Recent alumni's nonprofit Tiziano Project wins "Best in Industry" New Media Award

By Jackson DeMos

The Tiziano Project, a nonprofit collaborative media organization staffed or directed by multiple USC Annenberg alumni and students, recently won the New Media Institute’s 2010 “Best in IndustryNew Media Award in the Culture – Multimedia Storytelling category.

The New Media Institute awarded the Tiziano Project for its 360° Kurdistan, which presents the journalistic efforts and personal accounts of Iraqi citizens living in the Kurdish north alongside the stories of their professional multimedia journalism mentors. The purpose of 360° Kurdistan is to provide viewers with a complete understanding of life, culture and news in Iraqi Kurdistan. A team of four professional journalists and 12 aspiring reporters from across Iraq produced the site as part of a two-month multimedia training program in Erbil. Reporters received training in writing, photography and videography while producing their own stories about the life and times of the region.

"The Tiziano Project is something that we all truly believe in and we decided that we needed to put everything we had into this project to show what our team is capable of," said Tiziano Project executive director Jon Vidar (M.A. Communication Management '06). "Winning this award is validation that our idea, our work, and our efforts are all moving in the right direction. We hope now that other people will be interested in what we are doing and other organizations will look to partner with us in other projects." 

Vidar met Tiziano Project founder and president Andrew McGregor 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 USC Annenberg students or alumni working with the Tiziano Project include director of technology Chris Mendez (Master's Communication Management '11), art director Jessica R. Yurasek (Master's Communication Management '10), and multimedia and videography specialist and mentor David Torstenson (B.A. Broadcast Journalism '03). Journalism professors K.C. Cole and Michael Parks are on the advisory board.

"As I'm finishing my Communication Management degree from Annenberg this semester, working with Tiziano has given me the opportunity to directly apply many of the communication tools that I've learned in my program," Yurasek said. "Primarily this has been the use of brand strategy techniques, social media strategy and image management."

Mendez said the impact of the Tiziano Project can best be seen in the students they teach, who are using new media skills to improve their lives. Two of the students from Northern Iraq recently acquired multimedia jobs where they shoot and produce photo and video stories.

"The reason I joined the Tiziano Project in 2008 was because I liked making an immediate, positive impact within a local community," Mendez said. "I believe that everything starts locally. From there, channels like Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook can help make positive change scalable."

The Tiziano Project is working on new ideas for projects, including one in South Central Los Angeles that teaches at-risk youth. The primary mentor is a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. Another project would take the Tiziano Project back into Iraqi Kurdistan as early as March of 2011.

"We now have our eyes set on the future and we believe that completing this project and receiving this recognition is a large step in the right direction toward growing the organization into that we would like to be," Vidar said.

About The Tiziano Project

The Tiziano Project strives to develop and encourage first-class collaborative journalism on a global scale. We are dedicated to expanding knowledge and access to information worldwide by empowering communities to tell their stories. We provide 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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Master of Communication Management