and linguistic layer to a growing trend toward social media in policing. For the past four years, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has been monitoring social media use among departments. The growth has been “exponential,” according to Senior Program Manager of Community Safety Initiatives Nancy Kolb. Word reached Kolb about the Alhambra Weibo account earlier this year. While other cities have created Twitter and Facebook accounts in Spanish, this was the first time she knew of a U.S. police department using an international social media platform to reach residents. But she does not think it will be the last, based upon how social media is growing. “There is a nexus of social media with just about everything that law enforcement does today,” Kolb said.

In many ways, police departments are following in the steps of media and private companies that were initially concerned about the ability of the masses to talk back and now are embracing it. “Just this year alone so many agencies have come on board,” said Captain Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View, California Police Department. Located down the street from LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google, the agency has championed the idea that police need to embrace social media to engage with residents and promote community safety.

“We have nothing to really fear. Occasionally you get egg on your face like New York did,” Hsiung said, referring to a recent incident when the New York Police Department asked residents to pose with police officers and their initiative backfired when residents posted negative pictures instead with police arresting them that went viral. “But if you’re human, transparent, people really like you. A lot of our approach mirrors private sector PR strategies. People are out there and if you’re not part of the conversation you have no control over it. But if you’re part of it you can help control it.”

When Yokoyama signed on as chief in 2011, he quickly realized that finding a way to create that sort of conversation with the Chinese population that is roughly a third of Alhambra’s population would be a challenge. More than a quarter of the city’s residents live in linguistically isolated households where no adult spoke English well. As such, the language barrier was clearly the first hurdle: Just 6 percent of his force, or 5 out of 85 sworn officers, spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. At events most of the people who came were white and Hispanic, which better reflected the demographics of the force.

The idea for the Weibo account was generated after Yokoyama read an article in Alhambra Source on engagement techniques to reach the Chinese community. The chief asked for a meeting with Alhambra Source editorial staff and the author, courts interpreter and Alhambra Source community contributor Walter Yu. To reach younger, more highly educated and affluent recentimmigrants like himself, Yu suggested the department develop Weibo. He also offered to help make it happen, adapting his significant social media skills to help Alhambra become a presence on the Beijing-based social media site.

While immigrants once would send letters back to relatives or flock to call centers, today they tend to hold onto social media ties from their home countries. In China, unlike most of the rest of the world, the government has banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “The Chinese are afraid these will become mechanisms for discontent to build and they don’t want that,” said Clayton Dube, director of Annenberg’s USC U.S.-China Institute.

But Beijing has let homegrown social media companies grow, among them two Weibo — or microblogging — firms and another one similar to the texting service Whatsapp with social attributes that is growing rapidly. “The China-based services perform two important functions,” according to Dube. “First is they give Chinese netizens tools that give them similar sort of functionality without setting them free basically. They use these as a way of moderating the public temperature. … They also censor them and use them to put out their own messages.” So far, at least, Alhambra Police Department’s Weibo is not seen as worth censoring and Dube does not think it would raise concern in Beijing. “I think the Alhambra Police Department was smart to do this,” Dube said, “And I think other communities with large numbers of Chinese speaking residents of whatever nationality should be mindful that it would be of their benefit to inform residents via this tool.”

The Alhambra Source, Yu and the police chief developed a system for taking in questions, translating them, and sharing them with the public. Yu created an #AskAmericanPolice campaign on the Alhambra Police Department Weibo account. When questions arrive, often as many as dozens a day, Yu translates them into English and sends them to the police chief. Yokoyama responds and sends them to Alhambra Source staff for a copy edit. Once approved, Yu translates them back into Chinese for Weibo. He also sends the Chinese version to Alhambra Source, which is posted along with English and Spanish versions.

The questions come from immigrants living in the Los Angeles area, across the country, and even from people in China curious about how American policing works. One parent wrote in from Missouri, “I have an 8-year-old—may I ask if I can leave my child at home legally?” Various local residents asked how to report incidents of fraud and stalking. And others just expressed relief to learn that they could actually call the police and not get in trouble.

“I believe sometimes people are just afraid to report to the police because of repercussions,” Yu said.

In addition, immigrant residents are learning that the role of police in the United States is different than in China. For example, the idea that police will actually help out with a noise complaint or protect a lost pet is foreign to many immigrants. “In China police don’t do anything about pets,” Yu said. “Now they actually see them helping them and they get really curious.”

Along with the dialogue, came tips, as the police realized this was a key segment of their population that could be activated to help solve crimes. When there was a faux Southern California Edison phone call scam, the police department put out a warning on Weibo. Soon people were reporting that they’d been scammed. Others reported prostitution and drug sales.

Also contributing to the success of the Weibo account was that it coincided with the police department investing in its English-language Facebook account. In the past, the city used it the same way it would use a press release, essentially a one-way fax machine to the public. Officials would post a heavily vetted, and rather dry, print report once every couple of weeks. But then the department started posting pictures, and officers were encouraged to post on Facebook. The numbers started to take off, and so did the discussions on Facebook.

For Yokoyama, the only frustration is that he still cannot be as fully integrated a part of the conversation as he would like. “On Facebook I’m there all the time, but this is the unknown,” he said, explaining the challenges of not understanding Chinese. But to residents, even if through translation, a bridge has been built to the police force. In a voluntary survey of 121 users, more than 90 percent of respondents feel better about the Alhambra police and understand the service better.

“This brings U.S. police officers’ job closer to us, and also answers our questions,” one respondent commented in Chinese, expressing a sentiment many echoed by many others. “I wish my local police department had Weibo as well.”

*Director of the USC Annenberg Civic Engagement & Journalism Initiative and editor of the Alhambra Source

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Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

640-quotedAt 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 Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

ColeThe Truth About Teenagers, The Internet, And Privacy

Professor Jeffrey Cole and the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future were featured in a Fast Company story about online privacy in the digital age.

The story cited research from the center showing that younger people are more comfortable with sharing personal information on the internet than older people are.

When the study was released last year, Cole had declared: “Privacy is dead.”

Thanks to millennials, feminism is on the rise in pop culture

MDSCIResearch from Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative was cited in a Fusion story about the growth of feminism in popular culture.

The study — led by Professor Stacy Smith and her team — analyzed 5,799 speaking or named characters from movies released between Jan. 1, 2010 and May 1, 2013. The research found that 31 percent of characters were women and only 23 percent of the films were lead or co-lead by women.

Professor Robert Hernandez. Palisades High School Evacuated After Social Media Threat

Robert Hernandez was interviewed by NBC News for a story about a Los Angeles high school that was evacuated after a bomb threat was made on social media app Yik Yak.

The app — launched about a year ago — allows users to post updates anonymously, without being tied to a username or profile. Hernandez found it “interesting to see the engagement and the adoption rate.”

“Is it a pariah for allowing a public space? I don’t know,” Hernandez said. “Is the movie theater a pariah because someone might yell ‘fire?’ It’s really not on them. It’s on us —society — to have these conversations.”

Jeetendr-SehdevDare to Compare: Michelle Obama vs. The Duchess of Cambridge

Adjunct Professor Jeetendr Sehdev recently did a study for Women’s Wear Daily on what makes someone a style icon.

His research found that a style icon must have: a definitive sense of style, a sense of confidence, a certain timelessness that can keep modern, a fierce independence and a dose of provocativeness.

By those criteria, Sehdev found that Kate Middleton — revered for her style — may not be the icon people make her out to be.

“It seems like she’s kind of being dressed or is dressing for a nation,” he said, adding that women seem to be gravitating toward those who are independent in their fashion choices, such as First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sehdev said of the first lady: “First and foremost, she seems to be dressing for herself. She’s seen taking far more risks. She seems to have a much stronger sense of independence. She’s nobody’s right hand, she’s a person unto herself and that really scores highly when it comes to how that translates to fashion.”

His research was also featured in USA Today.

northOne-fifth of Americans share religious experience online

Karen North — director of Annenberg’s Digital Social Media program — was quoted in a “Los Angeles Times” story about people engaging with religion online.

North said that religion has played a big part in technological development. Pope Francis’ use of twitter is an example of how faith and social media connect, she added.

“It’s not surprising that the Vatican decided to reach out on social media, or that the Dalai Lama has a Twitter account,” North said. “Any area, like religion, where people feel passionately, they look for a voice and a vehicle to share their passion.”

Irony Alert: Fake Battlefields Give Paintballers an Unrealistic Vision of War

Van-Ort-1“Wired” wrote a story about Annenberg Public Affairs and Special Events Photographer/Videographer Brett Van Ort’s photo series “Imaginary Battlefields.”

bricketwood 001The series features photos of paintball arenas made to look like battlefields – taken in London, as well as Los Angeles, Dallas and a number of other US cities.

“I feel the correlation made between the fields and the foreign place-names allow stereotypes and misconceptions to solidify,” Van Ort said. “Misconceptions further exacerbate the xenophobic suspicions aimed at the people who live in the real [foreign] landscapes.”

The photos were also featured in “Time’s” photo blog “LightBox.”

KahnG_121x163.ashxArts groups hire in-house journalists to tell their stories

Professor Gabe Kahn was quoted in a story by the “Oregonian” about orchestras and theater companies hiring in-house journalists to write about them.

Media observers — such as Kahn — warned that art groups need to create guidelines in order to maintain credibility with their audiences.

“It’s one thing to do marketing, and another thing to foster lively conversation and debate about a topic,” Kahn said. “We still have to become comfortable with the structure that supports that, but I think it is happening.”

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USC Annenberg and Adobe: A Digital Partnership

USC Annenberg students sit in on an Adobe Photoshop workshop at the USC Annenberg Digital Lounge. (credit: USC Annenberg Digital Lounge)

USC Annenberg students sit in on an Adobe Photoshop workshop at the USC Annenberg Digital Lounge. (credit: USC Annenberg Digital Lounge Instagram Account)

USC Annenberg and Adobe are entering their second year of a partnership that provides access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite for all Annenberg students, faculty and staff. And mobility is at the forefront of that partnership.

James Vasquez, associate dean of operations, said that the school wanted to find software that promoted a great skillset for Annenberg students to create content. The partnership also allowed the school to move forward with the mandatory laptop requirement set this year.

“It has revolutionized the way we teach in our classrooms because the mandatory laptop requirement allowed us to move away from the traditional computer lab model,” Vasquez said. “That’s a very big decision that we made a number of years ago, and the Adobe Creative Cloud was right in the center of that decision.”

In an article by Adobe, USC Annenberg was considered a model of pioneering a new era for digital communication and it’s a statement Vasquez completely agrees with.

Vasquez explained that since Ernest J. Wilson III was appointed dean, Annenberg has looked at media, entertainment, and communication and the role the school will play in those fields.

“We’re building a dynamic technology infrastructure that allows us to have a really ubiquitous usage of technology throughout our classrooms and our general media environment,” Vasquez said. “I do think we are at the technological forefront of the new field of communication.”

The USC Annenberg Digital Lounge has helped foster the common skill set USC Annenberg students will gain through the workshops offered every Tuesday through Thursday.

“Our main focus is on the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, but we do a range in focus on workshops held here,” Erika Hang, design specialist at the USC Annenberg Digital Lounge, said. “We’re curriculum based so anything that is taught in the classroom we try to support.”

It is all in an effort to make students more marketable when they graduate, Hang said.

The digital lounge will also begin offering certification programs set to launch next spring, Vasquez said.

“We’re going to start with Photoshop,” Vasquez said. “Come mid-spring students will be able to attend a series of certification programs and they can actually walk away being certified in Adobe Photoshop.”

Last year Dean Wilson appointed a committee to push towards his 21st Century Literaciesinitiative. The initiative focuses on the school supporting students to better use their own devices while relying less on school-supported computer labs.

Vasquez explained that the Dean and the committee explored the definition the word literacy and wanted to identify what types of core skills USC Annenberg students needed upon graduation. One of the key elements the initiative did was pull together common skills across all Annenberg curriculums, Vasquez added.

“The Dean and the committee came up with guidelines and steps and now the next step is for the school to implement that literacy initiative,” Vasquez said. “The Creative Cloud is just one component of it.”

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Annenberg Community Engagement Programs Now Coming Under One Roof

By Scott Field

Tesoriero FamilyWhile John and Sharon Tesoriero’s children were in elementary and secondary school, they did extraordinary work as parent volunteers, with Sharon eventually sitting on the Board of Trustees at the Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Seeing no reason to stop there, the couple continued their involvement when daughter Ashley enrolled at USC by funding the ReadersPlus Library that is now in their name at the USC Dornsife Joint Educational Project (JEP).

From JEP, the Tesoriero’s expanded their vision to USC Annenberg, where Ashley is now a senior in the Public Relations program, by making a $250,000 gift to jump start a comprehensive community engagement initiative. Bringing now somewhat disparate programs such as Intersections South LA and Metamorphosis under one roof, it will enhance an already strong effort.

“Annenberg under Dean Wilson has become an incubator for community and civic initiatives, and we need to embrace this role,” said Gordon Stables, USC Annenberg assistant dean for Student Affairs. “With more coordination, we can build on what we already have, giving all of our faculty, staff and students a way to use their expertise in developing long term and stable pathways for going out into the community.”

The new initiative will combine this community involvement with academic coursework as well as research to study the program’s impact.

In keeping with the Annenberg Advantage

“The Tesoriero’s clearly care very deeply about social justice and we’re thrilled that they have chosen our School to further their impact in this area,” said Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the USC Annenberg School. “It will be a great boost to our culture of positive societal impact through innovation that is so much a part of the Annenberg Advantage.”

“This all stems from our founder Walter Annenberg’s mandate ‘to be of service to all,’” Wilson explained. “We know that 
as media platforms continue to evolve, the need for timely, accurate information in the service of all members of society is more urgent now than ever.”

Leading the way in empowering underserved communities

Under the direction of Stables, a search is now underway to hire a full-time Community Engagement Coordinator to work with local non-profits to identify projects to support. The coordinator will also work with faculty to provide the curricular foundation for the initiative, and help to expand USC Annenberg’s reach into local high schools via programs such as Intersections South LA and Reporter Corps.

“All over Los Angeles, these folks from Annenberg are in high schools teaching everything from local reporting to media technology,” Stables, who himself has launched highly successful debate programs at many local schools, said. “They’re running into challenges as they work with the local principals and faculty to deal with the details. They need assistance and this initiative goes a long way in giving that.”

Tying it to the curriculum

“We hope to substantially increase and enhance the way civic engagement is incorporated in our curriculum,” said Alison Trope, clinical professor and director of Undergraduate Studies. “Annenberg is in a unique place as a School of Communication and Journalism to speak to these civic engagement issues. They are core to our curriculum and our research.”

“It’s not just important for Annenberg students, but for USC students as a whole to get involved in the community and engage in different ways,” Trope said. “You don’t have to do study abroad programs to get experience with other kinds of communities. We can do it in our own backyard.”

Trope hopes the initiative will promote increased synergy within the Annenberg community.

“We already engage in the community in many different ways through curriculum and research,” she said. “We need to see the connections between these areas and the work different individuals, projects and classes are doing, whether through partnerships with local schools, organizations, or committees. We need to talk to each other more, to connect and build on each other’s work.”

Fueling the inspiration

The Tesoriero gift — resulting in the naming of the Tesoriero Community Engagement Collaboration Room on the third floor of Wallis Annenberg Hall — will launch an effort to raise $1 million from additional sources to support this effort over the next four years.

“We are happy to help students enhance their learning through hands-on experience in a way that also allows them to give back to the community,” Sharon Tesoriero said. “It’s something in life that you can’t teach — when you learn from others. It’s going to be incredible just watching how this all unfolds.”

“John and I are passionate about helping our community and we’ve tried to instill that in our two children,” Tesoriero said. “Ashley has had a lot of input in this; we make all of these decisions collectively as a family.”

“The passion that we’ve experienced at Annenberg has really touched us,” Tesoriero concluded. “It’s a very inspiring place and it makes one want to give to the future … to fuel the inspiration.”

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