Curriculum

The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism is a program geared toward experienced journalists seeking subject matter expertise and toward experienced professionals in other fields seeking journalism skills to advance their expertise. The program is also open to recent School of Journalism graduates with records of excellence in their university classes and internships and a demonstrated aptitude and commitment to developing an expertise in a specialized field of reporting.

In the SJ program, award-winning, experienced journalists guide students toward publication in professional outlets, generating “impact journalism” that makes a difference.  Students are encouraged to explore documentary, investigative, and narrative journalism genres through a range of specialties and disciplines, including international reporting, social justice journalism and reporting on religion, climate change, sports, entertainment and other subjects. Under the guidance of faculty advisers, and with a wide range of electives for study throughout the university, students craft their own unique master’s degree.

Students must begin the program in summer term, enrolling in a required 3-unit, intensive session course focused on journalism and society and on digital media. In addition to the formal classes, the course includes multimedia skills workshops. This gateway course provides the master’s students with a working knowledge of the specialized journalism and the multimedia storytelling skills necessary for study in the program. Students also are required take a 2-unit class in media law and a 1-credit course in narrative nonfiction in the summer. These classes set the stage for two semesters of access to courses as substantively broad as a major research university such as USC makes available and for advanced courses in the School of Journalism’s graduate program.

In the fall semester, students will enroll in the required “Power of Narrative” and “Critical Thinking” courses for journalists in the School of Journalism. They will also select from one of the reporting tracks or reporting platforms. 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 in Annenberg or across the university. Students also will begin research for their master’s professional project. Thesis topics must be approved in advance by faculty. These projects will be extended works of journalism, such as a full-length magazine article, similar radio, television or multimedia treatments or the equivalent in their professional field. In addition, students will choose one or more concentrations from the available reporting tracks and platforms. These include additional required classes of a minimum of three units each.

In the spring semester, students will enroll in approved electives. Students will also enroll in elective course work, depending on their chosen concentration, selected again from offerings across the university and in consultation with their faculty mentors. Finally, students will complete their master’s professional project.

Reporting Tracks

Race and Social Justice

Develop the skills, critical thinking and expertise to report on the ongoing struggles over race, equality and justice in America. Students will deepen their understanding of the struggle for racial equality and justice through the study of critical theories of race, the lived experiences of journalists of color in newsrooms, and the history and coverage of race and justice in California and beyond.  Students will understand the way history, global discourses, newsroom dynamics and technological change are shaping foundational social issues, forming practical knowledge of how race manifests in and shapes reporting in the media today. Students will apply these ideas in the service of producing compelling, deeply-reported stories on race and justice, for publication in local, national, and international media outlets. 

Sports and Society

Tap into Annenberg’s vast resources to produce deeply- informed, socially-aware sports journalism in LA and around the world. USC Annenberg’s location in downtown Los Angeles positions students at the hub Southern California’s sports media landscape, close to major networks and digital outlets. Students cover the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Kings, Rams, Chargers and Sparks, plus top-level college athletics and Olympic competition. Annenberg faculty have built unparalleled relationships across multiple media platforms and including athletes, coaches and content creators. Students produce on-site field reporting, write longer-form and investigative sports stories, and meet leaders and executives from the NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL and MLS. Students will also learn the social, political and economic context of sports in American society and culture, equipping them with the tools for both top-notch reporting and critical analysis in a rapidly changing, global sports media environment.

Entertainment and Pop Culture

Go beyond the red carpet to produce deeply reported stories on the culture, social impact, ethics and economics of entertainment and pop culture. Entertainment journalism has a profound impact on how people view politics, government, race, gender and international affairs. With Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, as the backdrop, students will be steeped in the content, social impact, history, ethics and economics of entertainment and pop culture reporting in the United States and the world. Building on this understanding, and critical skills of research, interviewing, writing and production, students will produce groundbreaking reporting on journalism and pop culture. And, they will be introduced to key players, leaders and celebrities, to understand and challenge those who are making decisions that are having an impact on our lives. 

Religion

Through Annenberg’s Knight Chair in Media and Religion, explore the intersection among religion, politics and culture to write complex stories reported domestically and internationally. Religion plays a crucial role in domestic politics and international relations. Spirituality – the individual search for meaning – shapes our sense of self and our orientation to the world. Report on what gives nations, communities and individuals meaning, identity and purpose whether through arts and entertainment, sports, climate concern, racial justice, politics or humanitarian outreach. Each year, the class travels abroad for an immersive reporting experience focused on religion, politics and culture in countries such as India, Indonesia, South Korea and Israel/Palestine.  

International

Combine on-location global reporting through Annenberg with study of international issues across USC, to build top-notch international reporting expertise. To report on the world, you must know the world. Students who opt to specialize in international reporting explore international relations, public policy, religion, health, immigration and environmental studies across the university in tandem with their journalism courses at USC Annenberg. Students have traveled to and reported from countries like Greece, Ireland and Indonesia. As an extension of their coursework, students have also partnered with various media organizations like The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Daily Beast and Public Radio International to have their stories published.

Climate

Work with top climate journalists and experts in science and public policy to build top-notch climate reporting expertise. From devastating hurricanes to annual record-breaking heat waves, from “sunny-day floods” in southern Florida to the annual new normal of a California on fire, climate change has reached deep into the American landscape, its economy, politics, even its collective psyche. With these effects has come new awareness, and an urgency to tackle the problem. Never has there been such a need for an original, compelling and accurate accounting of the threat of climate change, and the promise of constructive measures to address it. Students will sharpen their expertise in climate science and social policy, and consider agriculture, water and food sustainability, while producing groundbreaking narrative, documentary and investigative reporting on a central issue of our time.

Reporting Platforms

Documentary

Report beyond the news through in-depth storytelling and analyses of issues you are passionate about, and contextualize them for a broader audience. The documentary sequence at USC Annenberg provides an opportunity to report beyond the news. You have the opportunity do in-depth analyses of stories that you are passionate about and learn ways to contextualize them for a broader audience. Completed docs are eligible for publication on Impact, a student-produced series that is featured on the Annenberg Media website, and is broadcast by Spectrum News1, L.A.’s 24-hour news channel. You will learn advanced ideas centering on visual literacy, production, techniques to manage large amounts of content, and organized approaches to building documentaries for multi-platform distribution. These are skills that translate to all aspects of journalism.

Data and Innovation

Enhance new forms of storytelling, develop smarter platforms to deliver news, explore techniques in data mining and work on new business models to increase the value of journalistic content. Journalism is at the midst of a bold transformation. The Data and Innovation track is designed for students who are seeking to embrace the technologies that have opened up new frontiers for the profession and to capitalize on this moment by charting the next phase of the communications revolution. Students work closely with leading players in the industry to: (1) enhance new forms of storytelling; (2) develop smarter platforms to deliver news; (3) improve reporting techniques and data mining; and (4) work on new business models to increase the value of journalistic content.

Podcasting and Audio

Explore the power of audio storytelling through advanced production and mixing techniques, narrative point of view, and the history, economics and journalistic range of the podcast. The Audio and Podcasting track gives students grounding in the production and business of podcasting as an outlet for their journalistic work. Students will explore the power of audio storytelling, from classic public radio-style productions to innovative and experimental podcasts. They will learn advanced production and mixing techniques, narrative point of view and the history, economics and journalistic range of the podcast. They will develop a discerning ear for quality audio content and the best practices for effective oral communication. Course work will also expose students to non-production aspects of podcasting such as branding, marketing, distribution, analytics, monetization and legal issues.   

Investigative

USC Annenberg is seeking students and early-career journalists of exceptional promise who aspire to journalism’s highest calling: producing stories that expose harm, wrongdoing, abuse of power. Stories that matter. Building on the work of the Beacon Project, profiled in The New York Times, you will work on a major investigative project under the mentorship of award-winning journalists who will help place deserving stories in professional news outlets. You will learn how to find documents most reporters would not even think to look for; persuade reluctant or hostile sources to reveal their secrets; obtain and analyze data; protect your sources with digital-security savvy and counter-surveillance techniques; bulletproof your stories against libel actions and write compelling stories for text, audio or video.

Narrative

Immerse yourself in myriad ways of nonfiction and longform storytelling, learning from award-winning authors and magazine writers the best ways to produce compelling narrative journalism. Top narrative journalists will show you how to cut through the crowded content landscape to tell the stories that matter. In the narrative track, you will learn nonfiction storytelling techniques across a range of styles and interests of your choice – from the arts to religion and social justice issues, from climate reporting to sports and entertainment – to tell the stories that matter. In the process, you will examine fundamental principles embedded in all good narrative journalism: in-depth, empathetic, and creative storytelling. Work that makes a difference. Here you will learn how to create the “journalism of the heart” – groundbreaking, deeply-reported, humane storytelling that bears witness to the world around us.

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

Studies toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism require 34 units of prescribed courses and approved electives. No more than 10 units of 400-level course work may be applied toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism.

Residence

The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism can be completed in an 11-month enrollment cycle that includes the seven-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.

Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP)

Journalism and strategic public relations graduate students are required to complete an online tutorial about Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP) and pass the GSP test before the end of the fall semester of their first year. Students who fail to complete the GSP tutorial and pass the test will not receive a degree from the School of Journalism.

Note: Students with disabilities may register with the Disability Services and Programs office (DSP) so the DSP staff can assess the nature of the students’ disabilities and recommend the appropriate accommodations to be provided for each student.

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

  • JOUR 511 – Introduction to Narrative Non-Fiction (1 unit)
  • JOUR 528 – Summer Digital Journalism Immersion (3 units)
  • JOUR 560 – Seminar in Mass Communication Law (2 units)
  • JOUR 567 – The Power of Narrative (2 units)
  • JOUR 594a – Master's Thesis  (2 units)
  • JOUR 594b – Master's Thesis  (2 units)
  • JOUR 595 – Critical Thinking: The Art and Science of Not Getting Fooled  (3 units)

One course from:

  • JOUR 411 – Broadcast and Digital Writing for Video and Audio for Non-Majors (2 units)
  • JOUR 431 – Feature Writing (4 units)
  • JOUR 517 – Advanced Investigative Reporting  (4 units)
  • JOUR 519 – Advanced Writing and Reporting for Magazine and the Web (4 units)
  • JOUR 523 – Public Radio Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 525 – This California Life: Storytelling for Radio and Podcasting  (4 units)
  • JOUR 552 – Television Reporting and Production (2 units)
  • JOUR 588 – Cities, Climate and Risk  (3 units)

Concentrations:

Choose one reporting track or platform.

Climate:

Required course:

JOUR 588 – Cities, Climate and Risk  (3 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • CMGT 564 – Methodological Fundamentals of Big Data in Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 502 – Theoretical Approaches to Multidisciplinary Design Projects (4 units)
  • COMM 557 – Data Science for Communication and Social Networks (4 units)
  • COMM 614 – Computational Approaches in Health Communication (4 units)
  • JOUR 497 – Data Visualization and Interactive Tools (2 units)
  • JOUR 553 – Coding and Programming for Storytelling (2 units)
  • JOUR 554 – Reporting with Data (2 units)
  • JOUR 555 – Advanced Coding for Creative Storytelling (2 units)
  • JOUR 561 – Fundamentals of Data Journalism Reporting (2 units)
  • PR 478 – Social Media Analytics: Data and Content Creation for Real-time Public Relations (4 units)
  • PR 522 – Storytelling with Data Intelligence (3 units)
  • PR 523 – Advanced Audience Insight Mining (3 units)

Documentary:

Required courses:

  • JOUR 503 – Visual Literacy and Introduction to Documentary Storytelling (1 unit)
  • JOUR 521 – Documentary Pre-Production (2 units)
  • JOUR 522 – Video Documentary Production (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • JOUR 405 – Non-Fiction Television (4 units)
  • JOUR 431 – Feature Writing (4 units)
  • JOUR 519 – Advanced Writing and Reporting for Magazine and the Web (4 units)

Entertainment and Pop Culture:

Required courses:

  • COMM 458m – Race and Ethnicity in Entertainment and the Arts (4 units)
  • JOUR 572 – Reporting on Entertainment and Popular Culture (3 units)

Electives:

Choose at least two courses:

  • CMGT 543 – Managing Communication in the Entertainment Industry (4 units)
  • COMM 426 – Religion, Media and Hollywood: Faith in TV (4 units)
  • COMM 430 – Global Entertainment (4 units)
  • COMM 431 – Global Strategy for the Communications Industry (4 units)
  • COMM 432 – American Media and Entertainment Industries (4 units)
  • COMM 433 – Home Entertainment: From Networks to Streaming (4 units)
  • COMM 456 – Entertainment, Marketing and Culture (4 units)
  • COMM 465m – Gender in Media Industries and Products (4 units)
  • JOUR 430 – Writing the Film Review (4 units)
  • JOUR 446 – Entertainment Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 447 – Arts Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 458 – Media, Food and Culture (4 units)
  • JOUR 459 – Fact and Fiction: From Journalism to the Docudrama (4 units)
  • JOUR 576 –The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture Seminar (2 units)
  • PR 452 – Public Relations in Entertainment (4 units)
  • PR 457 – The Role of Celebrity in Public Relations (4 units)

International:

Required course:

JOUR 585 – Specialized Reporting: Religion (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • JOUR 484 – American Religion, Foreign Policy and the News Media (4 units)
  • JOUR 542 – Foreign Affairs Reporting (3 units)

Investigative:

Required courses:

  • JOUR 517 – Advanced Investigative Reporting (4 units)
  • JOUR 539 – Introduction to Investigative Reporting (2 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • JOUR 553 – Coding and Programming for Storytelling (2 units)
  • JOUR 554 – Reporting with Data (2 units)
  • JOUR 555 – Advanced Coding for Creative Storytelling (2 units)
  • JOUR 561 – Fundamentals of Data Journalism Reporting (2 units)
  • PR 523 – Advanced Audience Insight Mining (3 units)

Narrative:

Required course (choose one):

  • JOUR 431 Feature Writing (4 units)
  • JOUR 519 Advanced Writing and Reporting for Magazine and the Web (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least two courses:

  • JOUR 400 – Interpretive Writing (4 units)
  • JOUR 440 – Environmental Journalism (4 units)
  • JOUR 447 – Arts Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 470 – Community Journalism (2 units)
  • JOUR 474 – Interviewing and Profile Writing (2 units)
  • JOUR 512 – Advanced Interpretive Writing (2 units)
  • JOUR 585 – Specialized Reporting: Religion (4 units)
  • JOUR 588 – Cities, Climate and Risk (3 units)
  • JOUR 592 – Arts Journalism: Storytelling and Production (3 units)
  • JOUR 593 – Arts Criticism and Commentary (3 units)
  • JOUR 596 – Follow the Money: Business and Economics (3 units)

Podcasting and Audio:

Required courses:

  • JOUR 523 – Public Radio Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 525 –This California Life: Storytelling for Radio and Podcasting (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • JOUR 407 – The World of Podcasting (4 units)
  • JOUR 575 – Converged Media Center (2, 4 units)

Race and Justice:

Required course:

JOUR 580 – Reporting on Race and Justice (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • CMGT 584 – Communication and the Multicultural Marketplace (4 units)
  • COMM 458m – Race and Ethnicity in Entertainment and the Arts (4 units)
  • COMM 563 – Black Popular Culture: Theory and Central Debates (4 units)
  • JOUR 406 – Social Media Storytelling for Latinx Audiences (2 units)
  • JOUR 465m – Latino News Media in the United States (4 units)
  • JOUR 467 – Gender and the News Media (4 units)
  • JOUR 468m – The American Press and Issues of Sexual Diversity (4 units)

Religion:

Required course:

JOUR 585 –  Specialized Reporting: Religion (4 units)

Electives:

Choose at least one course:

  • COMM 426 – Religion, Media and Hollywood: Faith in TV (4 units)
  • JOUR 484 – American Religion, Foreign Policy and the News Media (4 units)

Sports and Society:

Required course:

JOUR 574 – Sports and Society (3 units)

Electives: 

Choose at least two courses:

  • CMGT 546 – Sports Media and Society (4 units)
  • JOUR 403 – Television News and Sports Production (6 units)
  • JOUR 404 – Produce and Host Sports Content in Studio A (2 units)
  • JOUR 432 – Sports Commentary (4 units)
  • JOUR 435 – Writing Magazine Non-Fiction (4 units)
  • JOUR 441 – Sports Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 479 – Storytelling for Action Sports (4 units)
  • JOUR 481 – The Athlete, Sports Media and Popular Culture (4 units)
  • JOUR 519 – Advanced Writing and Reporting for Magazine and the Web (4 units)
  • JOUR 571 – 21st Century Sports Storytelling (3 units)
  • PR 453 – Public Relations Strategies for Working with Athletes (4 units)

Total units: 34


This page is based on the current 2021-2022 USC Catalogue. The 2022-2023 USC Catalogue will be published in Summer 2022.