New students to get a Taste of Annenberg August 21


Taste of Annenberg 2013

Taste of Annenberg 2013

Incoming USC Annenberg students will get a preview of the exciting four years ahead of them with the Taste of Annenberg new student event on August 21.

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III will lead the undergraduate welcome assembly in Annenberg Auditorium, and Willow Bay, the new Director of the School of Journalism, and Sarah Banet-Weiser, the new Director of the School of Communication, will also speak. Faculty from both schools will introduce students to the idea of interdisciplinary studies and how to become involved during their time at Annenberg.

Following the assembly, both undergraduate and graduate students will convene at Founders Park for a picnic lunch and Involvement Fair.

Students can stop by over 20 booths at the Involvement Fair to learn more about the numerous student publications and organizations they can become apart of at USC Annenberg. Among these will be Annenberg Television News, Annenberg Radio News, Neon Tommy, and the Daily Trojan.

USC Annenberg will also be hosting an Instagram contest during Taste of Annenberg. Students will be challenged to #CaptureASCJ by using props around Founders Park to get creative with their photos, and then upload them to Instagram and tag @USCAnnenberg and #CaptureASCJ.

The contest will run from 12-1:30 pm on August 21, entries will be judged based on style, creativity, school spirit and photo clarity, and winners will receive a bag of ASCJ swag!

Undergraduate students can RSVP for the new student assembly here. No RSVP is necessary for the incoming student lunch and Involvement Fair.

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Annenberg X offers set of experimental learning courses for fall 2014


Professor Jonathan Aronson.

Professor Jonathan Aronson.

USC Annenberg Professors Jonathan Aronson, K.C. Cole and Marc Cooper will be part of a new series of two-unit courses this fall designed to engage students seeking careers in media, journalism, communications and entertainment with the world around them.

Dubbed Annenberg X, the courses offer students an experimental, interdisciplinary learning experience which will introduce them to new ways of thinking, collaborating and partaking in the world both on and off campus. Classes will feature field trips, guest speakers and hands-on activities and experiments.

Seven Annenberg X classes are offered for the fall semester; three 220 level classes, and four 420 level classes. The 220 level classes are only open to undergraduates, while 420 level classes are also open to graduate students.

Professor K.C. Cole.

Professor K.C. Cole.

Each class will run for approximately six weeks, beginning either at the start of the semester or halfway through.

Annenberg X is not a minor or degree program, so students can take multiple Annenberg X courses each semester if they should choose, and students who are currently registered for 14-16 units for fall are able and encouraged to add a two-unit Annenberg X course.

Professor Cole will be teaching ASCJ 420: Environmental Communications Experience, Catalina with Roberta Marinelli. This course will allow students to work alongside marine scientists and students at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island for two days in September, and promote discussions about engaging the public in conversations around sustainability.

Maker Experience: The Exploratorium is another of Cole’s ASCJ 420 courses, and will take students to the innovative San Francisco center for art, science and technology in October. Maker Experience: I-Fixit is the third ASCJ 420 class which will be taught by Cole and Courtney Miller. Its aim is to encourage students to use critical thinking and communication skills to repair things and share those solutions online, and will include a field trip to San Louis Obispo in November.

“With these classes, the big thing is we actually don’t know what might happen,” Cole said. “They really are experimental.”

Professor Aronson will be teaching ASCJ 220: Going Viral, and ASCJ 420: Leadership in Startup Media Ventures with entrepreneur Dinesh Moorjani, founder of numerous startups, including Tinder. Aronson’s ACSJ 220: Getting the Skills You Need Tomorrow, Today will focus on helping students navigate the modern world of job hunting and career-building, and is open to all USC students.

“We’re trying to really support cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary [learning],” Aronson said of the new ASCJ classes. “These are the first classes in Annenberg designed with both the communications side and the journalism side of the houses combined. But in addition, there are other groups that we imagine will find that will find this very exciting.”

Another Annenberg X course offered to all University students is Marc Cooper’s ACSJ 220: Pitching Your Ideas and Stories, which aims to help journalists pitch stories to editors, and entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to investors.

Registration for all seven Annenberg X classes is currently still open, and more Annenberg X classes are planned for Spring 2015.

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Annenberg faculty attend conference on the new digital newsroom

The who’s who of digital journalism — including two USC Annenberg faculty — gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the “new” newsroom, and what that does (and should) encompass.srccon

Professor Robert Hernandez, who gained national attention for his new Google Glass journalism course, and new faculty member Peggy Bustamante attended the first annual SourceCon (SRCCON) in the City of Brotherly Love this July.

The conference was organized more as a series of open discussions regarding a specific topic, rather than focusing on solving problems. Specifically for “developers, interactive designers, and other people who love to code in and near newsrooms,” the conference was two days of conversation and collaboration.

“There weren’t any answers given, it was just a fluid discussion,” Bustamante said.

Given the new curriculum developments at USC Annenberg, which include more journalism coursework in data and digital, both Hernandez and Bustamante hope more students and faculty are able to attend next year’s SRCCON and its parent conference NICAR — National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting.

“[There’s] a new required course for our graduate curriculum, which is a data journalism course,” Hernandez said. “It’s not an elective, it’s a required course that all our students, all our new M.S. students, need to take. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to go: to get an idea of what was out there and … build the syllabus for that course.”

Representing USC Annenberg, and journalism and communications schools in general, the two professors advocated for greater diversity in newsrooms and stronger collaboration between mediums.

“There was a session on diversity in the news nerd area of the journalism world; which is an issue close to my heart,” Bustamante said. “Journalism has a diversity problem. Technology has a diversity problem. And then you put them together and you have a really bad problem.”

Though much of SRCCON’s attendees hailed from Brooklyn, a number of influential media organizations — from the New York Times to NPR — were in attendance, Hernandez noted.

Beyond vocalizing their concerns about diversity in the journalism and technology worlds, Bustamante said there were a number of conversations about the newsroom itself. Apps have become ever more common with the growth of smart phones and tablets as primary technologies for news consumption. Hernandez even jokingly tweeted about the integration of apps into news gathering and reporting.

It seems unlikely that Tinder is the answer. That said, there were many serious discussions and exercises on the organization of the digital newsroom: who is present, what is their role, etc. Given USC Annenberg’s new, digitally-focused Wallis Annenberg Hall, Bustamante thought of the converged media center and learning labs.

“There were discussions about how to redesign a new newsroom, how to take an old school newsroom into the new digital age,” Bustamante said. “Which I think is particularly important because we are opening that new media center which is a full on step into merging all of the different media and moving into a digital area.”

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Annenberg Faculty Bring Hollywood, Augmented Reality to AEJMC Conference in Montreal


Professor Joe Saltzman

Each year, the best and brightest minds in the world of journalism and media convene at The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Conference. And, as always, USC Annenberg will be well-represented at the 2014 gathering.

Several Annenberg faculty members including Professors Joe Saltzman, Bill Celis, Mike Ananny, Jerry SwerlingFelix Guitierrez, Kjerstin Thorson and Aimei Yang will be among the more than 2,000 attendees at this year’s conference August 6-9 in Montréal, Canada.

“It is the only place where you can meet and talk with journalism and communication educators and media scholars on a personal, professional and academic basis,” Saltzman said of the conference. “It is a marvelous opportunity to see how other schools of journalism tackle curriculum problems, research, publication and tenure problems, and the future of journalism in these changing times.”

During the three day conference, Professor Felix Gutierrez will present on the panel “Minority Scholars Forging Ahead In Academia: Guidance from Communication Theories, Research Findings and Personal Experiences,” while Saltzman will present on a panel about the pros and cons of embedding pro-social messages in entertainment. Past Annenberg faculty presentation topics have included public relations, entertainment studies, LGBT issues and more.

“Since USC Annenberg is a leader in many of these fields, we have a chance to share ways of doing things that are unique and interesting to academics,” Saltzman said. “The AEJMC conference gives us a chance to exchange ideas, opinions, concepts with journalism scholars from around the world.”

Saltzman, who is the director of the Norman Lear Center’s Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (IJPC) Project, has helped contribute to the IJPC panel’s which have become a popular fixture at the annual conferences since the Project’s founding in 2000.

This year, Saltzman didn’t have the time to create an IJPC panel as he was co-writing the book “Heroes & Scoundrels: The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture” due out next year, but saw speaking on the ““Opportunities and Challenges of Entertainment-Education Interventions for Global Justice” panel as a way to draw attention to the work of another Norman Lear Center program, Hollywood, Health & Society (H,H&S.)

“[H,H&S] works behind the scenes as program consultants on dozens of critically acclaimed television shows to ensure that health storylines are depicted as accurately as possible,” Saltzman said. “These American shows have a global following and health messages embedded into these programs have an effect all over the planet. Through the IJPC, I have seen first-hand the opportunities and challenges of entertainment-education interventions for global justice in a variety of fields.”

Professor Robert Hernandez.

Professor Robert Hernandez

Annenberg Professors Kjerstin Thorson and Aimei Yang will also contribute to interest groups and research sessions at the conference, Professors Jerry Swerling and Mike Ananny presented a panel, and Professor Robert Hernandez will receive a second-place Best of the Web Award for his ARchive LAPL project (though he will not be in attendance).

Designed by a class of seven undergraduate and graduate students under Hernandez’s leadership last fall, the ARchive LAPL project is an Augmented Reality (AR) iPhone application called Junaio which, when used at the Los Angeles Central Library in conjunction with the iPhone camera, pulls up historical and architectural information about the library including news articles and photos.

“We looked at how how this new emerging technology that takes advantage of a smartphone or potentially a wearable device can really elevate the concept of contextual storytelling for journalism,” Hernandez said of the Augmented Reality course, which was taught for the first time at USC last year. “It knows where you are and what you’re looking at and has the power of the internet, and we wanted to combine that for a new way of storytelling.”

Given the success of the application, as well as favorable feedback from City Hall, Hernandez will teach another Augmented Reality course in the spring and hopes to be able to apply the same innovative technology to augment other Los Angeles landmarks.

Hernandez received a second and third-place award at last year’s AEJMC conference for his work with Professor Gutierrez on the Ruben Salazar Project, and plans to submit more work in the future, furthering enriching USC Annenberg’s fifteen-year history with the AEJMC conference.

The AEJMC is a nonprofit education association whose mission is to provide media professionals, educators and students with resources to advance education, research and professional practice about journalism and mass communication.

“For me personally, the AEJMC has made it possible for me to turn the image of the journalist in popular culture into a worldwide discipline recruiting faculty and students from around the world to think about this subject,” Saltzman said. “Without the AEJMC conference, there would have been no efficient way to reach all of these people and to explain to them, through my panels and video compilations, through meetings and social exchanges, through personal and professional contacts, what the IJPC is and why it is important.  For me and the IJPC, the AEJMC conference has been one of the most valuable ways of extending the USC Annenberg brand throughout academia.”

Though this year’s conference attendance was somewhat smaller than in years past due to the current flurry of activity and exciting changes at USC Annenberg, faculty presence at the conference is still strong, and Saltzman hopes for even greater Annenberg representation at next year’s AEJMC Conference in San Francisco.

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Dean Wilson and Dean Cowan celebrate progress of Wallis Annenberg Hall

Dean Ernest J. Wilson, III and Dean Geoffrey Cowan at Wallis Annenberg Hall on July 22, 2014.

Dean Ernest J. Wilson, III and Dean Geoffrey Cowan at Wallis Annenberg Hall on July 22, 2014 (Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg.)

USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson, III and former Dean Geoffrey Cowan met recently to celebrate the impending completion of the new Wallis Annenberg Hall, which will officially open to students, faculty and staff this fall.

The two Deans are also teaching a class together this fall; ASCJ 100: The Changing World of Communications and Journalism.

All photos by Brett Van Ort.


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How a healthier future for Hollywood is becoming a reality

The business of Hollywood, Health & Society is mostly behind-the-scenes; the program consults on dozens of critically-acclaimed television shows to ensure that health storylines are depicted as accurately as possible. But lately, HH&S has been in the spotlight itself, featured in a recent Pacific Standard Magazine article and gaining momentum as the go-to source of medical and climate change knowledge for shows such as “Parenthood,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Breaking Bad”.

(Courtesy of Hollywood, Health & Society)

(Courtesy of Hollywood, Health & Society)

In addition to its mission to educate and ensure accuracy in depictions of health in entertainment, Hollywood, Health & Society also works to increase the visibility of television storylines dealing with the pressing matter of climate change, as well as related health threats such as extreme weather and infectious diseases.

“We’re really here to support the entertainment industry in helping them to gather the most up to date and accurate information for their storyline,” Kate Folb, director of the program, said. “So we are kind of like a one stop shop for writers.”

Founded in 2001 and funded by the Centers for Disease Control, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the California Endowment and others, Hollywood, Health & Society is a non-profit program at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center.

HH&S serves as a resource of knowledge for a wide variety of television shows, from ABC soaps to NBC dramas and cable hits such as “Mad Men,” “Dexter” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

The organization’s services are completely free and provided at the request of the writers and showrunners.

“We don’t pitch storylines per se,” Folb said. “We don’t presume to know what’s best for show. If a writer is interested in writing a storyline about HIV/AIDS, they will contact us. In terms of being proactive, we’re constantly reaching out to shows to let them know we’re here.”

If a writer is crafting a storyline about leukemia, HH&S will bring leukemia experts into the writer’s room.

“I knew absolutely nothing about infectious disease when I called HH&S,” “NCIS” Executive Producer Scott Williams, whom the program recently worked with on an episode entitled “Homesick,” said. “They put me in touch with some of the foremost authorities in the country the very next day. The help they provided was nothing short of imperative to my writing process.  They are a tremendous resource.”

For timely topics such as the Affordable Care Act, the subject of Hollywood, Health & Society’s most recent entertainment industry event on July 22, panels of experts, television writers and producers will speak about how health care, climate change and popular culture interplay.

Hollywood, Health & Society will also occasionally take writers on bus tours around Los Angeles to help further immerse them into their storyline’s subject. Among Hollywood, Health & Society’s recent writers field trips include a stop at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to speak with climate scientists, and a visit to South Central LA to learn about food insecurity.

“We find that when we take writers to the source, it gets them to understand story matters and meet individuals,” Folb said. “That’s a big part of what we do for our writers; connecting them with experts, but also everyday people who are living with these topics.”

In addition to consulting on critically-acclaimed dramas which tend to skew toward older viewer demographics, HH&S has also been working closely with shows aimed toward younger viewers, such as the Hulu series East Los High, and on nearly every episode of the new ABC Family show “Chasing Life,” about a woman in her early twenties who is diagnosed with leukemia.

Though, for the time being, shows depicting inaccurate health and climate change storylines outnumber those with truer portrayals, HH&S operates through positive, rather than negative, reinforcement.

“We don’t play the blame game or finger point; we’re not watchdog group,” Folb said. “There are times when I see a show that is attempting to address a subject that I think they could probably use our help, and we’ll reach out to them and let them know we’re here.”

Among Hollywood, Health & Society’s positive reinforcement strategies is its annual Sentinel for Health Awards, honoring television storylines which address topics of health in an exemplary manner. Shows that submit for consideration are first judged by CDC experts and scientists for accuracy, and then by television writers and producers to determine which show, in addition to being accurate, depicted a storyline in the most compelling way.

While HH&S doesn’t conduct formal research on how the accuracy of television storylines has increased since it began, the uptick in entries for the annual Sentinel for Health Awards is telling: having only received about fifteen submissions in 2001, the awards now receive upwards of seventy submissions each year, according to Folb.

The program does, however, track the types of health storylines being addressed on television each year with its TV Monitoring Project.

“We look at a snapshot of shows that are on primetime and cable,” Folb said. “We look at how they handle health and climate change topics. We get kind of a pie chart of what they’re addressing and can see where the holes are, for example maybe there are no shows addressing HIV/AIDS.”

The center also conducts research on the impact television storylines have on viewers’ knowledge and behaviors, which often show that even the most minor television plots can have more impact than many commercials and public service announcements.

“Part of this is because when you’re watching your favorite show, you’re really rooting for your favorite character, you’re engrossed in the story, you’re there with them,” Folb said. “If important information is addressed in a show, you absorb it to a deeper level than with a commercial, where you know they’re trying to sell you something and your defenses go up.”

For example, Hollywood, Health & Society consulted on an eight-episode storyline about the BRCA breast cancer gene on the CW show “90210,” which Folb said resulted in a lot of positive feedback from viewers.

“I think it’s is a good idea to bring [breast cancer] up as a storyline on entertainment tv because it creates awareness,” one viewer said. “I had never heard of the BRCA gene before watching the 90210 episodes. They presented it in an interesting and educational way.”

The idea that narratives are more effective at conveying health information than a simple recitation of facts was addressed by a collaboration of researchers from USC Annenberg and the Keck School of Medicine recently, who in June won the National Institutes of Health Common Fund 10-Year Commemoration Video Contest for their work “Transforming Cancer Knowledge, Attitudes & Behavior Through  Narrative.” Viewer engagement with media is also a topic of intense study by USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center and Participant Media.

“We take that very seriously with shows that are dealing with health topics,” Folb said. “We work to support shows to make sure that the support they’re providing with health and climate is accurate.”

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Annenberg’s first Institute on Diversity was a success this summer

Diversity can often be just a buzzword or an easily traded form of corporate capital, but it’s also an area of intense interest to those studying media and culture. For graduate students pursuing research in the field, there hadn’t been a place for serious intellectual discussion of diversity or the sharing of work — until now.


Photo courtesy of Jeremy Rosenberg

This summer USC Annenberg held the first annual Summer Institute on Diversity in Media and Culture. Twenty doctoral students from around the country gathered on USC’s campus to create “an energizing intellectual space to talk about all this stuff, to get feedback on their work, and to start a larger national conversation about diversity in media in the field of communication,” Institute leader Sarah Banet-Weiser said.

Banet-Weiser, a USC Annenberg professor and now director of the School of Communication, wants diversity — or “difference,” as she prefers — to be a calling card for Annenberg. “The summer institute was our first project [as part of that] overall mission, and I was thrilled with the result.” she said. “For me, to talk about an institute of diversity, media and culture is to think through issues of race, gender and overall difference in media.”

Despite little in the way of promotion, the Institute received over 80 applications (including some from abroad) for the first installment’s 20 spots. With an eye towards becoming an annual gathering, Banet-Weiser said they will likely expand to include international students as the interest was so high.

Along with the 20 students, 10 professors participated in the Institute.

“We had our faculty, from Annenberg, who are doing this kind of work but we also had four visiting faculty from other universities who are leaders in the field,” Banet-Weiser said. These leaders included: Herman S. Gray, professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz; Rosa-Linda Fregoso, interim chair of Latin American and Latino studies at UC Santa Cruz; Beretta Smith-Shumade, director of communication at Tulane University; and S. Craig Watkins, professor in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin.

“The students gave presentations and then we gave them specific feedback, “Banet-Weiser explained. “With this group of faculty in the room, it was such an opportunity for the students because you’re not going to get all of us together like that.”

Altogether, the gathering made for a lively conversation not just about diversity but media as a whole. Research on diversity in the field of communication has historically focused on representation — looking at television or film for characters of color or different socio-economic backgrounds — but the Institute also considered recent technological changes in media, the reach of these representations, and the meaning behind all of it.

“It’s how difference is mobilized in media and how do we make sense of it,” Banet-Weiser said. “In a moment of shifting conditions, of technology and circulation and digital media, we wanted to ask how do we get beyond representation. What can we do as scholars to think about getting beyond representation, to really think through how difference is circulated in the media and how audiences understand it? Does it make a difference?”

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Richard Fisher Talks Monetary Policy at USC Annenberg

Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, visited USC Annenberg on July 16 to discuss U.S. monetary policy. The event was the first hosted by Willow Bay, the new director of the School of Journalism, as well as Dean Ernest Wilson.

In case you missed it, check out the video of the discussion below.

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Monetary Policy Debate to be held at USC Annenberg

Money talks, and the topic of discussion will be the Federal Reserve on Wednesday morning.

richard-fisherRichard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, is scheduled to speak about U.S. monetary policy at 8:30 a.m. on July 16, in Annenberg Room 204. Dean Ernest Wilson and Willow Bay, new director of the School of Journalism, are hosting the event — the first under Bay.

The event will focus on the Federal Reserve’s “punchbowl,” a term made famous by William McChesney Martin, the longest serving chairman of the Fed, when he said it was the Fed’s job “to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.” As the U.S. is still recovering from the economic downturn of 2008, raising interest rates at peak economic activity post-recession is increasingly relevant.

Fisher, who is a member of the Federal Open Market Committee — the people responsible for the punch bowl — will comment on the punch bowl’s effects on the economy and why he advocates for taking it away when the party gets going.

“I look forward to sharing my comments on the current state of U.S. monetary policy,” Fisher said. “I plan to address concerns about the Fed’s role maintaining the stability of the financial system.”

A previous discussion about the Federal Reserve was held at USC Annenberg in 2013. Read more about it: “Prof. Mitchel Y. Abolafia Offers Further Remarks on Central Bank Transparency”


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Wallis Annenberg Hall Construction Update

With less than 50 days until the grand opening of Wallis Annenberg Hall, here is an updated look at the latest developments, courtesy of USC Annenberg Facilities and Technologies team member Joel Zink and the regularly updated construction blog, “Building Wallis Annenberg Hall.”

June 19: Check out the video below to see the building’s completed exterior, landscape and hardscape from Lazarro Plaza (on the corner of Childs and Watt Way, next to Cromwell Field).

Wallis Annenberg Hall Broadcast Control

Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg

June 23: “With a plethora of video and audio production equipment, the broadcast control room is the nerve center of the TV production areas,” writes Zink. “With equipment coming online, the complicated connectivity of these areas is the focus of the broadcast integrators.”

June 25: Carpenters have been hard at work in the media center. According to Zink, the central video switcher, audio switchers, headphone panels and intercom panels are all “cut into the desktops of custom millwork.”

Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg

Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg

June 27: As the grand opening approaches, the contractors are preparing to train USC Facilities Management and Annenberg Facilities staffs on aspects of the new building, such as door hardware, backup generator operations, and window shade operation and upkeep. “This allows for the groups who will maintain the building to ask questions and gain valuable insight to the various systems,” writes Fink.

July 1: Last week, training sessions began in the media center. People are learning how to use equipment such as the video switcher, audio transport system, media halo and intercom system. According to Zink, “the training sessions are usually in conjunction with the commissioning of the system and are done by experts brought in specifically for the startup and training.”

More photos of Wallis Annenberg Hall are available here.

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