The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (Arts and Culture) comprises two separate and distinct journalism concentrations – one focusing on the arts and the other on food. These journalism disciplines begin at the same place of origin with a seven-week 3-unit summer digital immersion course, and join forces for one required course in the fall. After that they go their separate ways, each required to take the same number of units, including a 2-unit commitment to a thesis project in each of the fall and spring semesters.

The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (Arts and Culture) is primarily geared toward the experienced journalist, and yet it also, with no less parity, welcomes the amateur. What must be demonstrated prior to acceptance is a strong record of interest and competence in a subject area. For the arts, this spans the critical environments of film, television, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture and visual arts. We welcome artists with a solid background and/or arts conservatory training who express sincere commitment to wanting to learn the journalism practice and skills to tell compelling stories. The arts master’s students’ electives will primarily be taken at one or more of USC’s arts schools. For food MA students, a demonstrable knowledge about food, and a socio-political understanding and curiosity about the places where food intersects with culture is expected.

For both concentrations, the emphasis is on culture: arts and culture; food and culture. This program is multidisciplinary and entrepreneurial. The university is a laboratory for experimentation, enlisting the skills of professional artists, journalists, economists, technologists, entrepreneurs, alumni and citizens to welcome students of varied experience and omnivorous interests. Print, online, audio, video and social media are practiced and taught in this program with equal opportunity.

Students will complete 20-25 units of specialized journalism course work, including a master’s professional project and 9-14 units of approved elective course work from faculty-recommended lists. For those on the arts journalism track, other electives must be in at least two arts schools ideally with at least 8 units from one school. The arts schools are Architecture, Art and Design, Cinematic Arts, Dance, Dramatic Arts and Music.

Students must begin the program in summer term, enrolling in a required 3-unit intensive summer session course focused on journalism and society and digital media. In addition to the formal classes, the course includes discussions, workshops and field reporting. This gateway course provides master’s students with a working knowledge of the specialized journalism background and the multimedia and digital storytelling skills necessary for study in the program. It sets the stage for two semesters of access to courses as substantively broad as a major research university such as USC makes available. Students also take media law, one required writing course and another required in audio in the summer. 

In the fall semester, arts journalism students will enroll in an arts reporting and online magazine production seminar and a narrative writing practicum. In the spring, arts journalism students will enroll in an arts reporting and online magazine production seminar.

In the fall semester, food journalism students will enroll in a food journalism course focusing on Los Angeles and California and a course on food media and culture. In the spring semester, food journalism students will enroll in reporting on global issues course and a food narrative writing course. 

With the advice of their academic adviser and faculty mentors, students will select elective course work appropriate to their fields of specialization. These courses will be drawn from regular graduate and 400-level courses taught across 14 of the university’s schools and within the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Students also will begin research for their master’s professional project. These projects may be full-length magazine (print, audio, broadcast and/or multimedia) treatments of issues in their field or similar professional work. 

The 11-month program has been designed for a summer, fall and spring semester enrollment cycle; however, students also may elect to complete the program on a part-time basis with the approval of the director of the School of Journalism, but must start with the intensive summer course.

Studies toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (the Arts) require 34 units of prescribed courses and approved electives. No more than 11 units of 400-level course work may be applied toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (Arts and Culture).


The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism can be completed in an 11-month enrollment cycle that includes the four-week summer session, plus the fall and spring semesters. These programs may be attended on a part-time basis.

Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirements

There is no foreign language or research tool requirement for the master’s degree.

Master’s Thesis

MA in Specialized Journalism students normally enroll in JOUR 594a (2 units) and JOUR 594b (2 units) in their single year of study.

For complete admission requirements refer to the section on the School of Journalism page. 

Course requirements (34 units)

Required Courses:

  • JOUR 511 Introduction to Narrative Non-Fiction (1 unit)
  • JOUR 515 Introduction to Audio Storytelling (1 unit)
  • JOUR 528 Summer Digital Journalism Immersion (3 units)
  • JOUR 560 Seminar in Mass Communication Law (2 units)
  • JOUR 594a Master’s Thesis (2 units)
  • JOUR 594b Master’s Thesis (2 units)

Concentration Courses:

Choose all courses from either the arts concentration or the food concentration.

Arts Concentration:

  • JOUR 591 Arts Writing Practicum (3 units)
  • JOUR 592 Arts Journalism: Storytelling and Production (3 units)
  • JOUR 593 Arts Criticism and Commentary (3 units)

Food Concentration:**

  • JOUR 458 Media, Food and Culture (4 units)
  • JOUR 568 The Art of (Micro) Food Journalism: Los Angeles and California (3 units)
  • JOUR 569 The Art of (Macro) Food Journalism: A Global View (3 units)

Elective Courses:

  • Plus 9-14 approved elective units (400-level courses and above). 


*All students must take their elective coursework (400-level courses and above) from faculty-recommended lists with advisement from the program director and USC Annenberg’s graduate advisement assistant director.  The number of elective units is based on the concentration category selected. No more than 11 units of 400-level electives may be taken. For the arts students, these electives must be in at least two arts schools, ideally with at least 8 units from one school. The arts schools are Architecture, Art and Design, Cinematic Arts, Dance, Dramatic Arts and Music. If an arts student wants to take an elective course outside of these schools, your petition will be heard and duly considered. For the food concentration student, these electives are not restricted across the university except at the discretion of the individual professor. Permission may be required.

This page is based on the current 2023-2024 USC Catalogue. The 2024-2025 USC Catalogue will be published in summer 2024.

** The course JOUR 597 Food Culture Journalism (4 units) was removed from this list as it is not being offered.