USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society launches initiative in skateboard diplomacy

This post is republished from the Institute of Sports, Media & Society.

Neftalie Williams Headshot photo

Neftalie Williams

USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society (AISMS) has launched the first university program to develop initiatives examining skateboarding as a tool for cultural and sport diplomacy. This represents USC AISMS’s first step in developing a skateboarding research center for nongovernmental organizations, businesses, governments and scholars interested in skateboarding diplomacy, business, media and culture.

“Modern skateboarding is a multibillion dollar industry with historic origins in the Los Angeles area, including right here on campus,” said Dan Durbin, USC Annenberg professor and executive director of USC AISMS. “A fascinating mix of athleticism, attitude and culture, skate has captured the imagination of the millennial generation worldwide across race, class and gender and political lines. This emerging sport and its popularity reflects what many youth are looking for in sports.”

As director of this initiative, Neftalie Williams, USC lecturer and co-director of the Cuba Skate NGO, will connect key voices in the endemic and non-endemic community to facilitate recommendations for best practices in skateboarding diplomacy. In addition, Williams is charged with creating synergy between USC and other institutions interested in skate diplomacy and skateboarding culture.

The center will act also as a hub for skateboarding and action sports businesses wishing to improve their scope and outreach to new communities.

“Neftalie is natural choice to lead the effort because he brings an expertise to the field that is unmatched,” said Gordon Stables, USC Annenberg assistant dean of student affairs. “His recent work with Cuba Skate to help improve US-Cuba relations using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy was featured in every major media outlet

A recent USC Annenberg graduate with a Master in Public Diplomacy, Williams’s research focuses on using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy. Williams worked alongside Joe Maloof, who has donated skateparks to NYC, D.C. and Kimberly, South Africa. He also teaches “Skateboarding and Action Sports in Business, Media and Culture” at USC Annenberg and serves as a public diplomacy consultant to Sao Paulo Brazil’s Skate Nation. An accomplished skateboarder and African-American photojournalist, Williams brings a unique perspective to the nuances of sports diplomacy in a global context.

“I am honored to work with our Trojan Family and to grow my sport globally,” Williams said. “My goals are simple: Research, Engage, Evaluate. I will also act as a resource to the U.S. and other nations hoping to reach youth through skateboarding. Not only is it a fun, healthy activity, it creates a construct identity shared by youth worldwide. Tapping into this shared identity creates a platform for mutual understanding in the future and creates brighter futures for us all.”

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Opportunities and Getting Involved on Campus


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

By Alexandra Gurley

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak with some future Trojans at an Admitted Students event hosted by the Trojan League of South Bay. Most of these high school seniors had already committed to USC (fight on!) but a couple of them were on the fence, weighing the options between our school and other schools that shall not be named. Luckily, a well-assembled crew of current students and alumni were on hand to help them make the right choice.

The one word I heard the most at the event, whether it was spoken by an alumni or Society 53 member or a woman from the Trojan League, was “opportunity.” No matter what generation of Trojan you were, everyone could agree that USC does an incredible job of providing students with invaluable opportunities — from speaking with notable guest lecturers, to the use of state of the art media labs, to connections to internships and beyond. The opportunities at USC are limitless.

I believe that in the midst of these opportunities, one of the most important is the chance to find a community you can belong to. The number of clubs and societies and organizations at USC is truly amazing. Whether you’re interested in fashion or the performing arts, women’s rights or startups, there is a place for you. Getting involved on campus is one of the most important things you can do as a student at USC. I learned this firsthand.

Coming to USC as a sophomore transfer who lived off campus, my first semester was tough. I was shy and kept to myself as travelled through the once daunting halls of USC Annenberg. (I now laugh about how big our campus once seemed to me.) I was having a hard time finding my place … until I discovered the Concerts Committee. The prospect of interacting with a whole group of people who shared my passion for music and concerts was incredibly exciting. I attended their meeting the following week and never looked back. I met some of my best friends at USC through the committee. We planned phenomenal concerts with artists like Macklemore, Diplo, Big Sean and Jason Derulo — all on our own. We booked talent, created stages, dealt with riders and solved every problem in between (like that one time when the generator blew up right before Big Sean was supposed to hit the stage). We met with music industry professionals, went to concerts and connected each other with internships.

As my college career went on, I became the assistant director of the committee and met a whole new group of people who served as directors and assistant directors of their own organizations in Program Board. These people were passionate about bringing excellent programming to not only their committee, but also the university as a whole. The members of PB considered themselves a family and in their office above Campus Center, I truly felt like I had found my place on campus.

So whether it’s joining a Program Board committee or SC Outfitters — or the Entrepreneur Club or the Auto Club or any other organization — there is someplace for you on campus. It’s extremely important to jump in a find where that place is and take advantage of all the opportunities they make available. It’s what will make your college experience so much more fulfilling.


Alexandra Gurley

Alexandra Gurley is a 2014 graduate of USC Annenberg with a degree in Communication. As a student, she was involved in Undergraduate Student Government, Program Board’s Concerts and Marketing Committees and the Viterbi Startup Garage. She worked as a content coordinator at Live Nation Labs, a digital innovation agency within Live Nation, and now works with Awesomesauce Labs, a drone company based out of USC. She also currently serves as an Annenberg Alumni Ambassador and can be reached at [email protected]


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School of Journalism: Still Looking to Fill Your Fall Schedule?

Still looking for classes to enroll in for the fall? The USC Annenberg School of Journalism may have the course you’re looking for.

How about exploring race and identity with a Pulitzer Prize-winning instructor, or learning the ins and outs of camera techniques and digital darkrooms? If you’re into shooting and editing stories for online audiences, there’s a course for you too. How can great storytelling, about ordinary people, make real change? You’ll find out in Professor Sandy Tolan’s “Journalism of the Heart” seminar this fall.

See more courses below:

JOUR 375: The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (4.0 units)

This course covers the impact of conflicting images of reporters in movies and television on the American public’s perception of news gatherers in the 20th century. A decade-by-decade evaluation with Professor Joe Saltzman, Scripps-Howard National Journalism and Mass Communication Professor of the Year.

JOUR 330: Photojournalism (4.0 units)

PhotoJournalism Jour 330This class, taught by award winning photojournalist Miki Turner, emphasizes on fundamental skills necessary for photojournalism including camera techniques, story ideas and digital darkroom. You’ll learn how to turn your average shots into stunning images.

JOUR 466m: People of Color and the News Media (4.0 units)

JOUR 466mLearn more about yourself, our society and the media as you explore race and ethnicity in the United States and how the media have reflected, reinforced, and sometimes changed prevailing attitudes and practices affecting women and men of color with instructor Julio Morán, a former editor of Nuestro magazine, one of the first English-language national magazines for Latinos. The class has multicultural certification and fulfills the university’s diversity requirement for graduation. Morán was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Los Angeles Times that produced a 21-part series on Latinos in Southern California.  Open to non-majors.

JOUR 487: Multimedia PR Content: Introduction to Audio/Video Tools (2.0 units)

Take a hands-on lab with an introduction to audio/video tools for conceiving, shooting, editing, delivering and archiving compelling stories for online audiences; personal brand building; digital storytelling trends and applications.

JOUR 488: Multimedia PR Content: Visual Communication of Information (2.0 units)

Overview of tools and techniques available to convey messages and experiences; exploration into graphic design, visual branding, design methods and processes.

JOUR 499: Special Topics (2.0-4.0 units, max 8)

JOUR 499 journalism of the heartLearn how to recognize the elements of a good broadcast story, how to mold it, and how it is used on websites with instructor Lewis Rothbart in Broadcast Newswriting and Reporting for Non-Majors,  or take a seminar on how some of the world’s finest writers take some of the world’s most difficult stories and turn them into gripping narratives of ordinary people, Journalism of the Heart, with Professor Sandy Tolan. Curious about cross-platform storytelling, take Introduction to Integrated-Converged Communication.

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Quoted: Week of April 20


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

Comcast drops $45.2 billion bid for Time Warner

TaplinAfter critics raised concern about lack of competition, Comcast abandoned its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable. The purchase would have resulted in the company’s control of 55 percent of U.S. broadband subscribers and 30 percent of cable TV customers.

Critics said it would have given Comcast far too much control over what Americans watch and download. Professor Jonathan Taplin was quoted in a Pasadena Star-News story about the acquisition.

“My feeling is this was doomed from the beginning,” Taplin said. “You can’t take the No. 1 provider of cable TV and Internet services and the No. 2 provider and combine them … it defies the logic of antitrust.”

Victims’ Families Urge Media Restraint On Aurora Theater Massacre Trial Coverage

Laura CastanedaAs the trial of the alleged mass murderer of patrons at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado began, a group representing the survivors and families of victims of nine of the worst mass shootings in American history is urging news media “to stop the gratuitous use” of the confessed killer’s name and photo.

Professor Laura Castañeda was quoted in a Deadline Hollywood article, noting that the requests are “perfectly reasonable.”

“I think a lot of the media coverage around mass shootings can become overwhelming, sensationalistic and inaccurate,” Castañeda said. “If the person is no longer at large, I don’t know what the public would lose by not seeing the person’s likeness or name.”

PopPolitics: The Clinton-Inspired Humor of ‘Veep”

Mary Murphy

Professor Mary Murphy was on Variety’s radio show PopPolitics to weigh in on Hilary Clinton’s announcement to run for president and how she can best draw on her support from Hollywood.

“Some very powerful people in Hollywood now, they’re already on board,” Murphy said. “So this is where she’s going to be looking for money upfront.”

Drought shaming: California ‘water vigilantes’ call out neighbors online

Karen North

In the midst of a historic drought, officials are urging California residents to conserve water, but self-appointed “water vigilantes” are filming their neighbors wasting water on their smartphones, then posting their names, and even addresses, onto social media with the hashtag #DroughtShaming.

Professor Karen North told the Today Show that social shaming may not be the most effective way to encourage change.

“Instead of going online and shaming people publicly, which might be useless, why doesn’t this guy just go to the city and tell the city, ‘Stop these people — they’re using too much water,'” North said of one such “water vigilante.”

Though the city of Los Angeles has issued 7300 warning letters and only 10 violations, it can impose fines of up to $500 for wasting water.

Open Phones with Robert Scheer

Robert ScheerProfessor Robert Scheer was interviewed at the 2015 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held on the USC campus ,about his book “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy.”

Scheer expressed his concern about the amount of data we willingly surrender to private corporations, and how the government can obtain that data without your permission.

“This is what those books, 1984 and Brave New World, were all about,” Scheer said. “Totalitarian societies make themselves palatable to people, and they do it through self-censorship so people don’t know they’re being manipulated, and we are being manipulated to a very high degree now.”

US declines to go ga-ga over royal baby

Jeetendr-SehdevProfessor Jeetendr Sehdev was quoted in the Sunday Times on a survey he conducted, which found that Americans are no longer obsessed with the royal family. He found that Americans are five times less interested in the new addition to the Windsor family than they were in the birth of Prince George. In America, it seems that the royals have been eclipsed by Hollywood royals.

“They were three times more interested in the birth of Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake’s baby and equally excited by the [forthcoming] birth of Sophie Hunter and Benedict Cumberbatch’s child,” Sehdev said.

Apple Watch to boost ‘glance journalism’

Robert Hernandez

With the Apple Watch expected to become the leading item in wearable technology, we move toward entering the era of “glance journalism.” The term refers to a new form of storytelling that is more bite-sized to fit even smaller screens and can be glanced at quickly. Readers will then be able to “hand off” an article to an iPhone or iPad if they wish to read the full versions.

Professor Robert Hernandez told Canoe about the new platform for news that wearables have created.

“The ability to access knowledge will be quicker with the watch,” Hernandez said. He went on to say that journalism will find a way to adapt to the smartwatch’s limitations to get stories across. “When Twitter came out people were saying ‘you can’t do journalism in 140 characters,’ but it has now become an essential tool,” he said.

Target takes aim at Latinos with new marketing campaign

Laura CastanedaTarget recently launched its first Latino-focused marketing campaign to rely on cultural concepts called “#SinTraducción” or “Without Translation.” The 30-second ad features a family lingering after a meal to chat, a common practice in Latin America called “sobremesa,” of which there is no comparable English term. It is an attempt to capture the Latino market, which controlled $1.3 trillion in spending power in 2014.

Professor Laura Castañeda was quoted in an LA Times article on why companies are focusing in on the Latino market now.

“The market has been out there for decades, and companies have known it,” Castañeda said. “It seems to ebb and flow. I think surpassing that trillion-dollar mark might be the tipping point.”

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New USC Annenberg research reveals “fiscal cliff” women directors face in commercial filmmaking

female-films-graphicSundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles, co-founders of the Female Filmmakers Initiative, unveiled this week research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative that uncovered a broken pipeline for female filmmakers when it comes to distributing deals and exhibition patterns.

The study first examines what happens to films by both male and female Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition directors. Then, qualitative interviews with filmmakers, film buyers and film sellers provide deeper insight into the issues facing female directors. Over 60 USC students worked on the study in the MDSC Initiative lab. The full report can be found here.

“Female directors face a steep fiscal cliff as they attempt to move from independent to more commercial filmmaking. Across 1,300 top films from 2002 to 2014, the ratio of male to female directors was just over 23 to 1,” said Professor Smith, the Principal Investigator and Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative. “In this report, we identify the barriers that help explain this gender disparity. After three years of research, the question can progress from ‘why are female directors missing behind the camera in top films?’ to ‘what can be done to create change?’”

“Having completed this three-year study, we have accomplished a thorough analysis of this issue and now know that female filmmakers face deep-rooted presumptions from the film industry about their creative qualifications, sensibilities, tendencies and ambitions. Now we need to move a heavy boat through deep waters, and WIF is committed to year-round action until sustainable gender parity is achieved,” said Cathy Schulman, President of Women In Film Los Angeles.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “With three years of research to build upon, we’re at a watershed moment of awareness regarding gender inequality, and these new findings help pinpoint where and why female filmmakers fall out of the industry’s pipeline. Diversity in media is critically important to the health of our culture because it is through media that we understand ourselves and each other. We can’t make systemic shifts without allies in all corners of the industry.”

Quantitative Findings: Content, Distribution and Exhibition of Films in SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition 2002-2014

  • Females directed one-quarter of the films in SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition between 2002 and 2014. Of the 208 U.S. Dramatic Competition films at SFF between 2002 and 2014, 25.5 percent had a female director (n=53) and 74.5 percent had a male director (n=155). This translates into a gender ratio of 2.9 to 1.
  • Gender is a significant factor in the types of stories told by directors in SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition. Three-quarters of all SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition movies featured drama, comedy and/or romance, with female-directed films (92.5 percent) more concentrated in these genres than male-directed films (69 percent). Lead character gender was also associated with director gender. Male-directed films were more likely to feature male leads whereas female-directed films were more likely to feature female leads.
  • Gender did not affect whether SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition films received theatrical distribution. Of the 208 SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition movies from 2002-2014, 177 received domestic distribution (85.1 percent) and 31 did not. Female-directed films (88.7 percent) were just as likely to receive distribution out of SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition as male-directed films (83.9 percent).
  • There are differences in the types of companies that distribute male- and female-directed films. Movies with a female director (70.2%) were more likely than movies with a male director (56.9%) to be distributed by Independent companies with fewer financial resources and lower industry clout. Conversely, male-directed films (43.1%) were more likely than female-directed films (29.8%) to receive distribution from a Studio Specialty/Mini Major company—companies with deeper pockets and greater reach.
  • Theatrical density was not related to director gender among SFF films with limited Independent distribution. Male-directed and female-directed SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition films with Independent distribution were equally likely to be shown in 1-75 theatres as to be shown in 76-250+ theatres.
  • At the highest platform of theatrical distribution, above 250 screens, male directors outnumber female directors by a factor of 6 to 1. Among films distributed by Studio Specialty/Mini Major companies, a greater percentage of male-directed films (32.1 percent, n=18) were shown in 251+ theatres than female-directed films (21.4 percent, n=3).
  • The director gender gap is at its widest in top-grossing films. Across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002 to 2014, only 4.1 percent of all directors (n=59 of 1,433) were female. This calculates into a gender ratio of 23.3 male directors to every 1 female director.
  • The prevalence of females decreases notably when moving from independent to mainstream film. In 2014, there was a 25 percent difference between the percentage of female directors at SFF (26.9 percent) and the percentage of female directors across the top 100 films (1.9 percent). This is almost double the gap observed in 2002.
  • The results from this study demonstrate that female directors set out on a course that confirms and triggers a stereotype that may affect the deals they make and the opportunities they are offered. As such, the choices female directors make early in their careers can have lasting financial consequences.

Qualitative Findings: Impediments Facing Female Directors

The qualitative section of the report uses data from 59 interviews (39 male, 20 female) with buyers and sellers who were asked about the reasons for the lack of female directors in top 100 films. Forty-one female directors were also interviewed. The major barriers that emerged were consistent with results from previous phases as well as other research. Those impediments were:

  • Perception of a Gendered Marketplace (44 percent): Female directors are perceived to make films for a subset and/or less significant portion of the marketplace. In contrast, films by males are perceived to reach wide and lucrative segments of the market. One explanation for this difference is the tendency to “think director, think male,” or to describe the job of a director or profitable film content in masculine terms.
  • Scarcity of Talent Pool and Experience (42 percent): Industry decision-makers perceive that there is a scarcity of female directors and a small pool to choose from in top-grossing films. Those interviewed named, on average, three female directors who might be included on consideration lists. In contrast, 45 different women helmed one of the 100 top-grossing movies across 13 years, and over 100 different women brought a narrative film to Sundance Film Festival from 2002 to 2014.
  • Women’s Perceived Lack of Ambition (25 percent): Participants mentioned or questioned the degree of interest women have in 1) the directing position generally and 2) genre-based jobs, including action and tent-pole films. Sellers were more likely to report this impediment than buyers were. However, when asked directly about their ambitions, nearly half of female directors (43.9 percent) interviewed articulated an interest in larger-budget, action or blockbuster films.
  • Industry Gender Imbalance (22 percent): Responses described the skewed representation of women in the film industry. This includes the predominance of men in gatekeeping positions and an industry socialization process and/or culture (e.g., boy’s club) that is male-dominated.
  • Little Support and Few Opportunities (14 percent): Individuals mentioned or questioned whether agents and managers are putting women up for jobs and the scarcity of chances or opportunities given to women.
  • Competence Doubted (12 percent): Participants mentioned or speculated about beliefs that women “can’t handle” certain types of films or aspects of production, such as commanding a large crew. When asked if their authority had been doubted, 70 percent of female directors interviewed answered that they had been challenged by a work colleague.
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USC Annenberg Communication Student Redesigns Stunt Person Industry

Hunter Crowder

USC Annenberg junior, Hunter Crowder

Two days before the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards’ Los Angeles regional competition in October 2014, USC Annenberg junior Hunter Crowder wasn’t even registered to participate.

“I just didn’t think I was ready for something that big. Stunt Players was just a project I was doing on the side and I didn’t really look at in that way,” Crowder said of his startup working to revamp and restructure the way stunt performers get work in the entertainment industry.

But with encouragement from director of USC Annenberg’s Blackstone Launchpad James Bottom, Crowder was able to master a pitch, present it to a panel of judges and actually win the competition. Just a month later, three other USC-based student startups and Crowder went on to compete at GSEA’s national competition in Chicago.

Crowder, who is studying Communication with a minor in Cinematic Arts, bought the original iteration of Stunt Players from his father, accomplished stunt director Wally Crowder in 2012— 20 years after the company launched as a hard copy resource to connect casting coordinators with stunt men and women seeking jobs.

Prior to the emergence of Stunt Players, aspiring stuntmen and women were forced to show up on set with just a resume, and production coordinators tended to only hire stunt people they knew or were already established within the film industry.

Since then, Crowder has harnessed the lightning fast speed and vast connectivity of the digital age by shifting the tangible book sold to studios where Stunt Players originally lived to an expansive website accessible by a paid subscription. Stunt performers can create profiles highlighting their skills and experience within the field— a LinkedIn for high speed motorcyclists, fire eaters and martial arts experts.

When Crowder transferred to USC in the fall of 2014 from Santa Monica City College, he immediately got involved with the Blackstone Launchpad and was asked to participate in the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab’s CRUNCH Student Design Challenge + Incubator, an eight-week crash course in how to accelerate a product prototype to the actual alpha testing stage. With five other groups of student entrepreneurs, participants engage in one-on-one mentorship from external advisors as well as leaders in the Innovation Lab.

Crowder attributes Stunt Players’ recent development to the resources provided by Blackstone and the CRUNCH course.

“[Stunt Players] has evolved immensely,” Crowder said. “Through Blackstone and CRUNCH, there is a much greater expectation for it to be great. They really helped guide me through the technical, business related aspects that I just didn’t know anything about.”

But Crowder feels his lack of experience in the business sector has not disadvantaged Stunt Players’ potential to succeed. It is his time spent inside USC Annenberg communication classrooms, Crowder says, that has really prepared him to convey the importance of Stunt Players to potential subscribers and investors.

“I would say my communication major is so important because if I can’t speak and relay my ideas, [Stunt Players] really doesn’t matter,” Crowder said. “I feel like taking from my father, a man who dropped out of college, has done so well and been so successful in his industry just because he could speak and communicate.”

Crowder was able to show off his skills at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab’s Evening of Innovation on April 16, where he competed against the other CRUNCH teams for a shot at AIL’s 2015-2016 Start Up-In-Residence and $10,000 in project funding.

Though Stunt Players did not win, Crowder is hopeful his project’s mission will continue growing with a recently redesigned site.

“We already have a good amount of subscribers, but were dealing with a niche market, which is far different from something that caters to everyone who’s a student or everyone who breathes,” Crowder said. “Stunt Players piques some people’s interest and others are more interested in tech products. It really just depends.”

Beyond creating a useable resource for players in the stunt world, though, Crowder hopes to completely re-shift how the entertainment industry perceives and respects stunt performers.

“The stuntman is such a classic piece of Hollywood and I think to not have that representation is ludicrous,” Crowder said. “I want to make sure those under appreciated people are represented correctly because they’re the hardest working ones in the industry. While I want to expand into other projects, Stunt Players will always be at the core of what I’m doing.”

Click on the photo below to watch a video of Stunt Players in action.

Stunt Players makes it easy for adrenaline junkies to work in the entertainment industry.

Stunt Players makes it easier for adrenaline junkies to work in the entertainment industry.

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Social Change in South Los Angeles 50 Years After the Watts Riots


This post is republished from Watts Revisited, visit their site for more information.

The corner of 48th and Broadway, during the riots and today

The corner of 48th and Broadway, during the riots and today

This August will mark 50 years since Watts — along with most of South Los Angeles — erupted in six days of racially charged upheaval. Thirty-four people were killed. Nearly 4,000 were arrested. Forty million dollars in property was damaged. In the aftermath, officials and researchers found that the causes went much deeper than the arrest of 21-year-old Marquette Frye and tensions with the police. They identified social and economic barriers facing African Americans in South Los Angeles as underlying triggers. Since then, the area has undergone sweeping demographic transformations from predominantly African American to Latino. But many of the original challenges remain.

As the United States continues to struggle with racial inequality, this project investigates current structural problems and potential solutions in South Los Angeles. We revisit issue areas that the 1965 McCone Commission Report identified as contributing to the unrest, including insufficient housing, healthcare, transportation, and jobs. Through a partnership between USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Metamorphosis Project, Intersections South LA, five additional news outlets, six community organizations and a local high school, we attempt to create a glimpse of contemporary challenges, as well as where change is happening that could be expanded.

Reporting Partnership with Augustus Hawkins High School

The project kicked off in fall 2014 with a collaboration between USC Annenberg students and journalism classes at Augustus Hawkins High School, located in an area heavily impacted by the 1965 and 1992 riots near Vermont and Slauson avenues. The high school and university students reported in partnership, asking people who live in the area what they know about the riots and what they thought were the lessons to be learned. (Not much for younger residents of any background, whereas older, African American residents had vivid memories and thoughts on the topic.) The students also interviewed residents about what they saw as contemporary issues transportation, jobs, and housing were often cited and solutions to them.

The second part of the project is a response to Metamorphosis Project research which has found a disconnect between local organizations serving South Los Angeles and media coverage of the area, which contributes to lower levels of civic engagement. In February, we convened a meeting with six South Los Angeles organizations to help them identify and share stories about their communities. As part of the workshop, they were trained in how to “pitch” a story that is solutions-oriented and appeals to reporters.

From left to right: KPCC reporters Adrian Florido, Deepa Fernandes and Brian Watt meet with Andres Ramirez, an organizer with Community Health Councils

From left to right: KPCC reporters Adrian Florido, Deepa Fernandes and Brian Watt meet with Andres Ramirez, an organizer with Community Health Councils

Bringing Media and Organizations Together

In March, a second workshop brought together media outlets and organizations, to connect on these stories and create more lasting connections. The organizations “speed pitched” local and ethnic reporters from Hoy, La Opinion, LA Sentinel, Southwest Wave, Intersections South LA, and KPCC. There were also meaningful interactions between English and Spanish language local and ethnic media and plans to find ways to collaborate on reporting. These stories will be exchanged by the respective media outlets, and will also appear on the Watts Revisited site.


On April 23, a public forum will feature stories produced as part of this series. The forum will situate the articles in the larger context of media coverage of South LA past and present. Larry Aubry, a community activist and writer who was a probation officer when the Watts Riots broke out will share his reflections, along with his daughter, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan, who covered the 1992 unrest and subsequently was part of an LA Times team created to provide coverage of the area. Then community organizations, media outlets, and members of the public will be invited to extend the discussion of community issues and story ideas through a participatory “speed brainstorming” session.

The intention is that these stories and discussions will be a jumping off point for deeper coverage of the 50th anniversary in Los Angeles. The project hopes to encourage coverage that will look not only to the story of what happened, but why it happened, where things stand today, and what changes can and are being made.

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Two Webby Award nominations for USC Annenberg affiliated sites


The Webby Awards, an international award honoring excellence on the Internet, have named their 2015 nominees and two USC Annenberg affiliated sites have been recognized.

Religion Dispatches, a source for writing on critical and timely issues at the intersection of religion, politics and culture, is nominated in the Religion & Spirituality category. Truthdig, a site that ‘drills beneath the headlines,’ is a nominee for Best Political Blog/Website.

Each site announced their nomination and called for readers and supporters to vote — which ends on April 23. Religion Dispatches shared their excitement:

We are thrilled! The Webbys are the Oscars of the Internet. We’ve been honored with a Webby nomination a number of times before and it never gets old.

Lisa Webster, editor of Religion Dispatches, noted this is the second year in a row the site has been nominated since joining with USC Annenberg. She joked, “We’re pretty sure there’s something in the water.”

“It’s a real honor to be nominated for an award, but it’s also pretty incredible to be part of this creative community,” Webster said. “It feels we’re only beginning to tap some of the potential for collaboration, for real innovation in digital publishing, that exists here.”

Editor-in-Chief Evan Derkacz added:

“Religion is never an easy or simple thing to discuss, but with such insightful contributors, loyal readers, and generous support RD has been fortunate enough to both keep the discussion going and be recognized for it.”

Truthdig has also previously been recognized by the Webby Awards, with both nominations and wins.

We are pleased to share this news with our readers, who represent our first priority and our main motivation for doing what we do.

No matter the results, one thing’s for sure — Bob Scheer’s five-word speech from the 2010 Webby ceremony (which was, it should be noted, held at Cipriani Wall Street) is still a tough act to follow.

In their statement on the nomination, Scheer also noted the awards are “the Oscars of the Internet.”

“We are thrilled by the possibility of winning this industry-standard award,” Scheer said.

“To be nominated by our peers for this prestigious award is a great honor. It shows that digging for the truth and upholding the highest journalistic standards are still qualities that people want,” Zuade Kaufman, Truthdig publisher, added.

The 18th annual Webby ceremony will be held May 19 in New York City, hosted by comic Hannibal Buress.

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When Your Most Embarrassing Moment Happens on Live TV


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

By Lauren Furniss

It was hard to believe the iNews alert that crossed my screen on the USC Annenberg TV News assignment desk: a high school bus had tipped over at a busy intersection in East Los Angeles. A pedestrian was killed, the driver was in critical condition and many students were injured. The normal chatter and bustle of the newsroom suddenly stopped as producers looked to the row of TV screens mounted on the wall above our desks. One by one, each local station switched to a helicopter shot of the tragic scene. In those few seconds of silence, we all knew our plan for the 6 p.m. show was about to change.

“We’ve got to get someone down there … NOW!” shouted the show’s lead producer, leaping to her feet as she scanned the room for a free reporter or anchor to send. She whipped around to the whiteboard where the team tracked reporter assignments. All on-air staffers were already in the field on other stories. After a long groan, she asked me to start calling off-duty reporters to fill in. Before I could pick up the phone, one of our faculty advisors stopped me. She smiled and asked if I’d ever done a live shot before.

I had never been on air in any capacity, let alone as a live correspondent. This was my first chance to cover an important, breaking story live — and to get my face on television. Terrified and thrilled, I agreed to head to the scene with our live streaming system called Streambox and a camera operator.

When we arrived, I was ready to put my journalism coursework to use. I read all the local news articles on the crash I could find, turned to Twitter for more real-time information, and prepared a list of questions for emergency personnel. My camera operator found a shot location with the bus in the background while I checked facts with the Public Information Officer from the fire department. I raced to write a script and read through it several times for accuracy and pronunciation. I was ready for my big TV debut.

My camera operator cued me and the words came tumbling out. I stated the facts I knew, referenced the bus behind me and tossed back to the anchor. In a few shaky, breathless moments, I had successfully completed my first live shot. I was exhilarated! My camera operator poked her head out from behind the camera with a smile and told me the shot looked great. We packed up our gear and headed back to the newsroom to bask in the glory of capturing a breaking story.

As soon as we passed through the ATVN door, we were greeted by a deafening wave of guffaws and shrieks of laughter. My camera operator and I exchanged puzzled looks. The control room hadn’t mentioned a thing before or after we were on the air. Finally, a staff member pulled us back to an edit bay to take a look.


Screenshot of ATVN broadcast, c/o Lauren Furniss

What I saw next filled me with the deepest shock I have ever experienced to this day. My serious, earnest face was surrounded by two garish, pink cartoon curtains. As my live report continued, the shot cycled through x-ray, sepia, red and green filters, before returning to the horrible pink drapes. Apparently, my camera operator accidentally hit a button on the camera that enabled “effects mode.” While I appeared to be trapped inside some kind of bizarre kaleidoscope, the control room and all ATVN viewers that evening were watching. My camera operator and I turned white as my production team insisted on watching it over and over again.

Part of me wanted to yell at my producers and the control room team for not cluing us in. Another part of me wanted to run out of the newsroom and hide. Then I noticed my camera operator’s face, which was even more ashen and embarrassed than mine. She had prepared for the report as cautiously as I had, by carefully setting up the shot, double-checking our Streambox connection and communicating frequently with the control room.

My frustration quickly turned to sympathy — and gratitude. She deserved to feel proud of her work and so did I. We had both had a new, exciting experience and learned one thing not to do again in the process. I sat down at the edit bay to watch my live television debut one more time — and actually found myself laughing.


Lauren Furniss

Lauren Furniss double-majored in Broadcast Journalism and International Relations, and graduated in 2012. She is now an Associate Producer for Bloomberg West, Bloomberg TV’s tech and media program based in San Francisco. 

Lauren can be reached at [email protected].

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Quoted: Week of April 13


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

Roy Choi and Josh Kun will school you on how ‘To Live and Dine in L.A.’

Kun_150pProfessor Josh Kun‘s extensive project exploring the history of L.A.’s restaurants went to press last week; “To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of a Modern City” will hit shelved in June.

However, as the LA Weekly noted, attendees of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will get a sneak peek of the project when Kun, talks with chef Roy Choi on Sunday.

“We’re actually going to be looking at old menus together,” Kun said. “And then [talk] about how the historical menus can be a guide for thinking about issues of hunger and food access and food inequality.”

Aaron Hernandez Murder Conviction Could Eventually Hurt NFL Brand, Professor Says

Jeetendr-SehdevWhile the NFL brand may appear to be able to withstand any PR disaster, Forbes quoted professor Jeetendr Sehdev on his study that found that millennials are losing their trust for the brand.

Sehdev’s study found that respondents found the NFL six times less compassionate than MLB or MLS. It also found that 61 percent of millennials rated the NFL as a sleazy organization on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being respectable and 10 being sleazy).

“The key finding for us is that transparency is the cost of doing business nowfor most organizations, especially among millennials, and that’s where the problem lies,” Sehdev explained. “Eventually, as trust erodes, it will impact the bottom line and you have to be concerned about whether the NFL will lose relevancy to up-and-coming sports like soccer.”

Dr. Rita Eichenstein Helps Parents Cope With the Loss of an “Ideal” Child

Laura CastanedaProfessor Laura Castañeda recently did a Q&A with Dr. Rita Eichenstein, the author of “Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children,” for the Los Angeles Magazine.

How are parents supposed to react to, and cope with the fact that their child will not be what they expected, whether it is due to a learning disorder, the autism spectrum, a behavioral or psychological issue, or medical problem? This is the question that neuropsychologist Dr. Rita Eichenstein attempts to address in her new book.

“With more than 20 years of experience working with atypical children, teens, young adults, and their families, Eichenstein approaches what is undeniably a delicate subject with both experience and compassion,” Castañeda said.

Jordan Spieth: Sports’ New Superstar


Branding expert and USC Annenberg professor Jeetendr Sehdev was quoted on Access Hollywood about the new golden boy of golf, Jordan Spieth.

“Jordan Spieth, as a brand, has the opportunity to be much bigger than Tiger Woods,”Sehdev said. “The world is ready for a new rockstar in golf, but Jordan Spieth is an all-American all-around nice guy and people are very much responding to that.”

The Importance of Knowing Your Worth

Miki TurnerAward-winning photojournalist and USC Annenberg professor Miki Turner wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post on the value of common sense and appreciating your self-worth.

In her thirties and on a night out with her girlfriends, two gentlemen sent over free drinks for the first time in her life. When Turner asked one of the men why she and her friends were sitting alone on a Friday night in L.A., the man replied: “Because you look like work. You look like we’d actually have to talk to you.”

“I became smarter and stronger that night. You know why? Because I realized I am work,” Turner wrote. She continued by saying that she has to be earned. “Why? Because I’m worth it. And if I go through life buying my own drinks it’s cool because I can.”

How Grumpy Cat makes her millions

Karen NorthAnimals like Grumpy Cat and Brother Cream have achieved Internet fame in recent years, getting their own movie deals and ad campaigns. Social media expert and USC Annenberg professor Karen North commented in a CNN article about how social media has made this phenomenon possible.

Social media “adds a personal connection, so if you’re interested in a character like Grumpy Cat, then either people will send you more anecdotes or videos, or you can go and seek it out,” North said.

It’s “a way of getting entertainment in the hands of audience members who become evangelists of the content, and spread it wider than the originator ever dreamed,” she continued.

‘Victoria’s Secret is in real danger of losing its relevance’


Victoria’s Secret faces serious competition with start-ups like AdoreMe and Lane Bryant offering cheaper products with wider size selection. In a Business Insider article, professor Jeetendr Sehdev said that the brand is in danger of losing its relevance as it is being labeled sexist and stodgy.

“Women today have never felt stronger or sexier,” Sehdev said. “They have single-handedly redefined sexy as a state of mind and not a specific dress size. Victoria’s Secret needs to celebrate this new attitude to remain relevant.”

Stars inspire but do they move us to action?


An increasing number of inspiring celebrities have been using their notoriety to draw attention to social issues, but are people doing more as a result?

Professor Jeetendr Sehdev was quoted in USA Today about conducting the first-ever study of the effectiveness of celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson, in the U.N. Goodwill Ambassadors program.

“There’s already a lot of awareness in the marketplace of humanitarian issues,” he said. “The challenge is to get people to act, and that’s why (the U.N.) needs to be strategic about partnerships. They’re partnering hefty causes with anyone with a No. 1 single, and that’s inappropriate. An ambassador for a serious issue needs to be someone with a serious level of expertise.”

Debate: Hillary Clinton Sounds Populist Tone, But Are Progressives Ready to Back Her in 2016?

Robert Scheer

Professor Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, participated in a roundtable discussion on Democracy Now! about Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Clinton made her announcement through a two-minute video released online, sounding populist tones by saying she wants to be the champion of everyday Americans.

Scheer examined Clinton’s track record as first lady, senator and secretary of state, and criticized her hypocrisy. He specifically noted how Clinton fully supported her husband’s administration and the welfare reform that destroyed aid for children in poverty.

“I think it’s absurd to suggest she’s a friend of children who are in need or families,” Scheer said. “As president, her husband, with her full-throated approval, destroyed the aid to families with dependent children, which 70 percent of the people on that program were children. It was the major federal program to help poor people and poor families, and in the cynicism of the Clinton administration, they destroyed that program.”

Amazon Goes Searching for Hollywood Recognition With Spike Lee Film

Jonathan TaplinAmazon aims to catch up to Netflix by distributing director Spike Lee’s upcoming movie “Chiraq” through its Amazon Prime program. The five-year-old Amazon Studios has already begun negotiations with independent filmmakers to produce original content for them.

Professor Jonathan Taplin, also a producer of Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets,” told The Street that Amazon and Netflix have the financial stability that many independent film companies lack.

“They are both very well capitalized companies at a time when a lot of the production is done by undercapitalized indie producers who never know if they can actually make the payroll,” Taplin said.

A Rape on Campus

Judy Muller

In November 2014 Rolling Stone published an article revealing the details of the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student. Following the publication of the article, many people began to wonder about the veracity of the article. Further investigation revealed that the story was untrue.

Professor Judy Muller was quoted in a recent Rolling Stone interview exploring the question “What went wrong?”

“I read the initial report, it went viral the day it came out … I remember being wowed by this story. Shame on me, it was my second thought ‘Wait a minute, they’re depending on one source,'” Muller said.

Muller went on to evaluate the necessity to fact-check information provided by sources and maintain journalistic ethics in order to report factually and with integrity.

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