CommLine Online: February 3, 2010



Neon Tommy logo LA Times and student reporters begin partnership on Homicide Report

The Los Angeles Times and USC Annenberg’s online news source Neon Tommy have begun a collaboration that enables student reporters to produce stories for The TimesHomicide Report blog.

The partnership offers students crime-reporting experience at one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the country while The Times receives content for a Homicide Report that tells personal stories of the hundreds of people killed in Los Angeles County every year. The first student article, written by Andrew Khouri (M.A. Print Journalism ’11), was published Jan. 27 and chronicled the life and killing of 24-year-old Charles Montgomery. It is The Times’ goal to give readers a complete picture of who dies in homicides, where, and why – thus conveying both the personal story and the statistical story with greater accuracy and providing a forum for readers to remember victims and discuss violence.

“This is a wonderful partnership in so many ways,” said Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, where Neon Tommy is based. “Our students get the experience of working with a distinguished newspaper and also of seeing their work widely read.

Los Angeles Times logo

The Los Angeles Times is able to extend its reach on this critically important project, even as their resources are under pressure. And we’re advancing the visibility of collaboration, a concept of growing importance in journalism.”

The Homicide Report strives to augment basic facts about murdered Angelenos with additional reporting about those cases, as well as other subjects relevant to homicides.

“Since the first days of the Homicide Report in 2007, our goal has been to tell two stories about violent death in Los Angeles – the overall statistical portrayal of who dies, how they are killed and where, as well as the individual portraits of the human beings behind those numbers,” said David Lauter, assistant managing editor at The Times. “Collaborating with USC will allow us to tell far more of those human stories and, at the same time, help develop the next generation of L.A. journalists.”

Student reporters at Neon Tommy, an online digital news Web site launched in February, 2009, to fill a void in local and national news, said they are thrilled about working with The Times. With a core of 25 student editors, the site publishes content from about 75 USC Annenberg students.

“To have the opportunity to share your work with that many people is amazing,” Khouri said. “It's great to get feedback from working journalists at The Times, which adds to what we already receive in the classroom.  We are definitely excited about it and feel we can produce a lot of great work.”

Alan Mittelstaedt , managing editor of Annenberg Digital News, which publishes Neon Tommy, said Khouri’s recent article in The Times is a prime example of how this partnership can work.

“It was as good of a story as a 15-year veteran at a newspaper could have done,” Mittelstaedt said.

Mittelstaedt will assign journalism students to profile the lives and deaths of victims after the weekly coroner's report is delivered. During the last three years, that has amounted to 2,603 reported murders in Los Angeles County.

“In three years, there’s almost no way to cover all of the personal stories,” said LA Times deputy Metro editor Megan Garvey, who oversees The Times’ California section interactive projects. “Even to provide minimal information on every homicide is a substantial endeavor. In working with student journalists, there is an opportunity to cover killings that wouldn’t have otherwise appeared in the news, and in a lot of ways those become the most significant stories when they all are compiled."

Mittelstaedt said the Neon Tommy reporters are hungry for real-world experiences.

“This collaboration gives them a chance to put their best work on a crucial topic before a huge audience,” he said. “It's all part of the revolution in media and journalism education. The days when students' top-notch work lands on a professor's desk, and stays there, are over."

Neon Tommy deputy editor Kevin Douglas Grant (M.A. Online Journalism ’11) said the opportunity to be published by The Times will be helpful for students looking for careers in journalism.

“The partnership is an honor,” Grant said. “To partner with a beacon such as The Times is amazing, especially after only one year of Neon Tommy being established. The reporters on this team definitely deserve it. This connection confirms we have a lot of professionals at different media organizations working toward a common goal of covering the stories of Los Angeles.”

Jan. 27 story by Andrew Khouri
Homicide Report 
Homicide Report FAQ 
LA Times announcement


Center for Health Reporting partners with Sun-Star to publish "Houses of Blues" series

CHCF logo

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

The Jan. 29 issue of the Merced Sun-Star featured a front-page series on the foreclosure climate in northern California, reported by the USC Annenberg-based California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting headed by journalism professor Michael Parks.

Michael ParksParks (pictured, right), who is the founding director of the grant-funded Center, said the Sun-Star series "Houses of Blues" — focusing on how the recession is impacting issues of mental health — fit the greater mandate of the Foundation, which seeks to improve the way health care is delivered and financed in California by promoting innovations in care and broader access to information.

“This is one of the most important experiments underway in philanthropically financed journalism,” said Parks, who will chair the Center’s advisory board. “They are going to be really good examples of storytelling that put into a larger framework problems that need attention, that need resolution. We hope that they cause a public discussion that builds toward solutions … and that readers will be mobilized to care more about their neighbors, communities, and take up these problems as they talk across their back fence.”

The Center, which was developed at Annenberg in partnership with the Foundation, has delighted Parks with its ability to mobilize communities to enact social change.

“Our model is to work with newspapers and eventually public broadcasting, radio stations, potentially with local Web sites, to do projects about issues in health policy,” Parks said. “We highlight problems but we also work to report on possible solutions to those problems by getting a public discussion underway with the goal of increasing civic engagement on those issues.”

The Sun-Star series, which is slated to appear over a course of two days, serves as an example of how the Center’s expertise was shared with a smaller-market paper.

“We also try to do build capacity by having our reporters and editors work with local reporters,” Parks said. “Our staff has experience working with big projects. Sometimes a staff at a small paper may not have that experience.”

Ultimately, Parks said, the Center’s model shared an altruistic motive with journalism.

“This is the journalism of empowerment,” Parks said. “We believe that by making the people smarter about the problems and solutions, that they can take action. And we can’t make them solve the problems. We’re journalists. We need to focus on things that need to be fixed, that people care about, to show what solutions can be found.

"I’ve had a question since I’ve been here on how journalism schools at research universities such as USC can improve the practice of journalism, to improve the performance of society, and thus this is an important experiment. It is applied research, and it’s exactly what a top research university should be doing."

California HealthCare Foundation
"Houses of Blues" series


CPD USC Conference Explores Science as a Language of Diplomacy

Scientists will join diplomats and policy experts on the campus of the University of Southern California on Friday, Feb. 5, to discuss the role of their profession in international relations --past, present and future.

“In scientific endeavors, as in no other field, nations set aside political differences and collaborate to advance the best interests of their citizens,” said Philip Seib, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) at the Annenberg School, which hosts the “Science Diplomacy and the Prevention of Conflict“ conference.

Even during the tense times of the Cold War, Seib noted, American scientists worked with their Soviet counterparts, motivated by the belief that they could help states work out their differences. Currently, discussions between scientists provide a backchannel between unfriendly states, such as North Korea and the United States, or India and China.

Globally, a wide range of international issues, including climate change, drought, communicable diseases and energy development have complex technical elements that demand high-level international scientific collaboration.

The conference will feature presentations on a wide range of such interactions, according to Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who will chair a panel on “Science, Development, and Security.”

The United States Institute of Peace and its Center of Innovation for Science, Technology and Peacebuilding is co-sponsoring the conference.

Vaughan Turekian, director of the Center for Science Diplomacy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, will be the keynote speaker at a dinner on February 4.

In addition, the Partnership for a Secure America will discuss their science diplomacy initiative and next steps as they launch an expanded effort to engage the legislative and executive branches in better integration of science into diplomacy.

The conference is open to the public, but seating is limited. Please rsvp to

For the complete conference agenda and list of speakers, please click here.

About the USC Center on Public Diplomacy

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy was established in 2003 as a partnership between the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. The Center is a joint research, analysis and professional training organization dedicated to furthering the study and practice of global public diplomacy. USC received the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy in recognition of the university's teaching, training and research in public diplomacy. The award was one of four inaugural awards from the U.S. State Department.


USC Annenberg announces sixth NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater NEA

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that applications are now being accepted for the sixth annual Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. The institute, which will take place May 17-27, 2010, is an 11-day intensive workshop in theater and musical theater for critics, reporters, editors, and broadcast and online producers from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Institute applications are due March 11, 2010.

“It is often in theater that we experience humanity's deepest concerns,” said Geneva Overholser, director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism. “Consequently, theater offers journalists a way of learning about what matters and of seeing how human beings discover and handle conflict. Good theater coverage that pays attention to artists, past and present and from every culture is the obligation of a democratic society.”

Based in Los Angeles, the fellowship provides a total immersion experience that includes attending as many as ten performances or rehearsals. Participants will meet theater professionals ranging from directors and administrators of L.A.’s primary theater companies to critics of national stature, who will engage them individually for writing instruction and exercises. Professional sessions addressing changes in the media industry will be offered and special attention will be paid to building multimedia storytelling skills. No specialized knowledge of theater is required. Staff journalists and freelancers who work in print, radio, TV or online media -- and whose main subject is the arts, culture or entertainment -- are welcome to apply.

“Both the field of journalism and the arts community are facing unprecedented change. It has never been more important for arts journalists to step out of their everyday grind and be in discussion with one another and other professionals about the core job they have to do and the ways to make use of new technologies and skills to do it even better,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “The NEA is proud to be working with the USC Annenberg School to make this possible. We need strong arts journalists in order to have a truly vibrant arts community.”

Sasha Anawalt , director of USC Annenberg’s M.A. degree program in Specialized Journalism (The Arts), will direct the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater.

“Nearly 125 journalists have gone through the NEA Theater Institute over the past five years and many of its alums have taken leadership roles in what’s looking to be a steady arts journalism comeback,” Anawalt said. “The 2010 Institute examines the conditions affecting the arts and their coverage. We look forward to helping re-imagine and rebuild the field through multimedia storytelling and excellent writing standards.”

The Theater and Musical Theater Institute at USC Annenberg is one of three NEA Arts Journalism Institutes, along with the Institute in Classical Music and Opera at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York and the Institute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. In 2009 an International Institute in the Visual Arts at American University in Washington, D.C., also was created. Funded by a multimillion-dollar NEA initiative, these institutes offer intensive training for arts reporters and their editors. Most costs are covered by the Institute, including travel to and from Los Angeles, hotel, transportation within the city and most meals.

The NEA was a major sponsor of the first-ever National Summit on Arts Journalism held at USC Annenberg in October 2009. A partnership of the four NEA Arts Journalism Institutes and the National Arts Journalism Program, the summit explored new ideas for arts coverage and journalism business models in front of a live and virtual audience of nearly 20,000 people. 

For more information, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts – both new and established – bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities and military bases. For more information, visit


Los Angeles Times logoLA Times trailblazers share new interactive projects at USC Annenberg

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

The Jan. 26 Journalism Director’s Forum at USC Annenberg brought editors and producers from L.A.’s largest daily newspaper to discuss “What’s innovative at the Los Angeles Times.”

Hosted by School of Journalism director Geneva Overholser, the talk (full video here) featured a panel with Times journalists Ben Welsh, its chief Web data journalist; Megan Garvey, the assistant metro editor; and Daniel Gaines, managing editor of operations at – who also serves as an adjunct journalism professor at Annenberg.

“I hope this is sort of what we continue to do,” said Garvey, who along with Welsh and others began work two years ago on the widely viewed “War Dead” project, an online, interactive compendium of fallen U.S. soldiers from the Los Angeles area. “I was a traditional print journalist, but I embraced (the new technology) when we did the War Dead project. The newsroom embraced it…I think that there is an acknowledgement that this work is of basic use to them.”

The panelists discussed the expanding role of the Times’ online presence further, including individual and group social media ventures plus experiments with Kindle, “multimedia jukeboxes,” Google maps and blogging, and offered reassurance that, amidst current layoffs decimating most legacy media newsrooms – including their own – it was more productive to look forward with optimism.

“Though it’s a relentless, ongoing trauma,” said Gaines of the changes facing the Times and other major newspapers, “you can’t look at what’s being taken away, but what’s being given to you."

These tools, Gaines added, included the myriad possibilities inherent in the Times’ blogs and mapping projects that are currently attracting a large audience of viewers eager to comment and contribute to those innovative new efforts – which in turn create the need for online curating and moderating, thereby perpetuating a new journalistic life for the paper’s future.

“I found it very heartening to hear Megan say that her colleagues are beginning to focus less on what they’re losing and more on what they’re starting to gain,” Overholser said. “This is a crucial change, when you can shift from looking backward in lament to looking forward with a sense of hope and enthusiasm. Then you’ve made the essential change…that you can really make a difference in journalism. The point is, the whole problem with legacy media organizations is that they worry about what they’re losing rather than exalting over what they’re gaining.”


Happy 10th Anniversary, Norman Lear Center

Norman Lear Center

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism wishes its Norman Lear Center a happy 10th anniversary.

From Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Center director and holder of the Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment: "Traditional 10th Anniversary presents are tin, aluminum and diamonds. (Who comes up with this stuff?) But please, no gifts - except a share of your attention. The Lear Center was launched a decade ago when Norman Lear made an extraordinary gift to the USC Annenberg School to support a unique center of research and innovation. As you'll see here, the Lear Center's work is more relevant than ever. And as you'll see here, we've been on quite a roll. Thanks for letting us keep you posted during the decade ahead."

More from Kaplan: "The Norman Lear Center gets its name from a man whose belief in the power of entertainment to degrade and to do good, to demagogue and to uplift, to be both gloriously silly and urgently relevant, made him an industry pioneer. It was launched 10 years ago when he made an extraordinary gift to the USC Annenberg School to support a unique center of research and innovation. Its mission is to study and shape the impact of media and entertainment on society, and - immodestly - to illuminate and repair the world. In case you've ever wondered what the place I work actually does, that's the answer. Thank you, Mr. Lear, not only for making it possible, but also for having the vision to know that it was necessary."

Thank You, Norman Lear
10 of the Lear Center's Favorite Things


Annenberg presence felt at new ESPN site

Pedro Moura and Arash Markazi

By Heather Hope
Student Writer

Two of USC Annenberg’s own are writers for the new Los Angeles-based version of

Undergraduate student Pedro Moura (above left, B.A. Print Journalism ’11) and alumnus Arash Markazi (above right and below left with LeBron James, B.A. Print Journalism ’04) write for, which began in late December and highlights all the top sports news happening in Los Angeles. The site reports on some of the biggest names in sports, including the Dodgers, Lakers and Trojans.

Moura covers Trojan sports teams and blogs more than eight times a day with game scores, players’ injuries and recently some athletes’ reactions to new football coach Lane Kiffin’s hiring. As a sports writer for USC’s Daily Trojan and anchor for Annenberg TV News, he said his new work experience has improved his writing tremendously and gives his stories great exposure.

“My work is being read more than ever, and I get to work with actual ESPN reporters of the highest caliber each day, who critique my writing and give me the best pointers,” Moura said.

USC Annenberg alumnus Arash Markazi (B.A. Print Journalism '04) interviews basketball star LeBron JamesMarkazi is a regular columnist for the site. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated after graduating from USC. He said although he felt like he was already at his dream job, he was excited to try something new.

“I never expected to leave my old job, but was eager to be a part of ESPN’s latest project and vision and have found it to be an awesome opportunity for the direction of online media,” he said.

He spent his first two years in New York while with Sports Illustrated. The Sherman Oaks native said he was glad to be back home with an LA-centered publication. Like Moura, Markazi wrote for the Daily Trojan and served as the sports editor. He said he wished he had been involved with ATVN to diversify skills since he co-hosts ESPN’s radio show broadcast on 710AM and also makes television appearances for the network.

He credits Annenberg journalism professors such as Norman Corwin and the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Edwin Guthman with instilling insightful advice on developing great story ideas and acquiring sources.

“I remember being like a sponge in class and taking in all these great lessons from my instructors, who had been where I wanted to be one day,” he said.

Moura said his time at Annenberg has definitely been beneficial to him because of all the connections he has been able to make. He said he got help getting a couple internships during his freshman year, which have led to more opportunities. He said he was able to secure the job with ESPN Los Angeles when a friend who worked there recommended his name to the managing editor because of his extensive Trojan sports coverage. He said the rigorous Annenberg curriculum has prepared him for what to expect in a real news work environment.

“USC student sports journalists get to cover some of the biggest stories in the land on a weekly, even daily basis, which is some of the best training available,” he said.


Kun hosts creators of new PBS musical magazine series

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

A conversation on the power of music to promote cultural change, hosted by communication professor Josh Kun, brought two creators of PBS’s new magazine show Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders, producer/director Stephen Talbot and on-air reporter Mirissa Neff, to USC Annenberg on Jan. 21.

Kun said that, with networks reticent to provide substantive critical programming to use popular music as a platform for social messages, it was left to public broadcasting to pick up the slack – a sentiment echoed by Talbot.

“One thing they’ll tell you right off the top is that music doesn’t get ratings,” said Talbot, who showed the series pilot to Kun’s class and introduced them to Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti in addition to a techno song written for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s first re-election campaign. “And it doesn’t…but they want us to succeed. They’re saying ‘great’…but they’re very nervous about what station programmers and audiences are going to think.”

Neff, who was reported a piece on global music phenomenon Mariza, the queen of Portuguese-themed Fado music, said that expectations for the Sound Tracks pilot – set to premiere on Jan. 25 – were promising.

“The feedback has been very positive from PBS to turn this into a series,” she said.

Sound Tracks, produced by The Talbot Players in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting, features arts journalists reporting documentary-style on three or four stories per episode often inspired by exposing political and cultural barriers to the collective power of music.

“We are studying the relationship between popular music and questions of cultural and national identity,” Kun said of the program and its relevance to his class. “I also wanted them to see that thinking critically about popular music can, and should, happen outside of the classroom.”

Kun presented the two producers and the sneak preview as part of his popular “Sound Clash” series of lectures that focus on popular music and American culture.

“I thought that exposing students to a TV series attempting to address similar questions was a nice opportunity to test some of our theories and spark further discussion,” Kun said.


Bonnie Nardi at APOC event: conflicts within the World of Warcraft realm demonstrate blurring of lines between virtual and tangible worlds

By Lara Levin
Student Writer

While World of Warcraft, the highly popular medieval-themed role playing game created by Blizzard Entertainment, has taken the online gaming community by storm, serving as both an entertainment platform and social network, gamers have found themselves in the trenches of conflicts outside of their virtual medieval realm. 

Sponsored by the Annenberg Program on Online Communities, a presentation (full video here) from Dr. Bonnie Nardi, professor of informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, explored questions of capitalistic and cultural conflict at the core of two distinct communities within World of Warcraft, both of which cross the boundary between the virtual and existent.  Nardi, a trained anthropologist, immersed herself in the highly social fantasy game, connecting with other gamers to explore the contentious issues surrounding the communities of “modders” and “Chinese gold farmers.”

Aptly nicknamed for the game-modifying add-ons they produce, “modders” long ago began to develop their thriving community based on game enhancement, autonomous from regulation by Blizzard Entertainment.  While some accepted donations for their add-on contributions, and others charged nominal fees for more complex “mods,” the question of payment and ownership of these add-ons was a non-issue.  In fact, “modders” considered it a badge of honor when Blizzard incorporated their work into new versions of the game in what Nardi called “an authentic form of coproduction.”  When Blizzard introduced a new policy preventing any monetary compensation for “mods” in early 2009, conflict emerged between the “modders” and the corporate community.

“The bounds of their autonomous community had been breached,” explained Nardi.  “[While this] did not kill the modding community, but didn’t do anything to foster the energy and creativity in that community… [It] stalled the type of coproduction that was taking place.”

“The conflict is centered not on exploitation of labor but on the issues of autonomy and mutual respect between these communities,”  Nardi continued.

The second point of conflict within this virtual world brings up the question of cultural stereotypes, specifically with Chinese players that comprise half of the 11.5 million World of Warcraft gamers worldwide.  Though the majority of these players are not involved in the practice, the image of the ‘Chinese gold farmer” has permeated the international community.

Just as players can purchase weapons and other items in the virtual world, many gamers breach terms of use policies to sell such items in the real online marketplace.  Recognizing the economic opportunity at stake, Chinese organizations have recruited players who work 12-hour days merely accumulating “gold” in the game to be sold to players overseas, a practice commonly likened to sweatshops.

Outcry in online World of Warcraft forums and on sites such as Youtube have demonized these laborers and collectively characterized Chinese gamers as low wage, low tech, low culture, and ubiquitous in the gaming community.  Nardi additionally noted a similar representation in the mainstream media and among academics, effectively perpetuating cultural stereotypes and generally characterizing 5 million players, most of which do not work as “playbourers” in these sweatshops.

As Nardi concluded, these conflicts within the World of Worldcraft realm demonstrate the blurring of the lines between the virtual and tangible worlds, as communities interact on both levels and allow the imaginary to inform their thoughts and actions, and those of the public as well.


Dean of UPenn's Annenberg School shares findings on discursive participation

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

The dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania visited his school’s counterpart here at USC on Feb. 1 to present a talk on discursive participation and political deliberation in the United States.

Michael X. Delli Carpini, Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, who is also an Annenberg Fellow at USC, spoke on “Talking together? Discursive participation and political deliberation in the U.S.” and presented research relating to the interest in ‘deliberation’ that has increased in recent years among political and communication theorists, researchers and practitioners.

“What was missing when we started this project was any sense of what was happening on the ground…how much and what kinds of political talk actually take place in contemporary America,” said Delli Carpini, who illustrated via survey how his efforts to document the extent deliberation and other forms of discursive politics takes place among citizens resulted in a clearer picture of who does so, how they do it and what the consequences are. “We thought this field suffered from an absence of more qualitative research.”

Drawing on a national sample of U.S. adults and an oversample of citizens who have participated in some type of public forum of national or international concern, Delli Carpini’s survey showed Americans’ engagement in various forms of ‘political talk,’ and included questions aimed at discursive conversations and the qualities respondents deemed important in deliberation.

“The basic point were trying to make here is that there’s a range of discursive participation on public issues,” Delli Carpini said, adding that the deliberative experience is driving political and civic engagement in many ways and that it is most likely to have a public and institutional aspect to it, occurring in public places and having democratic overtones. “Discursive participation is a ‘gated community’…this is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but an occurrence that has an institutional underpinning. This notion of a deliberative democracy or moments of democratic deliberation comes from some sort of melding of institutional and personal.”

Delli Carpini, whose research interests center on the extent, sources and impact of public deliberation in the United States, said that the hypothesized effects in discursive participation led to an interesting portrait of the kinds of issues that range across national and international lines in his research.

“We really wanted to paint a picture of these experiences,” Delli Carpini said. “We came up with this idea of discursive participation…because we wanted to argue that in a democratic society…discursive talk – if it’s about public issues – has some democratic value to it.”


Journalism Director's Forum: Online network editors call for freelancers to “patch” in

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

The creation of AOL’s new nationwide network of hyperlocal news sites took center stage at the Feb. 2 journalism director’s forum at USC Annenberg.

Journalism associate professor Sandy Tolan led the discussion on “Looking for Local: Why media outlets are rediscovering that community news and information matters” with Marcia Parker, the west coast editorial director of AOL’s  – which has committed $50 million to build the new venture, involving local communities, businesses and schools.

“Many small businesses across the country are not online yet,” said Parker of the grassroots, entrepreneurial nature of the hyperlocal experiment. “I suspect that for many small businesses this will be a really great avenue for them to get online…we’re also starting to experiment with the opportunity to tap into a freelance community out there for stories.”

Parker said that discussions about innovations at are lively and feature efforts to integrate a young staff of contributors and freelancers who are well versed in using new technologies and social media to connect to communities.

“We actually believe that young people are really valuable,” Parker said. “The value that we put on multimedia skill and multimedia storytelling…are really important to us. Many of those skill sets come with this generation. We’re looking for people who really want to build something.”

As Parker invited interested students to speak with’s local editors regarding the possibility of freelancing, Tolan remarked with optimism that the venture might indeed present opportunities for journalism students to embark on collaborations.

“The entire discussion has changed,” Tolan said. “All the talk about contraction at the newspapers and here you are hiring a whole bunch of people.”

The viability of this kind of enterprise reporting, Parker added, was made possible largely by the existence of that nationwide network – but understanding the “local” in the hyperlocal would require closely watching how’s community is impacted.

“What I really hope will happen is that everyone at in this room and at this school will get together and make it happen,” she said. “We really want to have a pipeline relationship with the schools, with the alumni of the schools…there are so many things you can do if you have a network, close to a town, close to the ground. From a journalistic point of view we really don’t have the places where you can do that.”

But the interactive, discursive nature of, Parker said, made it more than a place for journalists to simply report local news to the world.
“We are a news and information site, we are not just a news site,” Parker said. “We want people to come there to get what they need. ‘These are things that matter in our town.’”


Muslim rock star at USC calls for ‘Rock Revolution’ for Peace

By Jonathan Arkin
Student Writer

The musician popularly known as ‘the U2 of the Muslim world,’ Salman Ahmad, spoke at USC Annenberg on Jan. 19 about his band Junoon and his efforts to begin a “rock revolution” for peace.

Hosted at Annenberg by the USC Center for Public Diplomacy’s Phil Seib, Ahmad is at USC to promote his work in music, film and in print – he was also on hand to sign copies of his book, “Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim rock star’s revolution for peace.”

‘This is a particularly interesting time,” said Seib, whose work studying the effects of simple yet profound cultural changes seeks to promote peaceful relations between nations. “To see how the world responds to being tested.”

Ahmad’s music and popularity brought his philanthropic, pan-ethnic activities to the attention of the Annenberg’s CPD, and with the musician’s efforts in the rapidly growing field of Entertainment-Education, Seib said the work Ahmad does actually makes a difference in repressed societies.

“They’re going to make a commitment to do something about the state of the world,” Seib said, “taking the wealth of the world to people who have none of it.”

Before repairing to another gathering elsewhere on campus, where he signed copies of his new book, Ahmad spoke to the group at Annenberg along with his wife, Samina. Together, the two run their Global Wellness Initiative – which Ahmad said focuses on interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue, global health and wellness, and music education.

“To be honest, I grew up like any rock musician, wanting to sell as many records as possible,” said Ahmad, who to date has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide but who calls his true passion the issues of peace, education and health promotion. “What we need to do is an arts and culture surge aligned with public diplomacy…(Music) has got to mean something to people. We need to make networks: cultural, political and with bureaucracies as well.”

Ahmad said that the “impulse” for him to get involved in the battle against extremism happened when he viewed a cell phone video of Taliban thugs beating a woman in a Pakistani street. This, he said, created an “us and them” ethic and proved to be too much for the Muslim-raised Ahmad.

“I needed to understand Pakistan all over again,” Ahmad said if his feelings before he embarked in his public diplomacy mission. “Pakistani society is deeply conflicted…What that cell phone video did do, almost overnight, there was an entire nation saying ‘no way our mothers and sisters are going to be treated like that’… I saw music as a way to start a dialogue. Music allowed me. It was a center by which I could anchor myself…to see what the music did to young people in Pakistan.”

Seib and Ahmad discussed the proliferation of teleplays, music and other entertainment tools that have been used in Third World societies to bring crucial social issues to a public audience.

“I’ve seen what TV plays can do for population planning, HIV and AIDS,” Ahmad said of the normally taboo subjects in repressed societies where public discussion is violently discouraged. “But when it was projected into a music video or into a play, it starts a dialogue.”

Ahmad said that by identifying successful heroic models and by tapping into a young public’s desire for a positive cultural revolution, social change was possible – if the story was right.

“Storytelling in every culture, at every level, is very powerful especially if you respect the audience’s intelligence, “ Ahmad said. “It is impossible to explain faith and nationality through sound bytes. Hence, the book.”

Before Ahmad left, Seib fielded a lively session of Q & A from those present.

“I think your comment about keeping the conversation going is very important,” Seib said to Ahmad and his wife. “I think this is a conversation simulator…it’s great what you’re doing and good luck.”

“It’s an honor to be here (at USC), a wonderful, wonderful educational institution,” Ahmad said.


Published and Presented


Government financial support of news media continues steep decline, adding to challenges in news business Geoffrey Cowan and David Westphal

WASHINGTON — Government financial support that has bolstered this country's commercial news business since its colonial days is in sharp decline and is likely to fall further, according to a report released today by USC Annenberg's Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Because these cutbacks are occurring at the height of the digital revolution, they will have an especially powerful impact on a weakened news industry.

Public Policy and Funding the News is a unique effort to begin examining how involved the government, at all levels, has been in subsidizing news throughout American history to foster an informed citizenry; and what this support has meant for publishers, journalists and news consumers. The report analyzes some of the financial tools that government has used to support the press over the years — from postal rate discounts and tax breaks to public notices and government advertising. The report documents cutbacks across a range of sectors and presents a framework for the consideration of policy options to place the industry on more secure financial footing.

"It is a common myth that the commercial press in the United States is independent of governmental funding support," says University Professor and director of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) Geoffrey Cowan (pictured, top left), who co-authored the report. "There has never been a time in U.S. history when government dollars were not helping to undergird the news business to ensure that healthy journalism is sustained across the country."

"Certainly, the U.S. has never supported news-gathering the way some European and Asian countries have," said David Westphal (top right) USC Annenberg executive-in-residence, report co-author, CCLP senior fellow and former Washington Editor for McClatchy. "The point here is that it's time all of us, outside and inside the industry, realize that tax dollars support the American news business, and those dollars, which throughout our history have been critical in keeping the news media alive, are now shrinking quickly."

The late 1960s marked a high-water mark of government support for the news business. The postal service was subsidizing about 75 percent of the mailing costs for newspapers and magazines, roughly $2 billion in today's dollars. Today, however, publishers' mailing discounts for their printed news products are down to 11 percent or $288 million.

Paid public notices, government-required announcements that give citizens information about important activities, have also been lucrative for newspaper publishers, providing hundreds of millions in revenue to publications ranging from local dailies and weeklies to national newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal.

For example, in a four-week study, researchers found that the government was responsible for the most purchases, by column inches, of ad space in the Journal. And the newspaper wants more: in 2009 they battled Virginia-area papers in a move to get their regional edition certified to print local legal notices.

This public notice income is especially important to weekly and other community newspapers, accounting, in 2000, for 5 to 10 percent of all revenue. But now, proposals are pending in 40 states to allow agencies to shift publication to the Web.

Tax breaks given to news publishers are likely to decline because many are tied to expenditures on paper and ink and cash-strapped states are seeking to find new sources of revenue. Federal and state tax laws forgive more than $900 million annually for newspapers and news magazines, with most of the money coming at the state level.

Some additional excerpts:

  • In 2009, federal, state and local governments spent well over $1 billion to support commercial news publishers
  • The cumulative effect of reducing these government subsidies is not the primary problem afflicting the news business today. At most, government assistance has dropped by a few billion while newspapers alone have lost more than $20 billion in revenue in the last three years. Yet, government support represents a critical element of economic survival
  • Policymakers cannot afford to be mere spectators while these changes flash by. American government does not work very well if citizens do not have a reliable supply of news and information. What is playing out in the news business is a vital national interest

Public Policy and Funding the News offers a framework to pursue options currently under consideration, including 1) Allowing newspapers to become non-profits; 2) Tax credits for taxpayers who subscribe to newspapers; 3) Expanded federal investment in digital technology and infrastructure, including broadband access; 4) An antitrust law timeout to allow publishers to form a common strategy; and 5)Significant new government funding for public radio and public television.

As policymakers debate these and other proposals, Cowan and Westphal offer the following principles:

  • First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way.To the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of newsgathering.
  • Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASA funded the creation of satellites that made cable TV and direct radio and TV possible.
  • Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are content-neutral – such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes – are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs.

"We live in an era of profound technological change that threatens many forms of news media. We do not favor government policies that keep dying media alive. But we do believe government can help to provide support during this period of transition," says Westphal.

A complete copy of the report is available online at The Web site also features supplemental research papers on eight specific areas: postal rate subsidies, tax policy, broadband expansion, international broadcasting, government funding of public broadcasting, public notice requirements, copyright laws and antitrust regulations. In addition, the authors have collected an online directory of proposals for government intervention and links to public hearings and other activities on these issues.

About the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy conducts research and organizes courses, programs, seminars and symposia for scholars, students, policymakers and working professionals to prepare future leaders in journalism, communication and other related fields. CCLP focuses its activities in two areas: 1) The Role of Media in Democracy and 2) Communication Leadership. Current projects include: Public Policy and the Future of News; New Models for News; The Constitution and the Press; Media and Political Discourse; Children’s Media and Ethics; Women and Communication Leadership; and Photographic Empowerment.

Associated Press article
New York Times article
More from New York Times
Financial Times (U.K.) article
Nieman Journalism Lab article


Fulk, Monge and Ph.D. grads publish article in Communication Research 

Communication professors Janet Fulk (pictured, left) and Peter Monge (below, right) along with Annenberg doctoral graduates Connie Yuan (Cornell) and Noshir Contractor (Northwestern) have published an article in the latest issue of Communication Research. It is titled Expertise Directory Development, Shared Task Interdependence, and Strength of Communication Network Ties as Multilevel Predictors of Expertise Exchange in Transactive Memory Work Groups (Communication Research, 2010, 37: 20-47).

/images/faculty/mongep.jpgThis research examined the proposition of Transactive Memory Theory that teams are more effective when each member is aware of the levels of expertise of each other team member in each of the knowledge fields relevant to the team’s task. That is, each team member has an accurate expertise directory for the team.

The team collected data from 218 individuals in 18 teams in different industry sectors. The findings demonstrate that having a well-developed expertise directory is a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective expertise exchange within teams. Developing strong communication ties and interdependent task relationships are crucial catalysts to actualize the potential benefit of knowing “who knows what.” The study found that without strong communication ties the benefits of a well developed expertise directory were not realized. It underscores the importance of communication as the principal mechanism that brings to bear the knowledge of “who knows what” on individual expertise exchange among team members.

The findings indicate that although people in contemporary organizations can learn about each other’s areas of expertise through direct interpersonal communications, expertise directories, and so on, it is through communication ties that employees can gain actual access to diverse expertise, particularly so when the expert knowledge is tacit and hard to codify into information databases.

Full article


/images/faculty/wilsone.jpgDean Wilson writes op-ed on Google, China and U.S. foreign policy

 USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III (pictured) wrote a Jan. 31 Huffington Post op-ed about the foreign policy implications of the recent news that Google may quit the Chinese market because of a dispute over cyber attacks. 

Dean said he was reading about the situation during a recent trip to Dubai in the local Economic Times and some of the articles wondered if the Google - US. - China fracas would open up space for India to attract more foreign investment from the West as a safer haven than China, and whether Indian firms could jump into the market. He wondered whether this weakened or strengthened the hand of the Obama administration toward China.

"For Americans, this is also an important story, but one that most U.S. commentators have missed," he wrote. "Most of the American press reports focused on Google's impact on markets and politics inside China. But they ignored what may be the biggest really important story, which is Google's impact on the future of U.S. international relations in the coming decades."

Huffington Post op-ed


/images/faculty/chinnd.jpgChinn to present at Online News Association Parachute Training in Florida

Journalism Professor Dana Chinn will present "Leveraging Metrics" at the Online News Association Parachute Training on Feb. 20 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

The Online News Association, which is conducting its second Parachute Training Initiative, is the world's largest membership organization of digital journalists, according to its Web site. The training is a full day of free, intensive hands-on multimedia training.



/images/faculty/colekc.jpgK.C. Cole on inertia (Marketplace)

Journalism Professor K.C. Cole participated in a commentary on Marketplace on Jan. 21 about using inertia to get ahead on New Year’s resolutions.

“Ever wonder why it's so hard to keep those New Year's resolutions? Get off the couch and exercise every day? Drop that $4-a-day latte habit for some home brew? Stop getting into the same stupid social dynamics and start trying more productive tactics? Turn around a business or, for that matter, an economy? Much of the problem is inertia,” she said in the commentary.

In terms of energy required, there's no difference between a start up and a stop down. At bottom, inertia is simply resistance to change. Fighting it is hard, and frequently generates heat.



/images/faculty/cooper_121x163.jpgCooper gives closing talk at Institute of Americas event at UCSD

 Journalism professor and Director of Annenberg Digital News Marc Cooper gave a talk on freedom of speech and rights of journalists in Latin America on Jan. 15 at the Institute of the Americas at UCSD.

The event was attending by leading journalists from Mexico, Central American, and South America. He presented his talk in Spanish.



Kaplan on why Republicans are better storytellers than Democrats (Huffington Post)

Director of the Norman Lear Center and holder of the Lear Chair in Entertainment Martin Kaplan a wrote an article on Jan. 21 for the Huffington Post on why Republicans are more effective storytellers than Democrats.

“But Democrats are tongue-tied. Whatever the issue -- health care, energy, the economy, trade -- it's complicated. Everything is always about everything else. Policies have seven sub-points. Issues have six sides,” said Kaplan in the article.



Kun delivers talks at UC Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree, UCLA Center for Jewish Studies

Communication and Journalism professor Josh Kun delivered the keynote address on Jan. 16-17 at “Music and the Written Word” conference at UC Santa Barbara. The graduate conference was sponsored by the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music at UCSB.

Kun was also a featured speaker at Desert Stories III, and read from a new work on the music of the California desert on Jan. 23 in Joshua Tree, CA. Desert Stories III was a fundraiser for the historic Kaye Ballard Playhouse, and took place at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center’s Blak Box Theatre.

Additionally, Kun presented a lecture titled “The Legacy of Abie the Fishman: Unmasking the Archives of Jewish-American Music” on Feb. 1 at the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies.  The lecture discussed Jewish identity, cross-cultural influence, and pop musical performance in the 20th century American culture.

Also, his book series on Refiguring American Music has published two new titles: Fred Moten, B Jenkins; and Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. Kun edits the book with professor and ethnomusicologist Ron Radano through Duke University Press.



Overholser speaks about future of journalism at USC Alumni Club event

By Lara Levin
Student Writer

“Every moment that we spend on the lament of what is passing is a moment that we are wasting in figuring out what the future holds.”

So advises Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism, to promote the forward thinking that will ensure the future of journalism, the fate of which is of great interest and importance not only to those within the fields of communication, but also to the members of our democratic society.

Fueled by their desire to actively engage in the current transition of journalism, members of the USC Alumni Club of North Orange County invited Overholser to offer her insight and answer the pressing question: Is the best of journalism yet to come?

At the home of Roger Rossier and his wife and University Trustee Barbara, benefactors of their namesake USC Rossier School of Education, dozens of alumni came together, including fellow Trustee Richard DeBeikes, eager to both strengthen their Trojan Family ties and explore the pressing issue tackled each day at Annenberg.

“No one needs to persuade me that journalism, and in particular print, is the very lifeblood of this country,” Overholser said. “But we need to recognize that journalism is in a period of great transition.”

This transitional period, however, need not carry a negative connotation nor imply an ominous outlook for journalism’s future. Rather, Overholser seeks to impart her own sense of opportunity and the possibility of a bright and vibrant journalistic landscape, to be reached by concentrating on the crucial core characteristics of the practice. For Overholser, this suggests that journalists must focus on their primary function, and the purpose of their work.

“What really matters is the public interest,” Overholser explained. “It is crucial for the public in this self-governing nation able to get information that it needs in order to govern itself effectively and be able to live richer and fuller lives.”

To meet this public need as well as bring journalism into a new era, Overholser identifies certain “enduring values” of reliability, credibility, verification and fairness as the tools with which journalists will perpetuate their practice in light of the present reality —a reality largely defined by two major shifts, the first of which is dealing with the monetization of news.

“The fundamental fact that we're dealing with is an economic fact – the economic underpinnings of legacy journalism are breaking,” said Overholser, adding the additional challenge of a changing audience definition. “The people formally known as the audience are no longer sitting back and waiting for us in the morning to tell them what’s important.”

Aside from this impatience and unwillingness to pay for news, those individuals formerly known as the “audience” are now actively participating, causing legacy journalists to reinvent themselves and welcome the collaborative process through which everyone now sets out to garner information and form opinions.

Speaking on behalf of Annenberg, Overholser saw three key roles for journalisms schools in the forging of these new frontiers. With examples from the comprehensive gamut of Annenberg programs, she demonstrated the school’s dedication to training leaders, providing support and information for legacy media as they continue to be hollowed out, and finally working to carve out new knowledge through research.

With these charges, young journalists are certainly empowered during this time of change, as is the public. As a proponent of news literacy, Overholser sees the future as full of possibility.

“For anyone who does want to be well informed, the opportunities today are greater than they have been before,” she said. 

The USC Alumni Club of North Orange County is one of nine alumni organizations in the county in which 30,000 alumni reside, comprising between 22 and 25 percent of the Trojan Family.


Noll publishes book; pens article on 3-D TV (Fierce Telecom)


Communication professor emeritus A. Michael Noll penned his 12th book titled Choosing Well with Andrew Whaling. The book discusses practical advice on finding the person for a lasting relationship. The book discusses how to flirt, what to talk about on a first date, and how to recognize quality singles. It was published in October 2009

Noll also wrote a Jan. 12 article about 3-D TV for Fierce Telecom. With Avatar garnering much success, a focus has shifted on 3-D TV for the home, Noll said.

“All this interest in 3D will be just another bubble,” Noll said in the article. “3D is not new. The stereopticon goes all the way back to the mid 1800s. Stereoscope viewers are still popular today, such as the View-Master toy. 3D movies are also nothing new -- but have been always something of a gimmick.”

“Some believe that 3D TV might be the ‘killer application’ that will drive the demand for ultra-broadband to the home. However, 3D involves horizontal shifts in picture elements, which would be particularly appropriate for bandwidth compression. 3D would increase the bandwidth by less than 10 percent, if at all,” he said in his article.  


Student Rockower published in book “The Meeting of Civilizations”

Master’s in Public Diplomacy student Paul Rockower was published in the book “The Meeting of Civilizations.”

His chapter on Pakistani-Israeli relations is in the book published by Sussex Academic Press. It was released in December 2009.



/images/faculty/page_tim_121p.jpgPage takes part in Q-and-A on his new book on growing up with Asberger’s

 Journalism Professor Tim Page was featured in a Jan. 21 Q-&-A article in The article discussed his book “Parallel Play,” which chronicled growing up with undiagnosed Asberger’s syndrome.

"I'd never even heard of Asperger's — I learned about it on the same day I was diagnosed," Page said. "The moment I was told that my son had it, I immediately knew I had it. I went and got my own diagnosis. It was amazing. It sure explained my life."

In the article, Page discussed growing up and not feeling like the other children. “Before the first chapter begins, we see Page's kindergarten photo — a little blond boy looking confused and somewhat troubled. The caption reads: ‘Try as I might, I couldn't remember how to smile,’” read the review.

“This, we learn, is Asperger's in a nutshell: human social cues, social norms that we take for granted, are like a foreign language to an ‘Aspie,’ as Page and others call the diagnosed.”

Tim Page was also interviewed by Sasha Anawalt on his book on Feb. 2 at Central Library at 7:00p.m.

Central Library talk


Suro's keynote in Netherlands to explore potential new policies in wake of recession presents

/images/faculty/suro_roberto_121x183.jpgJournalism Professor Roberto Suro will present a keynote address at the international conference “Migration: A World in Motion” on Feb. 19 at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.  Suro’s talk, “Searching for New Paradigms in the Wake of the Great Recession” will explore the potential for the development of new policy structures in the United States and the European Union following the economic downturn.

The three-day conference will bring together social scientists and policy makers from different countries for presentations and discussions related to the determinants and effects of migration and the impact of policy regimes. This conference is co-sponsored by the Washington-based Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management.


Winston helps launch new blog on Religion Dispatches

Knight Chair in Media and Religion Diane Winston has helped begin a new blog on the Web site Religion Dispatches. The first blog “Capricology: Television, Tech, and the Sacred” looked at the intersection of science and religion through the new series Caprica, which is a spin-off of the popular TV series Battlestar Gallactica. The first installment was published online on Jan. 26.

In the weekly blog, Winston will be joined by Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts Henry Jenkins.  Anthea Butler of the University of Pennsylvania and Salmen Hameed of Hamilton College will also join them on the blog.





Anawalt on “The Joffrey Ballet” (LA Times) 

Blakley on the impact of “An Inconvenient Truth” (Marketplace)

Buffington on depiction of injuries in movies (Maine Public Broadcasting Network) 

Castells on President Obama and the internet (O Estado de Sao Paolo (Brazil)) 

Cole on NBC/Leno (LA Times) and new devices such as iPad (ABC News)

Cooper on Haiti coverage (The Week) and TMZ (CBS)

Jenkins on information overload (CBS News) and iPad (Huffington Post)

Lih on the use of social media during disasters (LA Times) and Internet acces in China (Wenhui Daily (Chinese))

Overholser on drop in high school newspapers (Bakersfield Californian)

Page on Cleveland Orchestra labor dispute (NPR)

Reeves discusses new book on Berlin Airlift (San Francisco Examiner and KPCC)

Adjunct Rosenberg on Haiti TV Coverage (Associated Press)

Taplin has four of the top 10 most-read posts on "Memo Café" last year (Talking Points Memo); Taplin on celebrities helping out in humanitarian efforts (Voice of America) and YouTube's rentable movies (Marketplace)

Students Thompson and Goldsmith mentioned as winners of Chick Hearn scholarship (The Signal)

Neon Tommy’s investigative reporting mentioned as “good solid reporting” (LA Times); Paparazzo article mentioned as a “fantastic story” (Jezebel)

Ph.D. student Powers’ study mentioned (Miller-McCune); quoted on Al-Jazeera English (Adbusters)