USC Annenberg Magazine, Fall 2018

Fall 2018 USC Annenberg magazine cover

Feature story

The Search for Ethics

Safiya Umoja Noble had just begun researching the inner workings of search engines in 2009 when a colleague quipped, “You should see what happens when you Google ‘black girls.’”

Assistant Professor of Communication Safiya Noble. Photo by: John Davis
“I am a black girl,” Noble recalled. “I have a daughter. I have lots of nieces. I immediately did the search.” 

She got back a page full of pornography.

“That started me on a deeper line of inquiry about the way in which misrepresentation happens for women of color on the internet, and the broader social consequences of that,” said Noble, assistant professor of communication. “This was happening on the internet, a forum where people think of the information that they come across is objective, neutral and credible.”

Noble had previously spent 15 years in marketing and advertising, working for some of the largest Fortune 100 brands in the United States. As she was leaving corporate America and beginning graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the late 2000s, she started scrutinizing the rise of digital technologies — Google in particular. She noticed that many of her peers were touting the “liberatory” effect that Google was having on the information space. 

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The USC Annenberg Magazine is published twice a year. USC Annenberg welcomes comments from its readers to


The USC Annenberg Magazine is published twice a year. USC Annenberg welcomes comments from its readers to

Features and Columns

Game Face

Thomas Williams first gets his audience riled up with a chant. “Give me one clap. Give me two claps. Give me three claps. Whoo!”

Follow Me

Truman Burbank is on his knees digging around in his garden. His rear end is to the camera as his wife, Meryl, dressed in her nurse’s uniform, arrives home on her bike. “Hi, honey,” she says.

Michael Nyman Has Great expectations

Michael Nyman ’86 was at the top of his game. He successfully merged two prominent marketing and communication firms into the nation’s leading culture and entertainment agency.

Shawna Thomas on Taking (The Right) Risks

When the president of the United States disparages journalists and calls their work “fake news,” how should the Fourth Estate respond?

An App and a Carrot

Norma’s family steers clear of vegetables. Even when she receives veggies from her food pantry, she knows only a few ways to prepare them and her family grows bored with the bland tastes and textures.

Not Your Parents’ Film Criticism

Film criticism died at the birth of television. At least, that’s what former Time movie critic and editor-in-chief of Film Comment Richard Corliss said in his 1990 column, “All Thumbs: Or, Is There a Future for Film Criticism?”

Dean’s Note: New Conversations at Annenberg

by Willow Bay
Dean and Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication

Today, we have unprecedented opportunities to connect, communicate and access information. Yet many of us feel less connected and less informed. At this moment of profound and, at times, destabilizing change, USC Annenberg’s mission has never been more urgent. 

As you have probably heard me say before... our world has been rewired. And no one left us a user’s manual. 

One of the most critical ways I believe we can lead the way forward is by expanding USC Annenberg’s presence in the public square to create new opportunities for conversation, dialogue and debate. 

Over the past year we have been the center for numerous wide-ranging and important discussions, including those around diverse voices in entertainment and media; the rise of bots and the radicalization of rhetoric; race in the fashion industry; athletes as activists; and ethics and equity in the digital age. 

These are more than conversations; rather, they represent our deep engagement with the issues — scholarly and professional — and the meaningful connections we are forging with experts and industry partners. 

After surveying readers last year, we learned that you are eager for us to position you at the heart of these discussions, too. In fact, 86 percent of you want this magazine to deepen and strengthen your relationship with USC Annenberg. You also want to know how your fellow alumni are innovating and impacting their fields, how our students are connecting what they learn in the classroom to the real world, and how our faculty are uncovering and advancing vital new knowledge. 

We have completely reimagined this magazine — in content and design — to offer you a twice-yearly “user’s manual” you can rely on for insights around the challenges and opportunities of our day. 

I want us to do more than be part of the conversation. I want us to lead the conversation. Through USC Annenberg Magazine, we hope to demonstrate how our USC Annenberg community is answering our founder Walter H. Annenberg’s charge to use communication to understand the great changes before us.