Seven USC Annenberg students and recent alumni were recognized at the 2016 National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards for their work on Annenberg Media, Annenberg's student-run media organization, and for Ampersand, a digital magazine featuring works by students from the school's arts journalism program. The 9th annual ceremony was hosted by the L.A. Press Club at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on December 4, 2016.
"I'm so proud of them," said associate professor Sasha Anawalt, director of the Arts Journalism program.
Among the big winners was Angelique Perrin (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '17), who won first place in Student Journalism: Best Art or Entertainment Feature for her podcast for Annenberg Media, "Animated in Color."
"Winning was a great and unexpected honor," Perrin said.
The short radio piece explores the idea that diversity training should start with children and cartoons.
"I love cartoons," said Perrin, who works as a voice-over artist when she's not in the classroom. "Through research I found a neat little museum geared at African American cartoons from the 70s. What should have been a quick little article took on a life of its own, with audio elements, text and digital components as well."
"Angelique is a pro, literally," professor Anawalt said. "She knows her audio like the back of her hand, and the stories she tells are so compelling. She is someone to follow and watch."
Another first place winner was Maureen Lenker (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '16), who won in Student Journalism: Best Commentary/Critique for “‘Cabaret’ at Pantages Looks to Our Past to Warn Us of Our Future,” published in Annenberg Media.
"I am deeply honored to be the recipient of an L.A. Press Club award, particularly for a piece that addresses our current political climate and which allowed me to contribute my voice to the conversation in a meaningful way," Lenker said.
Her review drew parallels between the uncertainties faced by the play's characters in 1930s Germany and concerns by some Americans in the months before the 2016 presidential election.
"I've learned that entertainment and the arts are knit up in everything else—politics, food, fashion, etc," Lenker said. "And so, talking about one often necessitates talking about the others. This was directly reflected in my piece."
"Maureen knows so much about musical theater and theater," professor Anawalt said. "It is fantastic that her criticism was understood to be the exceptional work it is."
Corinne DeWitt (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '16) won third place in the Multimedia Package category for her coverage of "Hopscotch, the Mobile Opera" for Ampersand. She was particularly proud to have been recognized amongst professional journalists from KCET and The Hollywood Reporter.
"I am incredibly humbled to have been included in this group of exceptional journalists," DeWitt said. "Both publications are a constant source of professional inspiration for me'"
The groundbreaking nature of "Hopscotch" required DeWitt to come up with creative ways to tell the production's story.
"As a journalist, I realized that I needed more than words to capture the multifaceted experience of the opera," she said. "I set out to capture as many photos, audio recordings, videos and interviews that I could. It was a giant task, and it took months to report on it."
Mark McNeill (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '16) won third place in Personality Profile/Interview for his radio piece for Ampersand, "Resonant Residents: Mia Doi Todd and the L.A. River."
"I was elated to be awarded a third place L.A. Press Club award," said McNeill, whose winning entry was part of a series exploring the physical spaces that inspire musicians based around Los Angeles.
"I'm curious about how artists' communities directly, or indirectly, influence their output," said McNeill. "Los Angeles, with its ever-evolving nature, is a thrilling environment in which to pose these questions."
Allison Wolfe (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '17) won third place in Student Journalism: Pop Culture Feature for her essay for Ampersand, "I Was a Teenage Duranimal."
Her story was inspired by the teasing she and her twins sister encountered as hardcore Duran Duran devotees, especially from their male middle school classmates.
"The aversion some of my male classmates had to our Duran Duran obsession strikes me as somewhat sexist and homophobic," Wolfe said. "Later in life, after years of being a more socially conscious musician, I tried to make sense of that time in a larger cultural context."
Wolfe believes her storytelling skills have flourished while studying at USC Annenberg. "I've always been a story-teller, but Annenberg has really brought discipline to my writing and helped me tell stories in a more efficient and powerful way," she said.
Jonathan Shifflett (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '16) and Lara Altunian (M.A. Specialized Journalism - The Arts '16) won third place in Student Journalism: Best Art or Entertainment Feature for “A Movable Dance,” a review of a conceptual dance performance by Rebecca Bruno, choreographer-in-residence at the Annenberg Beach House.
"Bruno's performance was a memorable event, so we were happy to have gotten some kudos for our piece," Shifflett said.
The interactive story features photos and audio snippets that describe each movement of the performance, allowing readers to hear commentary from the choreographer and experience what it was like to be there.
"'A Movable Dance' was the first interactive piece of journalism I ever took part in creating," Altunian said. "It was only because of the instruction Jonathan and I received at Annenberg—namely Sasha Anawalt's encouragement to push the boundaries of traditional journalism and Peggy Bustamante's classes in coding—that I believe we were able to make the piece come together."