Recent alumni's Tiziano Project awarded grant to teach journalism in Iraq

Tiziano The Tiziano Project, a nonprofit organization staffed and directed by five USC Annenberg alumni or students, was awarded a $25,000 grant from Chase Community Giving that will be used to establish a three-month journalism training program for youth in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Tiziano Project gives training in journalism and multimedia technology to help residents of conflict zones document their experiences and develop skills to help them pursue careers in journalism or at nonprofit organizations. More than 2,000 people supported the project in the first round of Chase Trust’s online contest to help fund grassroots organizations in the United States. The contest recognized the 100 most popular charities out of more than 500,000 nonprofits that registered on Facebook.

Jon Vidar“We were overwhelmed by the amount of people who advocated for our organization among larger, more well-known organizations,” said Jonathan Vidar (M.A. Communication Management '06, pictured on left), interim executive director and director of Near East Operations for The Tiziano Project. “We are humbled that our mission to empower youth in underreported areas around the world spoke to so many.”

Andrew McGregorVidar met Tiziano Project founder and president Andrew McGregor (right) in a spring 2007 photojournalism class at USC Annenberg, where they discussed the vision of teaching journalism and creating jobs in war-torn regions. By that summer they were in Kigali, Rwanda to educate talented and dedicated locals to produce content for Western news agencies.

Other Annenberg current or past students working with the Tiziano Project include director of technology Chris Mendez (Master's Communication Management '11, below left), director of operations for East Africa Thomas Rippe (M.A. Print Journalism '07, below right), and multimedia and videography specialist and mentor David Torstenson (B.A. Broadcast Journalism '03, bottom left). Journalism professors K.C. Cole and Michael Parks are mentors.

McGregor said he started The Tiziano Project because he thought it was immoral to have undocumented mass murder occur in the world at the same time technological advances have produced Web sites such as YouTube that are easy for anybody with a video camera and Internet access to use.

"I thought that if the mainstream press was unable to cover the plight of people in these situations, then perhaps the people suffering could cover it themselves if they were provided with the tools and training necessary to create and distribute their own stories."

Chris MendezVidar said he has been amazed at how receptive the people in other countries have been to being trained as journalists.

"Dave, Chris and I went to Iraq in the summer of 2008 and brainstormed ideas for students to cover stories," Vidar said. "When the first class came around, the students came up with a list three times longer than the one we came up with that was way better than ours. It's their culture. They've lived it all their lives. We're just helping them tell their own story."

Thomas RippeThis summer in Iraq, The Tiziano Project will send four multimedia journalism specialists to train a select group of students in photography, new media and videography and will be regularly producing online news packages about the development and culture of the area. The program will build off of a three-week training workshop completed in Sulaymaniyah in 2008.

About The Tiziano Project

David TortensonThe Tiziano Project strives to develop and encourage first-class collaborative journalism on a global scale. It is dedicated to expanding knowledge and access to information worldwide by empowering communities to tell their stories. It provides community members in conflict, post-conflict and underreported regions with the equipment, training and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives.

The Tiziano Project is always looking for equipment donations and frequent flier miles to help offset the cost of sending trainers around the world. If you would like to help or for more information, please e-mail:

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