USC Annenberg Magazine, Spring/Summer 2020

Illustration of a head silhouette with the word "urgency" on it and newspaper clippings

Feature Story

Bearing Witness

The world knows that George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 because the crime was recorded on a smartphone. When the video footage became public, it sparked outrage and protest. Beginning in Minneapolis, then across the United States and around the world, hundreds of thousands of people called for an end to racism and police violence against the Black community.

The throngs in the streets of cities and towns, large and small, were a testament to the power of the act of witnessing. Allissa Richardson, assistant professor of journalism and communication, has been one of the leading public voices on how smartphone videos have created so much momentum for change.

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Features and Columns

Behind the Curtain

We examine how our scholars and practitioners help shape and communicate the world of celebrity.

Female Forces

Three alumnae share their paths to realizing their entrepreneurial dreams and creating their own legacies.

Empowering Youth Through Storytelling

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Nate Howard segued into teaching underserved populations on how to use poetry and spoken word to express their truth.

Working Through the Bad Days

CNN correspondent Nick Valencia reports from the front lines of some of the hardest-hitting news stories of this generation.

Snapshots for Social Change

The photography movement Humans of New York created an activist community through participatory storytelling.

Storytelling in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Graduate alumna Manuelita Maldonado examines if AI can create narratives similar to those done by communication professionals.

Dean’s Note: Truth to Power

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

“Radical change is what we need, but what does radical truly mean?”

Hector Amaya, who recently began his new role as director of our School of Communication, posed this critical question to our faculty this summer.

As we prepare to welcome our next generation of communicators in August, I am struck by the magnitude of considering what it means to be “radical” at this moment. What it means to bring our teaching, scholarship and practice to confront two pandemics: COVID-19 and racial injustice.

Hector also reminded us that “radical” means “roots,” and roots grow where the nutrients are. And I find myself deeply grateful to be leading an academic community that provides such fertile ground for nurturing knowledge-based solutions to the challenges we face.

Reporting on and analyzing networks of communication and community, while speaking truth to power, is what we do. And this has never been more important than right now, as we re-examine our culture, our politics, our economy, our health, and our very core values.

In this issue, we share how our faculty and alumni are investigating the ways witnessing can drive change, shaping the way celebrities connect with the public, and leveraging their entrepreneurial skills to meet the shifting demands of these pandemics.

Our students also continue to bring their passion, persistence and creativity to the work of social justice in general, and racial justice in particular, informing our perspectives in new and important ways. Their tireless coverage of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is among the many examples of their talent, skill and courage celebrated in this issue.

These efforts show how communication and storytelling can unite us all as we chart our “radical” path forward — shining a light on both our best and worst selves, our triumphs and our tragedies, our individualism and our shared humanity.