CommLine Online April 28, 2010



Public Diplomacy student Ciolek named to Presidential Fellows Program

By Jackson DeMos

Melanie CiolekGraduate student Melanie Ciolek (pictured, Master's in Public Diplomacy '11) earned USC's only spot in the Presidential Fellows Program — run through the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress — and will travel twice to Washington, D.C. to explore the connections between the presidency and the development of American public diplomacy strategy.  

For almost 40 years, Center for the Study of the Presidency Fellows have visited Washington to learn about leadership and governance, to share their outstanding research and scholarship, to develop as future leaders of character, and to be inspired to careers in public service. The Center Fellows Program is a unique educational initiative that offers 85 select undergraduate and graduate students from leading colleges and universities a yearlong opportunity to study the U.S. Presidency, the public policymaking process, and the U.S. President's relations with Congress, allies, the media and the American public.

"My interest in the Presidential Fellows Program comes from my belief in the importance of U.S. engagement with global communities through public diplomacy," Ciolek said. "As the global media environment has evolved, the institution of the Presidency has had a profound influence on the U.S. government's ability to effectively communicate its policies to audiences around the world. As a part of the Fellows Program, I want to explore the connections between the Presidency and the development of American public diplomacy strategy."

Associate dean of academic programs and student affairs Abigail Kaun first brought the fellowship to Ciolek's attention. 

"Given her experience and interests, it’s clear that Melanie will be able to participate in this fellowship in a substantive and meaningful way," Kaun said. "She’s smart and articulate and so well-prepared for this project — she will be a wonderful representative of USC in what I am sure will be a diverse and high-powered group."

Fellows attend two conferences each academic year during the fall and spring. At these policy workshops, fellows discuss national issues with scholars and are briefed by senior government officials and nationally recognized public policy experts. The fellowship requires that each student research, write, and present an original paper on an issue of the modern presidency. Students are eligible to participate in two essay contests and compete for publication in the annual anthology of the best Center Fellows' Papers.

The Center provides professional mentors drawn from the public policy community and government to help the fellows define their proposals. Mentors also guide their fellows in writing and editing of a paper that is brought to publishing standards during the academic year.

"Melanie is a superb student who has excelled academically in our Master of Public Diplomacy program, and has emerged as an energetic and thoughtful leader among her peers," Dean Ernest J. Wilson III said. "Melanie's background and interests make her an ideal candidate for this fellowship, both in terms of the benefits the program will have for her, as well her ability to represent USC in the best possible light during her time in Washington, D.C." 

Since its inception, the Center Fellows Program has developed leadership and scholarship skills in more than 1,000 students, providing three of the 32 Rhodes Scholars in 2006 as well as numerous Fulbright, Gates, Marshall, and other Scholarship and Fellowship winners. Alumni of the Fellows Program are Capitol Hill and White House staffers, award-winning journalists, CEOs of corporations and non-profit organizations, senior military leaders and university deans and vice-presidents.

"I believe that Melanie’s participation in this program will not only benefit her, but the program itself," said Robert Banks, USC's U.S. Public Diplomat in Residence, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Ciolek. "Certainly she brings to it a strong interest in politics, presidential leadership and foreign policy, which a fellowship would build upon, but she also would contribute her own expertise in the field of public diplomacy, increasingly seen by many scholars as a vital component of U.S. foreign relations."

Ciolek, who studied international affairs at Georgetown University as an undergraduate and lived in Washington, D.C., from 2001 to 2009, said she is interested in a public service profession after finishing at USC Annenberg.

"My immediate goal is to contribute to the public diplomacy efforts of the U.S. government, either through the State Department or another agency involved with the evolving framework of the government's strategic communications," she said. "Later in life I'd love to work for the International Olympic Committee, which spends a lot of time facilitating international engagement between publics on the grandest scale."

Nicholas Cull , director of USC Annenberg's Master of Public Diplomacy degree program, called Melanie a truly excellent student with first-rate leadership skills.

"She is a fine example of the wonderful people we have in the M.P.D. program," Cull said. "It is good to see a university-wide recognition of the program and an opportunity to remind Washington, D.C., of all that our students have to offer."

Presidential Fellows Program 


USC Annenberg launches Stroome: a collaborative, online video editing community


 To watch and see how Stroome works, visit the Stroome blog at

By Gretchen Parker

USC Annenberg continues to break new ground in the evolution of digital media and journalism, as school leaders announce this week the launch of Stroome, a comprehensive and collaborative online video editing platform. 

On Wednesday, April 21, co-founders Nonny de La Peña and Tom Grasty will join School of Journalism director Geneva Overholser and other faculty members at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism to introduce the project. De La Peña and Grasty conceived and developed Stroome as graduate students at the school. USC will be the first university to license the product; it will be deployed school-wide across Annenberg for use in classrooms, at Annenberg TV News and on Neon Tommy, Annenberg’s digital news site.

The demonstration and discussion will be held at 5 p.m. in Annenberg Room 207.

Grasty and de la Peña designed Stroome ( as a Web-based application that anyone can use to post, cooperatively edit, share and remix video. It’s also a social networking site, allowing users to exchange comments, build communities and find new collaborators.

The concept opens a wide range of possibilities for journalists, filmmakers, musicians – and anyone else with a camera and a computer.

 “I can see a blogger using this – or a start up news operation. Or a legacy newsroom with budget cuts that can’t afford high-end video editing software,” Grasty said. “It’s going to let people produce stories faster and less expensively, and it’s collaborative. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the same state or even in the same country.”

Stroome already has been lauded by the Online News Association as “a paradigm for digital storytelling and visual journalism.” The project won the Audience Award as the best new startup at the association’s conference last year.

Although its potential goes beyond a foundation as a content-producing site, the project was born to fill journalists’ needs, de la Peña said.

“Part of why I did this was I could see some of the struggles that journalists are going through. I wanted to provide a way to turn that around, and Stroome is a way for journalists to do what they do best – which is go cover a great story and get it out there fast and in a collaborative way,” de la Peña said. “This allows journalists to take advantage of social networking and to turn around and publish relevant and robust content quickly.”

The potential for Stroome’s practical applications is endless.

“It goes beyond YouTube, where you just upload. You build and remix on the Web site. It’s a great step toward creation and production on the Web,” said assistant Journalism professor Robert Hernandez, who offered input during Stroome’s development and is experimenting with using it in his Web journalism classes.

“I can see a situation where there’s a protest and five reporters are shooting different pieces of video and using different equipment to upload it to Stroome, and someone in the newsroom edits one piece together. You can even go so far as saying, ‘Dear citizen, upload your clips here, and we can work it into our content,’” Hernandez said. “It has really strong potential.”

Stroome was born as a project Grasty and de la Peña built for the Annenberg Program for Online Communities, a graduate program in new media, Internet marketing and online social networking. Over the last year, the two continued to develop and market the project.

Overholser endorsed Stroome early in its development and helped facilitate its partnership with Annenberg.

 “It has the potential for being an innovation that practicing journalists could really use,” Overholser said. “It had all the hallmarks for me – it’s innovative, it’s very collaborative in spirit, and it encourages participation. I think it’s just a very Annenberg project.”

Besides its utility for on-the-ground reporters, it’s the social networking aspect that may attract a wider range of users and keep them engaged, said Alvand Abdolsalehi, executive producer of Annenberg TV News.

“It’s very interactive – you can watch different people’s videos, you can ask them if you can remix theirs, and it’s building relationships based on a community of editing,” he said. “Because you have the ability to take other edits and put them into your own, it’s like a constant network of sharing and learning and feeding off of each other’s work to create something you’re all proud of.

“One thing that’s really desirable online right now is networking. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr – all those things are status sharing, photo sharing – and now we’re sharing video, so it takes it one step further. Which is pretty awesome.”

About Nonny de la Peña and Tom Grasty

Nonny de la Peña, a graduate of Harvard, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with 20 years of journalistic experience, including as a former correspondent for Newsweek. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other national publications. Tom Grasty is an entrepreneurial digital and media strategist with a diverse 15-year background across the entertainment, advertising, public relations and Internet industries. He recently was named an “Innovator to Watch” by the Stevens Institute for Innovation.  Grasty is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a B.A. in Journalism.


Norman CorwinCorwin lauds, and is lauded, at 100th birthday celebration at USC Annenberg

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

As friends, colleagues and former students gathered at USC Annenberg on April 22 to honor the 100th birthday of Norman Corwin, the USC Annenberg writer in residence entertained the guests with unscripted anecdotes, friendly jabs at deans and colleagues, and a message of thanks.

The event brought former deans and directors of Annenberg together in addition to alumni of his classes during his 37 years of teaching – including one, Lucy Lee (M.A. Broadcast Journalism '88), who said Corwin challenged her to “use language in daring ways,” one of the qualities that endeared him to students and faculty alike.

“Whenever I get upset about how old I’m getting, Norman Corwin looks me in the eye and says, ‘Oh, to be 70 again,’” said journalism professor Joe Saltzman, who brought Corwin to teach at USC Annenberg in 1979. “That makes me feel so much better. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.”

But Saltzman also recognized the debt he and others at USC said they owed the man who once directed the greatest stars in Hollywood on the radio, only to share that expertise with the University.

“One of the great privileges of my life is being Norman’s friend,” Saltzman said. “After our first broadcasting accreditation review we were told that the new program was accredited, but the panel had one suggestion: do more with radio. Bringing Norman Corwin to USC immediately took care of that criticism.”

Geoffrey Cowan , university professor and director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, called Corwin the School’s “own, very young treasure,” and recalled his early awareness of Corwin’s work.

“I’ve admired Norman for as long as I can remember,” Cowan said before reading an astonishing “fan letter” he received immediately upon his appointment to lead Annenberg in 1996 – a letter originally addressed to Corwin and written by the then-head of the Voice of America, who happened to be Cowan’s father. “If we’re around you in the next hundred years we’ll benefit from some of that osmosis…thank you, Norman, for letting us be part of your life.”

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, who succeeded Cowan as USC Annenberg Dean in 2007, spoke following a short recording of Corwin’s “radio masterpiece,” On a Note of Triumph  – first broadcast on May 8, 1945 as World War II neared its close.

“I can’t think of any title that is more fitting for today’s celebration – this is such a momentous occasion,” said Wilson, who remarked that he had never before celebrated someone's 100th birthday. “He is such a friend of the Annenberg School…we are so fortunate to have Norman associated with us.”

Wilson read from Corwin’s own work on writing, in which the approach to seeking an “emphasis on what is right” is most beneficial in teaching the craft, regardless of the medium.

“It’s hard to imagine the changes in media that Norman has experienced in his career,” Wilson said. “He has witnessed every great communication medium of our time. Norman recognized that great writing, no matter what the medium, stood out.”

Corwin took the microphone and promptly congratulated Wilson, who succeeded Cowan as Annenberg’s dean in 2007 – on his looks.

“Listening to the dean of the school, I was impressed all over again with the thought that Ernest Wilson is the outstanding candidate for the honor of ‘tall, dark, handsome man,’” said Corwin as the audience laughed. “He deserves the sweeping claim that is his – handsome. Tall and dark.”

“I wish my wife was here,” said Wilson, “to hear the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ part.”

Corwin earlier celebrated his 95th birthday at Annenberg, and attendees of the tribute watched as images of that and other friendly gatherings were shown on a screen while the platitudes piled up.

“I’ve listened to everything that’s been said, and I must say that I couldn’t have written it better myself,” Corwin said.

Continuing to elicit laughter from the gathering, Corwin commended Cowan on his critically acclaimed play running in New York, Top Secret – a theatrical look at how the ‘Pentagon Papers’ involved the Supreme Court in a freedom of the press debate – to Cowan’s naming of the ‘West Lobby,’ saying “that alone distinguishes him.”

In all of his remarks, Corwin took the time to address the accomplishments of his Annenberg colleagues, calling Cowan’s play “brilliant, raw and potent,” but with winking references to qualities of others that were, at times, on the comedic side.

“I have nothing but high regard for Joe Saltzman,” Corwin said, “He is one of the sweetest typists on the planet.”

Corwin’s years at USC as an instructor, he said, came as a happy “challenge to entertain and educate” young writers.

“It was like ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ for 37 years,” Corwin said. “The experience of imparting whatever expertise I have that would be useful to young writers was enthralling and I am grateful to get letters even now from them after they’ve graduated from this school, and they’ve always encouraged me to stick with the last measure of devotion. They have rewarded me in a thousand ways.”

Saltzman described Corwin’s use of words as so unique and individual, that when Walter Cronkite read An Ode to CBS during the broadcast of CBS’ 50th anniversary program, it was obvious who penned the piece.

“After the first sentence, I turned to my wife Barbara and said: ‘Norman Corwin wrote that. No question about it,’” Saltzman said.

Corwin, whose brother Emil is about to turn 107, said his faculties are not what they used to be but they are still put to good use.

“I have one eye and one ear now and that serves me quite well,” he said. “And I dedicate that one eye and one ear that serve me quite well to the 37 years I served at this university.”

Birthday slideshow
Daily Trojan article


Specialized Journalism student Reynolds wins first-place Wonderland Award for creative writing

By Jackson DeMos

Brandon ReynoldsGraduate student Brandon Reynolds (pictured, M.A. Specialized Journalism '10) won first place in USC's sixth-annual Wonderland Award for Wonderland at Sunset: A Case of Vanishing, a creative modern-day Wonderland script by way of a police report transcript about a starlet who disappears from a nightclub.

Almost 50 students entered the contest, an annual multidisciplinary competition that encourages new scholarship and creative work related to Lewis Carroll, the logician, mathematician, photographer and poet especially remembered for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Other winning entries included a poetry book and oil painting of Carroll.

"Brandon's piece is brilliant," said journalism professor K.C. Cole, who taught Reynolds in her science writing class. "He’s got his own voice and his own way. He’s deeply thoughtful and he takes risks, which is really important. He comes up with original ideas and original ways of communicating. He’s not your normal student."

Reynolds spent two full nights working on the Wonderland script. 

"It was fun to write, which isn’t always the case," Reynolds said. "It was something I didn’t have to do but I spent two full total nights working on it. It was nice to disappear into it. That's the best way to write."

Excerpt from the script: "The investigation has already inspected the various cameras and all seem to be in working order, and so this detective inspected the nightclub to see if perhaps Alice yet remained in the place, which returned a negative. Her associates have stated on the record that it is very unlike Alice to do something that goes unrecorded, as that would run counter to Fame itself, without which attention she would be Not-Famous, attention being the thing which separates the Famous from the Not-Famous. If she is not photographed, she is like the Not-Famous who are also not photographed, and so, like them, not eligible for the very photography that was not-taken of her. Perhaps. Which raises these questions: If the photographers cannot see her to take pictures of her, is she then Not-Famous, because she has no pictures taken? If no pictures are taken of her, she must be Not-Famous, which then justifies the photographers taking no pictures of her. But then why were they trying to in the first place?"

Reynolds said Carroll reported on his world, brought knowledge back from the various aBrandon Reynoldslleys of his imagination, and told us as much about the time as he did about his own curious mind.

"My own writing has attempted similar things -- a blend of styles and approaches so that a piece is not just story or essay or reportorial effort, but something between all," he wrote. "It offers a freedom for both writer and reader from the prudishness of the single genre, which I think most audiences are tired of trying to limit these days anyway. So why not get a science lesson with a story of heartbreak? Something that doesn’t fit existing categories and so has to go out and find new ones?"

Reynolds, who studied English and Communication as an undergraduate at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, has taken journalism classes as well as courses in brain architecture and evolutionary biology during his time in USC Annenberg's Specialized Journalism program. He said the $2,000 Wonderland Award comes at a great time because he is starting a new career as a freelance writer after graduating on May 14.

"I could spend an entire career writing about how and why we do and think about things," he said. "I'm interested in knowing more about how people work the way they do, how we got here and how and why the brain works."

Cole said a big reason Reynolds has been and will continue to be successful is his willingness to take risks.

"He’s exactly the kind of person we want in the Specialized Journalism program, and a really good example of what that program can do," Cole said. "It can take someone who had the start of a career, and take it in another direction. It’s an amazing group we have in Specialized Journalism."

He plans to spend at least one more year in Los Angeles while he freelances for publications such as Wired Magazine, Scientific American and The New Yorker, where he can combine his long-format skills with subjects such as science that he is interested in and curious about.

Daily Trojan article on contest
Wonderland at Sunset: A Case of Vanishing 


Reporting trip to Israel and West Bank inspires students, yields practical experience 

By Gretchen Parker

As journalism professor Diane Winston contemplated how and where to teach her students the relevance of religion and politics, she could think of no destination more significant, complicated and immediate than Israel and the West Bank.

After a nine-day trip there last month, the work of her 13 graduate students is now being picked up by the Huffington Post, the Global Post, KPCC online, The Salt Lake Tribune and Religion News Service. The work, which included print, radio and video pieces and blog posts, also was featured on USC Annenberg's Neon Tommy news source.

The class, Specialized Reporting 585: Religion, Politics and Gender, visited Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv. Students met with activists, journalists and religious and political leaders. They toured settlements, refugee camps and universities.

“I wanted to take them to a place where religion makes a difference in people’s lives, and there is no place quite like Israel in terms of seeing the confluence of religion and politics and how it makes a difference – in everything from domestic Israeli issues, such as marriage and divorce, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Winston, who holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at Annenberg.

Most of Winston’s students aren’t aiming to build a career as religion reporters. So she faces a challenge when it comes to illustrating how relevant religion is to being a journalist.

“I can’t imagine being a reporter in today’s world without knowing something about religion, but yet that’s a very hard sell,” Winston said. “I thought being exposed to a society where there was no church-state separation like there is here would open their minds.”

And watching Al Jazeera or reading Israeli newspapers doesn’t compare, she said, to visiting an Arab family in Hebron who lives in a neighborhood now occupied by Jewish settlers. Seeing their family home, surrounded by a wire cage, made an impression, she said.  

Student Evan Pondel dug up a story about gay Israeli couples who turn to the United States to arrange surrogate births. Pondel’s story, picked up last week by the Global Post, reported that “despite the country’s reputation as a world leader in reproductive technology, surrogacy is illegal for same-sex couples.”

Through a source Pondel met on the trip, he was able to find and interview an Israeli male couple who had twins 8 months ago via a surrogate mother in Texas.

“You learn so much in a classroom, but I think the most learning in journalism comes from being in the field and actually doing it,” said Pondel, a specialized journalism master's candidate.

“When you have a professor that’s providing guidance, and you’re actually in the field reporting, it’s the best of both worlds,” he said. “That’s why we’re in school – not just simply to be in a classroom but to experience what you’re studying firsthand and then write about it.”

Winston paid for the trip with funds from her endowed chair along with money granted by Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. She’s trying now to raise more money to pay for a second tour next year.

She said she’s never had a teaching experience more rewarding.

“We were sitting on the bus, traveling from Jerusalem to Ramallah – and instead of talking about movies and sports, the students were debating occupation and resettlement,” Winston said. “I was just sitting there thinking, ‘This is what it’s all about. Having students  who are so grabbed by the issues that they want to talk about them all the time.’”


School of Communication Associate Director Imre Meszaros wins top dissertation award at USC Rossier School of Education

By Jackson DeMos

While balancing duties as a school administrator, husband, father and student in the Doctor of Education program at the Rossier School of Education, newly promoted Associate Director of the School of Communication Imre Meszaros found the time to earn a Dissertation of the Year award at Rossier.

Meszaros said the best part of winning the award for his research on The Political Economy of California School District Parcel Tax Elections was being able to finish his studies on a high note before graduation. He already earned a Master's in International Relations from USC in 1988 and wanted to finish strong on his Ed.D., which he said would be his final degree. He has worked at USC Annenberg for the past three years as the assistant director of USC Annenberg's School of Communication.

"My advice to any student is to work on projects that are interesting, not projects you think are going to be beneficial to yourself or others," he said. "The reason I started on this degree was not because of the credential, but I wanted to study something interesting and continue learning. Don’t be afraid to go back to school. If you’re interested in doing something new, just go for it and make it work out. Grab the opportunities and do what you want to do."

In his dissertation, he said that the school district parcel tax referendum has not  been widely used even though most such measures placed on the ballot have passed with the required two-thirds supermajority.

"This study describes the characteristics of districts that place parcel taxes on the ballot and that account for the election outcomes," he wrote. "It also provides information to school district officials interested in assessing the likelihood of a successful parcel tax measure in their district and to policymakers considering the likely effect of a reduction in the threshold for passage to 55 percent."

Meszaros' supervisor at USC Annenberg, School of Communication Director Larry Gross, had high praise for Meszaros and his latest achievement.

"Imre is a model academic administrator – thoughtful, careful, inventive, and sensitive to the importance of balancing the needs of students and those of the school so that everyone benefits," Gross said. "It is not surprising, therefore, that he has been enrolled in the Rossier School’s doctoral program in educational leadership, and it is also not surprising — though certainly gratifying — to learn that he has won the School’s Dissertation of the Year award."

The Political Economy of California School District Parcel Tax Elections


Helen MoserUndergrad Moser set for yearlong study in Germany with Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship

By Pamela J. Johnson

As an intern with the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Helen Moser, a senior majoring in print journalism and political science, researched pros and cons for a proposed law that would ban tobacco displays in stores.

Working for member Mary Scanlon, whose party opposed the bill, Moser analyzed and compiled the results of surveys to business owners. Her study-abroad experience as a parliament aide while legislation was being debated on the floor (the bill eventually passed) prepared her for the grueling, four-hour interviews and tests that would help determine whether Moser would receive a highly competitive Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship.

She got it. Of more than 630 applicants nationwide, Moser was among 75 chosen. The yearlong, work-study scholarship that begins in July provides education and professional training in Germany. It includes two months of intensive German language training, four months of classroom instruction at a German university and a five-month internship in a student’s field of study.

After her scholarship in Germany, Moser plans to pursue her master’s degree, work in a service program such as AmeriCorps and eventually have a career in public policy.

She already speaks some German; she’s taken three semesters of German at USC. In addition, her grandfather is Swiss and she grew up listening to Swiss German. Last spring, she vacationed in Germany and loved it.

“When I left, I knew I really wanted to go back and spend more time there,” Moser said. “Then this program came along and I’m really excited about it.”

Moser’s other pursuits and honors set the stage for the yearlong program and impressed the scholarship judges. She’s in the Thematic Option honors program headquartered in USC College, a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and a USC Presidential Scholar. She’s also the USC Undergraduate Student Government’s director of campus affairs and volunteers for USC Helenes, a female service organization on campus established in 1921.

After her sophomore year, she completed a USC Global Fellows Internship Program in Taiwan, where she worked in the Washington State Office of Trade and Investment’s Taipei office.

A year earlier, in the summer of 2007, she interned for Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). While in Louisiana, she got an unexpected look at the dark side of politics. She happened to be working at the senator’s office when the scandal broke that Vitter’s phone number had been included in a published list of records of a prostitution service.

“While it was discouraging, it certainly taught me about how real politics works,” Moser said. “You want to think the person you’re working for has values. You want to see them as good people who are making good decisions.”

Rather than work for an elected official, Moser wants to work behind the scenes in implementing public policy. After several service trips to various locations of the Navajo Nation Reservation — including two USC alternative spring breaks to the site in Utah — Moser is considering reservation public policy work.

“I’ve witnessed many of the problems present on the reservation,” Moser said, adding that she may pursue her master’s in Native American studies and public policy.

For now, the 21-year-old Baton Rouge native is trying to finish up her studies and graduate while looking for possible places to intern in Berlin through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship.

“I wanted to get out of the south and see new things,” she said. “It’s been a completely different experience than I had growing up.”

The scholarship is offered through CDS International, Inc., a nonprofit, New York-based organization providing exchange programs, professional work internships, study tours, and language and cultural training programs designed to prepare individuals and corporations for a globally connected society. 


Panel of conflict experts call on press to be positive about Africa

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

Several USC Annenberg faculty, students and alumni joined the Sierra Leone Educational Enrichment Project @ USC to present a panel discussion on Apr. 13, Issues of Equity in Conflict Journalism, that considered “issues of equity in coverage of developing countries during and after times of conflict” and the residual effects of warfare on journalists.

The panel, part of ‘Africa Week’ at USC, featured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Annenberg journalism professor Michael Parks, USC Annenberg associate dean for planning and strategic initiatives Carola Weil, African Channel general manager Bob Reid, and Tiziano Project director of technology Chris Mendez, a recent graduate of USC. 

“I’m very proud to be involved in a university that is truly international,” said Daniel Atwater, president of the USC branch of S.L.E.E.P. “This organization was established in response to the enormous challenges that faced Sierra Leone following a 10-year-long civil war….we are proud to have our most significant event to date.”

Atwater added that the media’s coverage of Africa, even with the unprecedented enormity and prestige of South Africa hosting the football World Cup this Summer, had far to go in terms of its balance.

“It is important to note that, unjustly, we are commonly exposed to stories from the African continent that have negative implications,” Atwater said. “We envision a new decade and century…with equitable coverage.”

Three of the “best practices presentations” shown as video teasers at the talk, and produced by some Annenberg graduates – Africa 10, Highway Africa, and MyCypher, a “virtual cipher” that allows artists to record their voices onto a tollfree number, akin to an “audio Twitter for Hip Hop” – highlight the technological strides that have been made to portray Africa in a light that is comparable to other, more visible continents.

But the Vice Provost for Globalization, Adam Clayton Powell III, reminded the gathering that the university had contributed substantially to this work, providing journalistic manpower at the Highway Africa conference, designed to help enhance democracy and development in Africa.

“Some faculty members go back and forth, some students go back and forth,” Powell said. “But SC is the only university outside of Africa that has been represented at every Highway Africa since it began.”

The panelists also considered the lack of positive stories and the capital influences that make coverage determinations – especially challenges concerning apparent lack of positive stories in countries that undergo conflict – and the fact that oftentimes, a negative perception of those countries might impact foreign investment and public attitudes.

“These are all very good questions and they are all important questions,” Weil said.

But we need to realize…one of the big challenges we have in media coverage of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East is that the coverage is unmediated – often, it is incomplete.”

Weil acknowledged that in many news outlets, “we can live by headlines, we die by headlines,” but that these attitudes are designed to sell newspapers and garner ratings.

“So we ourselves make an image of the place we see on TV and the places we read about in print media about these places,” Weil said. “One of the interesting things that came out of the piece is how important it is to take people out of their comfort zones.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the continent, said Reid, is the prevailing notion that it serves as a fertile ground for negative events and perception.

“Drip drip drip drip of bits and pieces – of stereotypical bits and pieces – can etch marble and stone into an indelible image that takes a heck of a lot to overcome,” said Reid of the first impressions – and lasting reputation – much of Africa’s media coverage elicits. “Sadly it has not changed a great deal…a lot of people are afraid to go to the World Cup in South Africa.”

Reid also added that because of the prevailing fears over the more publicized regional African crises – poverty and violence, AIDS, sectarian warfare in Rwanda – and the residual blows to tourism, it has led to a lack of knowledge and an ignorance that is being combated with an Entertainment-Education approach.

“The Africa Channel exists because it is a recognition by the founders that there are some very great love stories,” Reid said. “There are these great stories on TV in Africa…even with their low production values they tell great stories about Africa.”

Reid added that adding that media outlets such as the Africa Channel may help the most in changing those perceptions.

Mendez, the recent USC graduate and web developer who with fellow alums Jonathan Vidar and Andrew McGregor – actually an Annenberg “dropout,” as Parks playfully referred to him –  founded the Tiziano Project  in Africa with the purpose of educating people through the teaching of ethical journalism and proper use of its emerging technologies.

“It’s ironic: with all this conflict happening, it’s strange that there are not enough stories being told leveraging these new technologies,” said Mendez, who will return to Iraq’s northern region for eight weeks to teach the Kurdish citizens there, despite the dangers he acknowledges are real. “I left my own comfort zone at home.”

A recent $25,000 grant will help the Annenberg alums to accomplish their modest goal in Iraq, but Parks said the original mission in Africa went far beyond the comfort zone of the young men who started the effort.

“So this is a project in photographic empowerment and citizen journalism,” Parks began.

“Andrew began a project with whatever money he got wherever he got it, to enable Rwandans to tell their stories and to go beyond their communities…he’s had some encounters there that were bloodcurdling, but he stuck with it.”

Parks cautioned the gathering no place is simple, and that “better press” would not go far to solve Africa’s problems, but seeing stories of “people telling about their lives” offered a beginning.

“Well, it might be an answer to solving our understanding of Africa which is, I think, stunted, undernourished and needs a complete reorientation,” Parks said. “You should know that I was a foreign correspondent in Africa, but I’m a total outlier now in the way that we practice our professions. We need to have a different approach than simple conflict journalism. It doesn’t do the job. ‘If there’s no conflict there’s no story’ – that’s not sufficient. Danish cows are just as happy in Mozambique as they are in Denmark.”

Parks said that the challenges to changing the approach to covering Africa lie with the idea that only conflict sells papers and gets and keeps viewers – the same challenge that faces the profession itself.

“To tell stories about people and their lives in ways that are factual, truthful in ways that are interesting to readers and viewers,” said Parks, whose grandchildren live in Cape Town, South Africa – the nation whose story Parks reported in the “balanced and comprehensive” way that earned him the Pulitzer in 1987. “But when do see stories about peace? What do you write? Can you imagine what Northern Ireland is like without conflict? Is it not interesting to write about the struggle for people to live normal ordinary lives?”

He added that those stories would not be a hard sell – not even as far away as Southern California.

“I think we who live in Los Angeles and watching a school district that is struggling – we would find reading about schools in South Africa interesting.”

The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars, the Annenberg School of Communication Master's Association (ASCMA) and USC Net Impact also contributed to the talk.


Collaboration of entrepreneurship and journalism takes center stage at Dean’s Forum

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

PorterSeveral of USC Annenberg’s top researchers and practitioners in entrepreneurial journalism joined Dean Ernest J. Wilson III at the April 22 Dean’s Forum, part of the Dean’s Series on Sustainable Innovation co-sponsored by the Knight Digital Media Center.

The talk, “News Entrepreneurship--Mashup of Journalism & Entrepreneurship,” brought the Knight Center’s director, Vikki Porter (pictured, above left), and Tom O'Malia of the USC Marshall Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, to discuss how journalists are finding new ways to be entrepreneurial as their traditional newsrooms disappear and how to be innovative while continuing to practice their professions.

“It’s a delight to see so many people in this room,” Wilson said. “The purpose of the series on innovation is to provide an opportunity for people to explain and to engage in dialogue on innovation…the theme we’ve been trying to forward here is ‘innovate or die’ – innovate or become irrelevant, innovate or miss opportunities. We take the innovation theme very seriously.”

The KDMC's News Entrepreneur Boot Camp , which helps digital entrepreneurs create a sustainable business model for their innovative ideas to serve the information and news needs of their communities – by applying new technologies successful entrepreneurship strategies – is an example of those opportunities, he said.

“Many of us are taking on self-branding as a way to advance our own ideas both in the commercial sense and in the personal,” said Wilson, who joined O’Malia and a group of journalism and business students working together a week earlier, identifying a number of companies as “leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship” that would greatly help citizens take part in information sharing. “I don’t know anybody more innovative-minded than Vikki and more entrepreneurial-minded than Tom.”

Wilson was not only impressed with the turnout in the room – he reminded those present that there was a group, led by Porter, that was truly cutting-edge.

“The group camp that Vikki Porter has been developing over the years is another example (of innovation),” Wilson said. “She’s been working in this area before it was ‘cool.'”

The Dean was referring to the KDMC’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp, which began in 2009 and repeats May 16-21, 2010, for 20 professional journalists who have great ideas for news startups “but don’t know a darn thing about business.”

Porter explained the key purpose of the boot camp was to help change the mindset of the traditional journalist to an entrepreneurial mindset without losing the values of journalism.

“I truly believe the traditional journalism mindset has a higher principle, a sense of itself that doesn’t fit in the new age,” Porter said of the new interaction between storyteller and consumer. “That mindset has been totally undone. There s a whole new competitive force out there.”

O’Malia described how, using working business models, the successful entrepreneur has to develop a different skill set distinct from those of traditionally “good” journalists – and how those skills must even be more sharpened than those of business managers.

“I’m excited to share what we’ve been up to for the last year and a half,” said Porter, also acknowledging journalism professor Sasha Anawalt.  Anawalt introduced Porter and O’Malia.

“I describe my job as being very simple:  I try to aggregate smart people with smart people …but I wouldn’t be in partnership with Tom if it weren’t for Sasha.”

The panelists spoke about the “pain” of things that either are missing or need to be improved – the thrust of entrepreneurial efforts, and what communication professor Tom Hollihan equated with Dewey’s “reflective thinking model” in the context of modern critical thinking.

“There are a lot of journalists who are really smart who don’t have jobs anymore,” Porter said, lamenting the restructuring of newsrooms – and other immediate crises facing the field that need to be improved. “This is the pain we saw a year and a half ago. A lot of smart, well trained journalists without work.”

Porter said the 2010 News Entrepreneur Boot Camp will include a distance learning component created for boot campers by O’Malia.

In addition, a group of 12 USC students from ASCJ, Viterbi and Marshall will attend the KDMC boot camp as part of their own 2-week special innovation project headed by Dana Chinn of the journalism school. This group of students will work to develop ideas for mobile applications for news in partnership with several local news organizations including The Los Angeles Times, The Orange County Register and KPPC public radio.

As for the professionals attending the boot camp, Porter said, “This time we’re sharpening what we want them to take away much more and we’re sharpening what we require them to do,” Porter said.We are also going to follow them more closely and follow their failures.”

O’Malia described his development of hands-on entrepreneurial projects at USC.

“I’m Tom, I’m a recovering entrepreneur,” began O’Malia, until recently the head of the USC Marshall Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. “We are by most definitions the oldest entrepreneurship program in the country…we’re extremely well known for our alumni…we’re also known for bringing people and sharing materials.”

O’Malia contrasted the enterprising innovative manager and entrepreneur, and the gifted journalist and entrepreneurial journalist, saying that while little money was needed to start in entrepreneurship, good business sense needed to prevail even as the consequences for making “fatal” mistakes were different.

“Managers need resources,” said O’Malia, who has spent the past two years on what he calls the “entrepreneurial institute” as he continues to mentor young innovators. “Entrepreneurs are going to make 20 mistakes on the way there. They’re just not going to be fatal mistakes.”

But O’Malia acknowledged that risk of failure is not necessarily a bad thing for entrepreneurs.

“I’ve never known risk takers who were good entrepreneurs,” O’Malia said. “I’ve always known entrepreneurs as very, very good risk managers.”

Introducing entrepreneurship to journalism students isn’t always an easy sell.

“Right now I’m thinking about all my students who are about to graduate,” said journalism professor Sasha Anawalt of the mid-career journalists in the specialized journalism program. “Frankly they were a little resistant to learning entrepreneurial concepts. I said ‘Hold on, you’re going to get into it.’ Now these students feel totally excited about getting out there in the real world.”

Those graduates, O’Malia said, would face a different economic reality for entrepreneurial projects.

“The business models that sustained us for decades are no longer in a position to do that,” O’Malia said of the lack of start-up money that is available, or needed, for entrepreneurial projects in journalism. “You have to create value or attract money.”

Once the idea comes together, O’Malia said, collaborations have to be cultivated.

“The role of entrepreneurship is: your mother was wrong — you have to talk to a lot of strangers,” said O’Malia. “And it’s a conversation of high energy. A lot of magical things can happen when two people get together.”

Wilson agreed.

“This is, in some ways an innovation,” Wilson said. “It’s a conversation between two silos. Conversations take place at the edges…I hope you will continue to bring your edges together.”


Visiting Fellow Rodriguez honored as Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Visiting Fellow Phillip Rodriguez was honored as the 2010 Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the April 10 Hispanic-Net dinner.

Rodriguez is the founder of City Projects, which is a company that creates media for America and invites new audiences to its programs via broadcast, the web and community outreach.

Hispanic-Net is an organization that builds a network of Hispanic entrepreneurs, executives, innovators, and investors to create market leading companies.



Doctoral student Matthew Weber accepts position as Postdoctoral Associate at Duke University

Doctoral student Matthew Weber has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Associate at the newly formed Center for IT & Media at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

The Center for IT & Media focuses on communication and technology issues critical to the information technology and media industries.

Weber will be working with the center to set up a new research agenda examining how organizations effectively use new media to increase productivity, and to examine the role of news and other media as tools for organizational communication.


Published and Presented


Dean Wilson to speak at FCC presentation in Washington, D.C.


Dean Ernest J. Wilson III will participate in a workshop on April 30 titled “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era” held by the Federal Communications Commission’s project on the Future of Media and the Information Needs of Communities.

Wilson will participate in a framing presentation titled “A 1967 Moment…A Vision for Public Media.”

The Washington, D.C. workshop will focus on evolving business and organizational structures of public and other noncommercial media entities and the way they are impacted by government policy, the ways that public media contribute to the information needs of communities across multiple platforms, and many other topics.

The workshop is open to the public, with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. It will also be broadcast live over the Internet from the FCC Live web page at Questions from the Internet audience can be submitted throughout the course of the workshop via e-mail to and via Twitter using the hash tag #FOMwkshop.



Castells participates in REDCAT discussion on power in the digital age

Communication professor and holder of the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology & Society Manuel Castells participated in a conversation on “The Technology of Power in the Digital Age” on April 28 at REDCAT.

Castells will be speaking and answering questions with CalArts President Steven D. Lavine. They will discuss how and if the media frames politics, how citizens are empowered by the internet, how brains process emotions, and other questions.  

Castells has authored 24 books, including “Communication Power.” The conversation between Castells and Lavine will also include audience members.

Castells will also discuss net neutrality and the public commons at the Hammer Forum series with Gigi Sohn on April 27.



K.C. Cole takes part in LA Times Festival of Books, Q-and-A

KC Cole

Journalism professor K.C. Cole participated in the LA Times Festival of Books on April 24. She took part in a panel titled “Science: The Universe Revealed.”

Cole also took part in a Q-and-A session for the LA Times on April 14. She was asked questions about her book, what she is currently reading, and her favorite book or movie about Los Angeles.

“Once people realize that learning about nature is just one ‘oh wow!’ moment after another, they get hooked; it makes you feel more confident in your abilities to understand just about anything, and delight even more in everything from snails to stars,” she said when asked about science writing.



Kaplan pens article "The End of Hollywood as We Know It" (Huffington Post)

Director of the Norman Lear Center and holder of the Lear Chair in Entertainment Martin Kaplan wrote an April 26 article titled "The End of Hollywood As We Know It" for the Huffington Post.

"Whatever the Internet, broadband and wireless brought to the party, they were accompanied by a catastrophic plunge in album sales and ad revenues that decimated the music and newspaper businesses," he said in the article. "Now movies at TV are wondering whether they're next."

"The studios, networks and cable companies are betting that we'll do anything to save the old business models in order to keep the old content coming. Looking at what's happened to music and newspapers, I'm not sure it's such a shrewd bet to place," he continued.

Read the article



Kun gives lecture on "The Music of Black-Jewish Relations"

Communication and journalism professor Josh Kun gave a lecture titled “That Old Black Magic: The Music of Black-Jewish Relations” at the USC Davidson Conference Center on April 25.

He discussed Jews in history that performed black music.  Among other highlighted performances, he discussed Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “Swanee” by George Gershwin and Irving Caesar.



Lih to keynote 2010 Teaching with Technology Conference

Andrew Lih

Journalism professor Andrew Lih will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Provost’s Teaching with Technology Conference 2010 on May 4 at the Davidson Conference Center.

This year’s conference theme is Collaborative Networks. Lih’s presentation will discuss recent developments in journalism and the information marketplace and connect it to efforts in education.



Muller gives keynote speech at Panhandle Press Convention

Journalism professor Judy Muller delivered the keynote speech at the 100th Annual Panhandle Press Convention in Canadian, Texas on the weekend of April 16-18.

Muller spoke about the small-town newspapers in America that are not only surviving during this difficult time, but thriving.

Muller’s book Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns, which is about weekly newspapers in America, is scheduled to be published soon by the University of Nebraska Press.



Sigal writes article on the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (The Guardian UK)

Journalism professor emeritus Clancy Sigal penned an April 14 article titled “Power yields nothing without demand.”

“This week, a  50th anniversary celebration of black and white ‘Freedom Movement’ veterans – survivors, actually – is taking place in Raleigh, North Carolina. Without the incendiary, uncompromising, ‘jail, no bail’ militance of the SNCC volunteers I doubt if the battle for civil rights would have prevailed as rapidly or as – relatively – peacefully,” he said in the article.

“SNCC may not have invented the mass meeting and mass demonstration, but I'd never before seen them employed so dramatically and effectively,” he continued.

Read the article


Chris Smith produces and moderates documentary screening; invited to participate in workshop in South Africa


Communication professor Christopher Smith produced and moderated an April 13 screening of the VH1 documentary "Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America" in partnership with the Annenberg Black Students Association. A discussion after the screening featured  the director and co-producer J. Kevin Swain, executive producer Anthony Maddox, and communication and journalism professor Josh Kun.

Also, Smith recieved an invitation on April 9 to be a participant/presenter for the 2010 Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism which will take place July 18-July 28 at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme of the workshop is "Techniques of Capital: Property, Self-Creation and Politics in Precarious Times."



Winston serves as a panelist on CBC's "Sunday Edition"

Holder of the Knight Chair in Media and Religion Diane Winston served as a panelist on the April 25 edition of Canadian Broadcast Corporation's "Sunday Edition."

Winston discussed recent coverage of religion by the news media during the discussion titled "MediaPhiles:God and the Media." She was interviewed about the Catholic clergy sex scandal.





Blakley mentioned as giving a presentation on the lack of intellectual property law in the fashion industry (USC News)

Former communication professor James R. Beniger remembered in obituaries (Sheboygan Press, LA Times)

Forbes article recommends an academic such as Castells for membership in CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency

Celis on People’s StyleWatch and the merging of advertising and editorial content(NY Times)

Jeffrey Cole named to Board of Directors of Ubiquity Broadcasting Corporation (OC Register)

Cooper and Wilcox on conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart(Pasadena Weekly)

Cull on Chinese classes funded by the Chinese government (NYTimes)

Fleming’s book “Secret Stairs” reviewed (San Fernando Valley Sun)

Gilbert’s study showcasing more young women embracing cyber communities mentioned (SoCal Minds)

Lih’s book “The Wikipedia Revolution” reviewed  ( La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (Italy)

North on predators online (VOA News)

Overholser on the National Enquirer being nominated for a Pulitzer (National Post)

Wilson on innovation at USC Annenberg (Edu Tech)

Reeves book “Daring Young Men” reviewed (The American Spectator, LA Times)

Stables on plans to host a debate tournament via video (NY Times)

Specialized Journalism student Piasecki’s article mentioned (Pasadena Weekly)

Knight Chair in Media and Religion’s Trans/Missions article about the TV show “Glee” cited (USA Today)

Norman Lear Center study on local news highlighted  (KCET)

Neon Tommy article by Grad Student Aron highlighted (LA Observed)

Neon Tommy liveblog of TEDxUSC talk mentioned (AOL News)

Neon Tommy showcased in Romenesko blog