Storytelling with ‘Impact’

Since the launch of the long-form documentary program Impact in 2001, the show’s USC Annenberg undergraduate and graduate student journalists have given viewers an in-depth look at stories happening in and around the region. Now, they’re about to reach an even wider audience.

Spectrum Networks and USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism today announced an exclusive collaboration to bring Impact to Spectrum viewers across Southern California. Spectrum News 1, a channel that introduces a novel approach to hyperlocal news and information, will launch on Friday, Nov. 16.

The first episode produced by Impact specifically for Spectrum News 1 airs on Sunday, Nov. 18. This retrospective showcases the breadth of the students’ coverage, including environmental challenges, animal sanctuaries, and local artists and musicians. Spectrum News 1 will run a new, one-hour episode of Impact every Sunday at 11 a.m.

For Dan Birman, documentary filmmaker and professor of professional practice, seeing student documentary work move from the classroom into a broadcast space is thrilling.

“Our students are incredibly passionate and work very hard to find stories of interest to L.A. communities and beyond,” he said. “We now have a terrific platform through Spectrum that underscores just about everything we teach at USC Annenberg like multi-platform storytelling that embraces journalistic ethics and encourages viewers to ask new questions.”

Cater Lee, vice president of news and content, said the network is delighted to bring USC Annenberg students’ high-quality, award-winning content to Spectrum News 1.

“Through our unique collaboration, we are able to tell more stories and engage more viewers with content that we know that will unite and strengthen the individual neighborhoods we serve throughout Southern California,” Lee said.

Megan Chao, documentary producer, editor and USC Annenberg adjunct instructor, has worked with Birman and the students for the past eight years and is guiding the students on the best practices for packaging the 10-15-minute films into a one-hour package.

Birman and Chao reinforced how significant this responsibility is for students. “Putting together an hour-long show and delivering to Spectrum is the same as delivering to any network,” Chao said. “They have specifications that we need to meet.” Furthermore, Chao said, “Students get out of the classroom and into the field and meet people who are making a difference.” 

“It’s the type of work that forces students out of their comfort zone and out into the world,” Birman added.

Gordon Stables, director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism, added that Impact exemplifies the school’s longstanding commitment to empowering talented student journalists.

“Amidst our cluttered media landscape, there is a tremendous need for excellence in storytelling,” Stables said. “We are very proud to see our students’ well-crafted and well-told stories amplified by Spectrum and for the real issues they raise to be brought to even wider audiences.”