“Intersections” project tells stories of South Los Angeles

To give the communities around USC’s campus an information source and an independent voice while providing entrepreneurial journalism training for its students, USC Annenberg has launched "Intersections: The South Los Angeles Reporting Project” with a gala on-campus event May 5.

The Intersections community news Web site, at www.intersectionssouthla.org, features multimedia reporting by journalism students, community residents and community leaders that focuses on education, economic development, housing and /images/faculty/seidenbergw.jpgimmigration in local communities.

Journalism professors and co-directors of the project Bill Celis and Willa Seidenberg said the site's objectives are three-fold: teaching students urban reporting, partnering with the community, and mentoring local high school students.

"Hyperlocal news sites like Intersections fill a void by supplying meaningful coverage that mainstream media have been unable or unwilling to provide," Celis said. "We're hopeful that the site will, in time, become a widely used resource by the residents of South Los Angeles."

“South Los Angeles may not have the money and clout that other LA neighborhoods have, but it has a wealth of characters, stories and lessons to be learned,” Seidenberg said. “As the journalism industry moves from traditional forms of media to digital delivery systems, residents in low-income neighborhoods cannot be overlooked.

“The Intersections Web site and its experiments with mobile delivery of news pulls together all sectors of this dynamic and changing community to create a meaningful dialogue and a source of valuable news and information,” she added.

The Intersections Web site has multiple layers of community engagement, classroom instruction and different forms of news delivery. It encourages residents to tell their own stories and it imbues a new generation of journalists with a holistic view of their communities. The project is currently engaged in a successful mentoring program at Crenshaw High School, where USC Annenberg journalism students have been working with several classes to produce audio slideshows, radio commentaries and blogs.

The Web site integrates many media outlets and research projects at USC Annenberg, including Annenberg Radio News; the digital magazine “Watt Way;” the Metamorphosis Project, which examines communication patterns in and around urban communities; and VozMob (Mobile Voices), a new project allowing itinerant laborers to tell their stories through cell-phone-based community reporting.

"Intersections demonstrates the important and transformative nature of communication and journalism," said Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. "By pairing hyperlocal reporting resources with the deep knowledge gained through projects such as professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach's 'Metamorphosis' and professor François Bar’s 'VozMob,' we draw attention to untold stories in our local communities that larger media organizations often miss.”

"Urban communities like South Los Angeles are often neglected by the news media, or only covered in relation to the poverty, violence and problems that plague these neighborhoods,” Seidenberg said. “But beyond these facts of urban life is a vibrant community that contributes to making Los Angeles an exciting city in which to report and live.”

Current stories delve into academics at Crenshaw High, improvements at a dangerous intersection near Normandie Elementary School, local immigration issues and a protest for workers’ rights at a Wal-Mart.

"Our students gain experience as entrepreneurial journalists, and the community gains a voice," Dean Wilson said. "We're delighted to play a role in this win-win situation."

Intersections: The South Los Angeles Reporting Project