USC Students, Faculty, Neighbors Sound Off on #MySouthLA

Journalists and community activists from around Los Angeles came together last night to discuss the role of USC in the ever-changing South L.A. area.

USC Vision and Voices hosted “Voices of South L.A.: Civic Action and Community Voice” in the Annenberg Auditorium Thursday evening, drawing USC students, faculty and community members for the dynamic discussion.

Panelists included journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan; Francisco Ortega of the L.A. Human Relations Commission; Community Coalition’s Alberto Retana; and journalist Sahra Sulaiman.

Annenberg faculty members Alison Trope, Robeson Taj Frazier and George Villanueva contributed to organizing the discussion series. 

Thursday’s event is the first in a three-part series about how USC’s expansion is affecting residents in South L.A., and the leadership, initiatives and progress currently underway in the area.

Check out what attendees has to say about #MySouthLA:

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Q&A: Political Analysis and Media with Rebecca Black Donatelli


Online pioneer R. Rebecca “Becki” Black Donatelli is a USC alumna and president of Campaign Solutions/Connell Donatelli. She served as the chief Internet consultant to both of Senator John McCain’s presidential races, and was the first person to raise political money on the Internet. We caught up with Donatelli during a recent hard-hat tour she took of Wallis Annenberg Hall.

USC ANNENBERG: Can you please share with us how you embody the Trojan Family?

becki-donatelliR. REBECCA “BECKI” BLACK DONATELLI: My father was a graduate of USC. My stepfather was a graduate of USC. I graduated from USC. My daughter Elizabeth graduated from USC in 2004. So it’s a straight line, along with two uncles and three cousins, so you could say this is the family school. Elizabeth is entering her 10th year as an on-air reporter, this is her third market, and she credits it all to the actual hands-on work that she did here as an undergraduate. She took an ethics in journalism class here at Annenberg that made a big impact.

USC ANNENBERG: You have been credited with being the disruptor of an industry.

DONATELLI: We like to think we’re innovators—although I love your term, ‘The Disruptor.’ I think I might have to adopt that. We’re constantly looking at trends, and what’s new, and trying to innovate and keep up with things or be a step ahead. We have taken a great pride in being the first to do things, because at my age, I’m not afraid anymore of taking chances. If it doesn’t work you put it aside and do something else.



USC ANNENBERG: Was it hard to convince campaigns, at a national level or local level, to do things differently; to use online techniques?

DONATELLI: It is still hard. On our [Republican] side of the aisle, it’s a little bit harder than the other guys [Democrats], because President Obama actually won utilizing what we do for a living. But any time there is change, it’s difficult. So we are constantly evangelizing. I’d like to say everybody’s now running to our doors and saying, ‘Gee, I want to invest all of my media money in online advertising.’ It’s not the case, but it is changing, especially because of the people who went to Annenberg 10-15 years ago are now moving into leadership opportunities, and understanding the convergence of media and data and digital, and that it’s not all about buying TV spots anymore. Thank you, Annenberg!

USC ANNENBERG: Why did you establish the R. Rebecca Donatelli Expert-in-Residence in Political Analysis and Media program, which will bring leading political analysis and media technology experts to campus to share their perceptions and knowledge with our students and faculty?

DONATELLI: Because I love USC. I think it’s the finest university in the country. It has afforded me with the tools to go forth in life and succeed. That’s first. Second, the idea of working with young people is exciting. Plus, there’s a connection to Annenberg through Elizabeth. And, you’ve got an amazing Dean [Ernest J. Wilson III], whom I just connected with, and I’m overwhelmed by his willingness to enlarge the footprint here, and consider new things.

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Alumni Notes: Where Are They Now?


News and notes as reported by our esteemed graduates. From books published to awards won, here’s a sampling of what our alumni are up to.

Bill Owen (B.A. Telecommunications ’53) is the author of “Dropping Names: 60 Plus Years of Broadcasting Memories,” tracing his career from KUSC-FM to his 30 years at ABC New York. He is also the author of other books, such as “All Those Things My Teacher Never Told Me,” “The Over 60 Trivia Book,” “Runners-up, Bridesmaids, and Second Bananas,” as well as co-author of the first encyclopedia of radio programs, “The Big Broadcast.”


Dennis Neil Jones

Dennis Neil Jones (B.A. Public Relations ’76, M.P.A. ’78) was named a 2014 Southern California Super Lawyer by Law & Politics for his expertise in insurance law. This is the seventh year he has been named to this prestigious list.

Mark Kariya (B.A. Journalism ’78) was named the recipient of The American Motorcyclist Association’s 2013 Media Award at the annual AMA Championship Banquet in Columbus, Ohio on January 18.

Mike Huckman (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’83), award-winning journalist and former CNBC Life Sciences Reporter, was appointed chief strategist at Pure Communications, Inc.

Kevin Kirk (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’83) was recently promoted to Director of Freestyle Sales for the Western United States by The Coca-Cola Company.

Steven Travers (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’83) has published a new book titled, “The Duke, The Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne’s Political Odyssey.”

Ellen Plotkin-Mulholland

Ellen Plotkin Mulholland

Ellen Plotkin Mulholland (B.A. Print Journalism & English ’85) recently published a young adult novel called, “Birds on a Wire,” which follows 72 hours in the lives of three best friends before they embark on their senior year of high school. Read more about Ellen at

James Davenport (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’90) was recently inducted into the St. Francis High School Athletic Hall of Fame for Baseball; he was a member of the Trojan Baseball team from ’88 to ’89. He is currently the Director of Business Development, Hosting & Cloud, at AT&T.

David Sweet (M.A. Print Journalism ’90) was named Editorial Coordinator of three magazines at JWC Media outside of Chicago.

Cathy L. Hue (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’00), formerly Cathy Truong, is segment producer on a brand new docu-series for the E! Network, “Society X with Laura Ling.” The pilot episode on Designer Drugs aired in the fall. Previously, Hue has produced for award-winning shows including “SoCal Connected” (KCET), Current TV and Channel One Network. She is a freelance journalist and founder of Our Story Productions.

Bich Ngoc Cao (B.A. Print Journalism & Political Science ’04), digital marketing director at Harvest Records, was appointed to the Board of Library Commissioners by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and serves as the board’s vice president.

Erin Coscarelli (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’06) is working as an on-air anchor and sports reporter for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, an NBC Regional Network.

Lindsay Miller (B.A. Print Journalism ’06) is the creator and host of PopSugar’s new interview series, “In Her World,” which showcases inspiring women and the personal passions behind their success stories.

Clint Schaff (M.A. Communication Management ’07) recently became the U.S. General Manager of Dare, a global creative digital agency and was also named a 2014 New Leaders Council Fellow.

Breanna M. Cardwell (B.A. Journalism and Communications ’08) was named Communications Officer at The California Wellness Foundation. Breanna received her MPPA from California Lutheran University.

Anastasia Alen (B.A. Communication ’10) was sworn into the California State Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Dec. 4, 2013.

Claire Spera

Claire Spera

Claire Spera (M.A. Specialized Journalism ’10) was recently named publicity coordinator for the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, where her first project was organizing publicity for the 10-day Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, which came to North America for the first time in its 30-year history. She continues to write dance and theater reviews for Austin’s daily paper, the Austin American-Statesman, and is a contributing writer for Arts + Culture Texas Magazine.

Katharine Azar (MPD ’10) married Behtash Azar (Architecture ’05) in Newport Beach, Calif.  In addition, Kate is now an Account Executive at issue advocacy firm, Griffin|Schein.

Kamala Kirk (B.A. Communication ’11) recently joined E! Entertainment as Writer/Editor for E! Shows.


Susana Bautista

Susana Bautista (PH.D ’12) is the author of a new book, “Museums in the Digital Age: Changing Meanings of Place, Community, and Culture”—see excerpt below, Bautista has also been named the interim deputy director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Krista Daly (M.A. Specialized Journalism ’13) is a staff writer for the Imperial Valley Press in El Centro, Calif. As a county reporter, her wide-ranging beat takes her from government to health to renewable energy to community events.

Have news to share, questions to ask, regarding our alumni? Visit:

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Is Downtown L.A.’s Figueroa Corridor the Next Silicon Valley?


By Professor François Bar and John Seely Brown

Here are suggested clusters around the Figueroa Corridor. [Open map.] (François Bar)

Suggested clusters around the Figueroa Corridor in an open map by François Bar and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.

A remarkable transformation is taking place in the heart of Los Angeles. Over the last 10 years, Downtown L.A. became vibrant as it built ties to the south, reaching USC and Exposition Park.

Now, from the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the California Science Center, a dynamic innovation corridor is just beginning to flourish, receiving a boost in May as the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Committee formally adopted the MyFigueroa project, allowing the area on and around that well-known street to become inclusive and more welcoming to pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists and drivers. Construction is slated to begin at the end of 2014 and finish up by end 2015.

At USC Annenberg we’ve long been advocating for such a transformation, with Annenberg’s Dean Ernest J. Wilson III writing of the power of an interrelated “quad” of sectors: public, private, civil, and academic. Meanwhile, our faculty’s research demonstrates that innovation thrives on clusters: interconnected businesses, creativity across sectors and fluid jobs.

The proposed innovation corridor taps a rich ecology of experimental media, arts and technology start-ups, education and civic institutions that already surround the area, with deep ties to the diverse communities of Los Angeles. All this innovation cluster needs now are the connections that facilitate the free flow of people and ideas. There are too few congenial places along Figueroa for innovators to meet informally, run into one another and have serendipitous conversations that spark new ideas and projects. Innovation is about flow—about informal encounters rather than formal meetings, when people can connect unexpectedly.

This has the potential to be deeply transformative for Los Angeles. As Figueroa begins to feel less like a freeway and more like a boulevard, it will foster a network of tightly woven institutions that welcome ideas—and export bold ideas to the world. From here on, Figueroa will serve as a vital artery along which Los Angeles’ innovative energies can flow freely.

*Based on an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times

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#ANNHallPass Quoted: Wallis Annenberg Hall in the Media

#ANNHallPass, Wallis Annenberg Hall Grand Opening, October 1, 2014At USC Annenberg, we Quoted Bannerdon’t just cover the news, we make it. In this special edition of “Quoted” we’ve gathered a selection of news stories on the new Wallis Annenberg Hall, including coverage of the grand opening event on October 1.

KPCC: USC opens new $60-million J-school building

willow-bay-kpccKPCC’s Take Two echoed the themes of the Grand Opening by anchoring their coverage in an in-depth conversation on the future of the news. Hosts spoke with Journalism School Director Willow Bay on October 2 about our moment’s unique media challenges and possibilities.

Bay said the generation of journalists to be trained at Wallis Annenberg Hall have “never had more tools to create gorgeous-looking, deeply engaging, powerful news reporting.”

“It is certainly true that there have been profound changes, we’re living through an era of profound technology-driven change in this business, much of it disruptive; but I can’t help but see opportunity,” Bay said.

Local Broadcast News Coverage of Building’s Opening

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.46.37 AM

The building’s opening was covered by CBS News Los Angeles affiliate KCAL-TV (VIDEO). They quoted USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni’s benediction, where he said: “It is right here, at Wallis Annenberg Hall, that the ancient craft of storytelling will converge with digital media.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 12.56.44 PM

CW News Los Angeles affiliate KTLA-TV (VIDEO) also covered the event, and called the building a technological marvel whose opening had “all the fanfare of a USC football game.”

Los Angeles’ independent broadcaster KSCI / LA18 (VIDEO), which broadcasts local news in Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese and Korean to Southern California’s over 2.5MM Asian American residents, was also present for the Grand Opening event.

LA Curbed: Take a Look Inside USC’s Flashy New Media Building

Wallis Annenberg Hall Broadcast ControlAlong with a series of images from USC Annenberg’s Flickr page and a video on the school’s new building, LA Curbed noted “all the bells and whistles” of the new Wallis Annenberg Hall. Specifically highlighted were:

  • the 20,000-square-foot media center with a newsroom
  • studios for “digital, broadcast and radio and direct-to-Web vodcast production”
  • more than $8-million worth of technology
  • four-story atrium
  • a Greek-style assembly forum
  • a 148-seat auditorium
  • the cafe

Julie Chen Visits USC Annenberg

Earlier this semester, Entertainment Tonight featured a lecture by USC alumna Julie Chen of CBS’ “The Talk,” who was Wallis Annenberg Hall’s first official guest speaker on August 26. The Huffington Post also covered the talk.

Alum Julie Chen speaks to students in Wallis Annenberg Hall on Tuesday, August 26.

Alum Julie Chen speaks to students in Wallis Annenberg Hall on Tuesday, August 26.

Eyewitness News: Reporter and USC Annenberg Alumnus Visits Building

At the beginning August, ABC 7 Eyewitness News aired a segment (VIDEO) on Wallis Annenberg Hall’s construction featuring Eyewitness News Reporter and Annenberg alumnus Elex Michaelson’s visit to the Hall on its final media day.


Video: Perhaps the most innovative part of the new #USC #Annenberg School is this do it yourself studio. It rotates to allow for different backgrounds. Users can control the cameras, video feeds, graphics, TelePrompTer all by themselves while broadcasting their own show.

View on Instagram

PBS MediaShift: How Much Does Physical Space Matter in Journalism Education?

PBS MediaShift’s special report on Wallis Annenberg Hall highlights the new space and it’s impact on learning.

“The building itself offers opportunities for learning in formal and informal settings,” Journalism School Director Willow Bay said. One such setting is the Media Center, where “all the Annenberg news organizations — print, online, radio and television — gather to create, collaborate and innovate.”

Voice of America: Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before, Voice of America points out, and USC Annenberg is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom in the new Wallis Annenberg Hall.

MyNewLA: USC to Christen $59.3 Million Journalism, Communications Building quotes Dean Wilson and touts the new building as a technological marvel that will “house high-tech classrooms, collaborative meeting areas and a state-of-the-art student newsroom focusing on innovative media technologies.”

The Daily Trojan: Wallis Annenberg Hall Open for Fall Classes

The Daily Trojan on Wallis Annenberg Hall: “The central features of the building is called the forum, described as, ‘a four-story atrium with skylight, open seating and media display tower,’ which will serve as the lobby for the building.”

Medzerian: New campus digs at USC leave room for professional uncertainty

David Medzerian, senior editor of the Los Angeles Register and an Instructor in our Journalism school, meditates on the first days of a new academic year and shares first impressions of the new building: “At its heart is the student media center, nicer than any newsroom the students will ever work in after graduation.”

For more information about Wallis Annenberg Hall, including details of the Grand Opening on October 1, visit our #ANNHallPass story collection.

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Wallis Annenberg Hall’s Grand Opening Became a Trending Topic on Twitter

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USC Annenberg Students Share Their Thoughts On New Building

#ANNHallPass, Wallis Annenberg Hall Grand Opening, October 1, 2014

The media center in ANN is among a favorite for USC Annenberg students.

The media center in ANN is among a favorite for USC Annenberg students.

On Wednesday, Wallis Annenberg Hall had its grand opening ceremony and reception to commemorate the completion of the building and to showcase its exciting new features.

The ceremony gathered a large number of trustees and spectators who came to support the expansion of the new USC Annenberg building. Dean Ernest Wilson opened the occasion by looking back to a moment he shared with philanthropist Wallis Annenberg.

“In 2010, Wallis Annenberg and I began a conversation,” Wilson said. “We reflected together on the importance of journalism and communication for the future of democracy in the United States of America. She described her deep commitment to the eternal values to openness, inclusion and transparency. This conversation that we had spread to the Annenberg community as a whole.”

USC President C. L. Max Nikias thanked Annenberg for her generosity and continual support for the field of journalism. Annenberg then took the podium and stated that she couldn’t think of a more worthy investment.

At the reception, hundreds of guests were invited to take a tour throughout the massive 88,000-square-foot building to get a sneak peak at the tools USC Annenberg students use on a regular basis.

On every level of ANN, guests were welcomed to walk in and view facilities like the media center where they had a chance to see students at work. Since the commencement of classes in late August, students have become familiar with the new amenities that have been instrumental to their education.

The media center is particularly a favorite among USC Annenberg students, and Maritza Moulite, M.S. journalism, reasoned that  it is the emphasis of the new space.

“The media center is the point of the building,” Moulite said. “The point is to get more comfortable with the idea of continually working together and feeding off of different outlets.”

The media center is home to three Annenberg organizations, which include ARN, ATVN and Neon Tommy. This has allowed students to work collectively and learn from each other.

Maritza and her sister Jessica Moulite, M.S. journalism, attended the reception and sat watching the spectators from the building’s forum. Both students devote an eight-hour shift once a week to work on news assignments in the media center. They develop stories for several Annenberg organizations within the facility.

Jessica explained that she recently went to the Superior Court of Los Angeles to cover an event for Hispanic heritage month. She was thrilled to produce a story on that event for ATVN and ARN.

“It’s just cool to see how I’m able to use the different resources at the school to tell as many stories as I can,” Jessica said.

Mirian Fuentes and Kate Guarino, left to right respectively, express what they admire about the new building during the Wallis Annenberg Hall grand opening reception.

Mirian Fuentes and Kate Guarino, left to right respectively, express what they admire about the new building during the Wallis Annenberg Hall grand opening reception.

Similarly, Mirian Fuentes, second year broadcast student, dedicates four hours each week to ATVN as part of her broadcast class requirement. Fuentes explained that she likes the practicality of applying what she’s learned in her broadcast class to ATVN.

“I really like this new building and it’s a reminder that we’re up to date on where we’re suppose to be,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes met with her friend Kate Guarino, a second year print journalism student, in the building’s forum. They both stood in front of the new media wall that was recently placed in the forum in preparation for the grand opening.

Guarino has favoredthe amount of space the new building offers, and she particularly likes the collaboration opportunities she’s faced.

“I work in Intersections of South LA, so I’m not in the media center as much but I think it’s interesting how we can pull our resources,”Guarino said. “If Intersections has a South LA story that they want to collaborate with Neon Tommy, all we have to do is go right in here.”

Nevertheless, Annenberg students are not the only individuals that have taken advantage of the new building and what it has to offer. Other USC students have visited the site to study or to simply admire its architectural design.

Daniel Huang, fourth year civil engineer student, has frequently visited the ANN building to study on its second or third floors, but what has drawn him is the aesthetically pleasing qualities of Wallis Annenberg Hall.

“I really like the atrium and all the windows since they let a lot of light into the building,” Huang said. “Its makes for a warm and lively environment to study in and having that kind of environment helps me stay focused.”

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Candy Lee Discusses the Growth of Online Learning at Journalism Forum

Candy-LeeCandy Lee stopped by USC Annenberg on Tuesday for a noontime discussion about her work with online learning and its growing prevalence in education.

Lee is a professor of journalism and integrated marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She began developing online courses 15 years ago, when she began exploring more effective methods of teaching and learning.

“I didn’t like school very much and I wondered why that was,” Lee said. “I wondered why school didn’t create in me the amount of curiosity and exploration that I actually enjoy.”

She added that her interest was in knowledge transfer and “how knowledge moves from someone who understands it to someone who is eager to utilize it,” and began looking into online learning.

At the time, online learning was considered “the fantasy of the future,” but has since become a much more pervasive method of learning. According to Lee, nearly 33 percent of higher education students are currently taking at least one course online. She added that online learning is not a new concept, though people talk about it that way.

“Our grandparents took correspondence courses or some form of distance learning,” Lee said. “It’s just evolved and technology has managed to make it that much better.”

Lee has developed online courses for Northwestern, as well as “Post MasterClass” for The Washington Post, which is a series of online courses led by newsroom experts on various topics.

One of her most recent projects was designing courses for Semester Online, which allows students from 10 schools to take online courses from any of the other participating schools.

Lee has also been working with developing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the latest trend in online learning. The idea behind MOOCs is that participating schools are providing access to free education to as many people as possible..

But, only five percent of college campuses currently offer MOOCs. And though that number is growing, Lee said there are concerns about course completion, the revenue model, student authentication and accreditation.

Additionally, MOOCs were created primarily to give people in underdeveloped places the opportunity to get an education, but Lee said that the vast majority of people taking MOOCs already have college degrees. However, “people feel like it’s a moment in time where you can use technology and knowledge and make it broad for a whole range of people.”

Lee said that her teaching style has changed since teaching online. It’s forced her to “think about how to make [classes] interesting, and for [her], to know that everybody in a class has got it.”

There are also methods that allow teachers and schools to experiment with and restructure online learning. One of them is the “flipped” classroom, in which students view recorded lectures online prior to coming to class.

Lee also proposed the “blended” learning experience, in which students take courses in a classroom for 3 years and then take their final year of courses online. She argued that a school as selective as USC would then be able to admit an additional class of students. Additionally, students pursuing careers that require experience with technology and the web – which is an expanding pool – get more exposure while in college.

While USC may not be “blending,” it has begun expanding its online offerings Annenberg included which raises concerns for some.

Annenberg Professor Gabe Kahn, who has done research on online education, pointed out that schools such as USC and Northwestern, who have a high cost of attendance, need some kind of strategy in approaching online courses.

“The reason why they can charge so much and have that pricing power is because of their scarcity, in terms of the number of people who are allowed in,” Kahn said. “As we are going to dramatically increase supply of these educational products, there’s going to be no way to maintain that pricing power.”

But, the potential gains are worth the challenges. Kahn added that it is clear that “the use of technology can drive more effective learning.”

And Annenberg’s online Master of Communication Management degree program, which graduated its 100th student this summer, is an example of that, making use of live video sessions and collaboration tools.

“The debate, I think, is over,” Neil Teixeira, Annenberg’s director of distance learning, said. “They both have their merits, but I would say that online, when done well, meets or exceeds expectations that most people have of an on-campus, traditional program.”

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