USC Annenberg trains young adults in South LA to report on their communities

Dozens of South Los Angeles residents, community leaders, journalists, and USC Annenberg students, faculty and staff congregated on June 27 at Mercado La Paloma to celebrate the launch of the second class of Reporter Corps.

Aspiring journalists from across South LA shared personal issues they wanted to explore in their community: What is it like today to be a gay youth in Watts? Could a charter school replace the need for affluent Baldwin Hills African American families to send their children elsewhere for schools? What changed in middle school so that all but one of the kids on a South Central block decided “college isn’t for us,” and most ended up in jail or pregnant?

In the next two months, these young people — ages 18 to 24 — will take their microphones, notebooks and cameras to the streets to try to answer these questions and more as the first class of Reporter South LA. Their work will be featured in Intersections: South LA, one of USC Annenberg’s three affiliated local news websites.

Jan Perry talking to Reporter CorpsReporter Corps developed from USC Annenberg’s Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative’s research into how to best impact under-served and multiethnic communities through local media. Recent high school graduates were selected because they are an often overlooked group with extra time to contribute as they are facing some of the highest unemployment levels in a half century. Reporter Corps provides these young adults training in multimedia reporting utilizing USC Annenberg’s state-of-the-art resources, teaches them how their local government works, and matches them with professional journalist mentors.

The first Reporter Corps class ran in Alhambra from October 2012 to April 2013 and published stories on Alhambra Source. Reporter Corps South LA launched in June 2013 and will be publishing their work on Intersections South LA. In the first year, Reporter Corps has been connected with more than a dozen professional newsrooms, including KQED, KPCC, KCRW, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Hechinger Report.

Reporter Corps starts with a two-week orientation into multimedia skills and local municipal issues. The journalism training draws upon USC Annenberg’s resources and volunteer journalists. The second week focuses on introducing young people to their local government by visiting City Hall, going on police ride-alongs and learning about the school district. After that, the young people set to work reporting both first-person and new stories about issues in their communities.

An innovative element of their information gathering is running a multilingual community forum around the issues they are exploring. Last winter, one Alhambra reporter’s work was shared in a forum in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese that drew more than 70 people to discuss issues of growing up in an immigrant community.

Stories produced in the first class of Reporter Corps Alhambra, following that forum, include:

The Reporter Corps South LA group will focus its personal stories on education issues and partner with Hechinger Report. The following six participants were selected based on their connection to South LA, growth potential, and determination to address social issues within their community:

Xochil FraustoXochil Frausto, 23
Jordan High School graduate
Laney College student

"Growing up in Watts I saw the cyclical reality of poverty, drug abuse and gang warfare. Walking to school I would see bodies, blood, and altars. Although these circumstances brought many hardships in my life, I also feel fortunate to have grown up in a place that is so unique from its historical role in the black power movement, to the arts, to the cultural mixture of African Americans and Latinos.  I want to share the stories of my neighborhood and bring forward a renewed perspective of South Los Angeles — issues that pertain to the immigrant community, gentrification, foreclosures and the Black community, and LGBT issues.”

Ryan JohnsonRyan Johnson, 19
Immaculate Heart High School & Middle School graduate
Loyola Marymount University student

"Three generations of my family have lived in South Los Angeles, and I have lived in the Baldwin Hills section my entire life, a predominantly middle-class, African-American neighborhood. I feel that my experience as a Reporter Corps participant will allow me to educate families and the local youth by discussing community events and resources that serve as a positive outlet for stimulating personal growth.”

Shanice JosephShanice Joseph, 21
Frederick Douglass High School graduate
Long Beach City College student

"When I was 4, I moved to Watts with three of my six siblings to live with my grandmother. She had moved back from Panama to take care of us and found low-income housing in Watts. The majority of my life I stayed with my grandmother since my mother struggled with drug addiction. Although each resident from Watts comes from a different background with a special story to tell, nearly all of us have one thing in common: we were raised in poverty. As a writer, I am dedicated to serving my community and educating the people who live there through my writing.

Miguel MolinaMiguel Molina, 19
Big Picture Film and Theater Arts Charter School
East Los Angeles College student

"Growing up, my mom didn’t like for me to go outside and play because she thought the neighborhood was too dangerous. Although I did witness a shooting once, I never saw South Los Angeles through my mom’s eyes. For me, my neighborhood wasn’t bad. For me it was filled with families and people that liked to go outside and play in the park and enjoy themselves. I want to explore afterschool programs in South L.A., because I didn’t see many growing up, nor did it seem to be an issue people were aware of."

Skylar MyersSkylar Myers, 23
Saint Bernard Catholic High School graduate
UC San Diego graduate

"My grandparents remember the treachery of the Watts Riots of 1965 just as vividly as they can recall their first time witnessing the genre-bending genius of George Clinton & the Funkadelics at a house party in Compton. And let me tell you their words are unlike anything you’d read in a history book. In the midst of gang wars, riots, and disparity my grandparents would tell me these stories and they’ve worked to instill me with pride, hope, and dignity throughout my life. Through Reporters Corps South LA, I hope to bring light and voice to the overshadowed stories of the streets, the people, and the schools in hopes of instilling all South Central Angelinos with the same pride, hope, dignity and attachment I feel for this city."

Mario NarcisoMario Narciso, 18
Foshay High School graduate
UC Riverside incoming freshman

"I am from a large, proud family from Oaxaca, Mexico. In their town most speak an indigenous language, Zapotec, as well as some Spanish. In 1989 my parents left Mexico in search of work and moved to South L.A., where I was born. As a participant in Reporter Corps I am interested in focusing on two issues: special education and perceptions of Latino and black youth. I was in special ed for three years and if my father had not helped me leave, I may have been stuck in it. I would also like to also show the positive and the untold stories of the "wild jungles" of L.A."

Reporter Corps is a project of the Civic Engagement and Journalism Initiative and the Laboratory on the Social Frontier at USC Annenberg. It is made possible with the support of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and McCormick Foundation.

If you would like more information or to get involved, please contact


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