Johnny Flores’ journey to USC Annenberg started in the rural farmlands of the Coachella Valley, where his grandfather tilled the fields well into his 70s.
While the schools near his home were not well-funded, Flores ’19 had the opportunity to attend a prestigious high school several miles away. “That was a huge culture shock for me,” he said. “There’s a great divide between the haves and have-nots. The western side of Palm Desert is more affluent, but I acclimated quickly and took advantage of the resources made available to me,” Flores said.
A guidance counselor encouraged him to think about college; a school trip to Princeton University cemented his field of study once he got there.
A two-week journalism workshop at the Ivy League university introduced Flores to investigative news reporting, feature writing and film and sports reporting. But it was his interview with Mitch Henderson, head coach of the men’s basketball team, that left the strongest impression on him.
While he was an avid sports fan from an early age, Flores didn’t know until after this interview was over that sports writing was something he wanted to do for a career. “Interviewing Henderson confirmed that this was a tangible dream,” Flores said. “I felt I could use my strength as a bilingual reporter to reach broader audiences and connect with Spanish-speaking athletes.”
When it came time to apply to universities, USC was at the top of his list.
Once Flores got to USC, he started taking advantage of the many internship opportunities available for USC Annenberg students. One of his first assignments was for his hometown newspaper, The Desert Sun, where he worked as a sports reporter. “Growing up, I read The Desert Sun almost daily. In high school, I would see my classmates featured in the sports section; to be able to write about sports and work with many of the reporters I grew up reading is something I will never forget,” he said.
Over the next two years, Flores returned to the Sun as a digital intern and reporter, refining his writing skills. “I remember chasing down Major League Baseball players for quotes and meeting on-the-rise athletes and championship-winning soccer players,” he said.
In addition to the Sun, Flores interned on the digital team for USA Today Sports and participated in the New York Maymester in his sophomore year. During the Maymester experience, he had the chance to visit the Major League Baseball (MLB) Network, where he was exposed to live broadcasts, behind-the-scenes coverage and an “inside-the-studio” perspective.
This past summer, he participated in a two-week fellowship at The New York Times, where he served as a copy editor and worked alongside seasoned editors. He learned how to edit stories, found ways to streamline content and worked with writers on crafting tone.
“I became part of the newsroom,” Flores said. “I was in the heart of New York City, working on tight deadlines and learning valuable leadership skills that come with editing. It was invigorating.”
After the two weeks were over, Flores allowed himself a short break before starting his second internship of the summer, this time at Yahoo Sports, where he was hired as a digital social media intern.
Here, Flores developed another set of skills where he was able to exercise his creativity as a journalist and push visual stories through various media. He not only helped curate MLB’s social platforms, he posted the content regularly to Yahoo Sports’ handles. Through these tasks, he learned the importance of elevating a brand’s voice so that it resonates with its audience and stands out among competitors.
“I normally follow several MLB games a night and would routinely suggest content to our writers,” he said. This inspired adding search-friendly headlines and creating photo galleries and video, which he was able to monitor to see which content generated clicks and engagement.
As Flores enters his senior year, he said he truly appreciates how USC Annenberg has taught him to turn theory into practice.
“My journalism skills were refined at the internships over the years,” he said, “but the internships would not be possible without the academic skills learned in my courses. From multiplatform editing, reporting, and social media journalism, I am more than confident in my ability to join the workforce immediately after graduation.”
Flores was recently asked to return to Yahoo Sports as a freelance social media editor, reporting for the MLB.