Facebook executive Madati visits USC Annenberg as M{2e} executive-in-residence

By Jeremy Rosenberg

Kay M. Madati, head of Entertainment & Media at Facebook, Inc, is scheduled to deliver a free-of-charge and open-to-the-public lecture today at noon at USC Annenberg.

Click here to RSVP to attend the lecture, which is titled "The Power of a Connected World" and is presented as part of the school's ongoing Dean's Open Forum series.

Madati has spent four days this week visiting and connecting with a slate of USC Annenberg students, faculty and administrators. Madati has done so through his role as the school's Media, Economics & Entrepreneurship – or M{2e} – 2013 Executive-in-Residence.

"Kay has a phenomenal background," says Christopher Smith, clinical associate professor in communication and co-director of the M{2e} initiative. "He's had a front row seat in how this convergent world has evolved, whereby telecommunications, computing and media have collapsed into one another."

Adds Smith regarding Madati: "He's seen it happen in all these different realms; he's witnessed and participated in the emergence of these new economic relationships."

Understanding the dynamics behind today's turbulent economy was a genesis of M{2e}. The initiative was conceived during the recent global economic nadir – an epoch that overlaps with hugely substantial changes in the production, consumption and purchase of journalism.

"Every single aspect of our social experience, our political process and our cultural moment right now has an economic basis to it," Smith says. "If you don't have that economic literacy, you can't meaningfully participate."

Gabe Kahn is a journalism professor of professional practice and Smith's fellow M{2e} co-director. "M{2e} is about understanding business model disruption in the communication industry," Kahn says. "That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people."

M{2e} is part of USC Annenberg's school-wide effort to equip students with the knowledge required to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the information economy.

When M{2e} debuted in Fall 2011, Kahn and Smith say that only a handful of students signed up for initiative-tagged courses. Interest quickly skyrocketed. "Every course that's been on the books over the past two years has gone from zero to overflowing," Smith says.

Those courses range from "COMM 340: Cultures of New Media," to "JOUR 499 Special Topics: Transmedia, New Media and Strategic Communication" to "COMM 208: Media Economics: Perspectives on Communication Industries." A complete list of 25 communication, four public relations and four journalism courses is available here.

In addition to classes, the initiative also provides fellowships and conducts and sponsors research. Madati is the second M{2e} executive-in-residence. His predecessor, David McCourt, is the founder of Granahan McCourt Capital.

Students who have taken M{2e} courses have begun putting what they learned to work professionally. "The knowledge I gained in the classroom really allowed me to hit the ground running when I started a summer internship at the Los Angeles Times," Andrew Khouri, an alumnus and reporter, said in this M{2e} video produced last year.

"I think the entrepreneurship program is giving journalism students that business edge, and I think after the financial crisis we've seen that it's really important  to be aware of those things," Arezou Rezvani said in that same video. She was then a Journalism graduate student and is now an editorial assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

M{2e} also encourages greater understanding of the information era's various and rapidly emerging and adjusting entrepreneurial options and opportunities. "The way you have to understand a journalism school now is completely different from the way that we understood a journalism school a decade ago," Kahn says. "The idea used to be to teach students how to do what professors had done during their careers."

Now that relationship has changed.

"The professors," Kahn says, "have to figure out how to push the students to do things that they – the professors – never thought were possible. We're inventing the future together."

For M{2e}, that near future includes finalizing a core sequence of courses that students can receive a certificate or degree for completing. Smith anticipates this becoming a reality in the undergraduate communication curriculum as early as this semester. Soon after, Smith expects the same for the specialized master's program and the undergraduate journalism curriculum, with other USC Annenberg tracks likely to follow as well.

In the longer-term, as more and more students, faculty and outside executives become involved with M{2e}, the greater both the public interest and business needs will likely be served. After all, students today are living in a unique time, Kahn says, and the ability to seize and convert opportunities now is greater than it's been in at least a century.

"We really believe," Kahn says, "that if students can understand the economic structure of the media business and how it's changing, if they can hitch that to an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, then the sky's the limit."

M{2e} website

RSVP to the 1/31/13 @noon event

Watch the M{2e} video