By Gretchen Parker
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication has granted only three of the awards in the past; USC Annenberg is the fourth recipient of the accolade that recognizes “progress and innovation in racial, gender and ethnic equity and diversity.”
“It is powerful indeed to be recognized for something so important to us at Annenberg and so essential to our craft and to our nation,” said Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism. “Journalism helps us know one another, address challenges and build a future. Everyone must be represented in the story if we are to achieve these goals. I am grateful to so many of my colleagues, who know this in their hearts, and to Los Angeles, where enthusiasm for change is in the DNA.”
In the last four years, the School of Journalism has hired nine new faculty; six of whom are people of color or women (including Overholser, the first female director in the School’s history). Of the School’s 41 fulltime faculty, 32 percent are now members of underrepresented groups or women.
Meanwhile, last fall’s incoming class of graduate students was the most diverse ever. And graduate curriculum revisions this year infused classwork more than ever before with assignments that focus on diversity and celebrate difference. Upcoming undergraduate revisions are on track to do the same. And in regularly held forums, leaders are booking a broader range of speakers, to offer students more diverse viewpoints across issues.
In addition, the Annenberg Diversity Initiative, “Celebrating Difference,” produced several recommendations designed to educate students in how to cover race and class, understand the nuance and data of such stories and avoid stereotypes in coverage.
The initiative was lauded by the AEJMC awards committee as a potential model for other schools.
“’Celebrating Difference’ provides journalism and mass communication programs across the country with several useful recommendations for addressing equity and diversity issues,’” said Dwight E. Brooks, journalism professor at Middle Tennessee State University and chairman of the committee.
Journalism School Associate Director Bill Celis, who also is an associate professor and chaired the initiative, said USC Annenberg has made “great strides in how we teach and think about diversity in its many forms.” “The award recognizes the work of many colleagues in journalism and strategic public relations who hold fast the idea that we must change the way we prepare students for 21st century America,” he said.
AEJMC’s awards committee also praised the school’s community outreach.
“The committee was impressed by the program’s partnerships with CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California and The Maynard Institute for Journalism,” Brooks said. “These partnerships represent strong commitments to diversity while also strengthening community media outreach efforts.”
AEJMC noted USC Annenberg’s outreach via community news sites that explore and serve underrepresented neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area:
Intersections: South LA delves into working-class, immigrant and Latino and African-American neighborhoods and also mentors high school students, who contribute to the site along with other South LA residents.
Alhambra Source, located in the city east of LA, covers news in Mandarin, Spanish and English and also has a mentoring component as well as regular contributions from residents.
Boyle Heights Beat, a collaboration with La Opinion, publishes online and in print – in Spanish and English – and targets the 90,000 residents of the East LA community of Boyle Heights. It and also has a mentoring component as well as regular contributions from residents.
The 2012 Equity & Diversity Award will be presented Thursday, Aug. 9 during the keynote session of the AEJMC Conference in Chicago. Incoming AEJMC president Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon also will travel to USC Annenberg during the 2012-13 academic year to make an on-campus presentation of the award.