USC Annenberg offers panels, discussion with Oscar winner for 2009 Trojan Parents' Weekend
Posted October 28, 2009
By Jonathan Arkin
Armed with a new name and a successful start to the 2009-2010 academic year, the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism welcomed more than 400 parents and family members on Oct. 23 as part of USC’s Trojan Parents’ Weekend.
“As you know very well, this is a family,” Dean Ernest J. Wilson III (pictured, above left) said to the morning gathering of students and their visiting parents during a catered breakfast with the Dean and other faculty. “This is true for the University of Southern California but it is especially true for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I want to say that your children have picked one of the very best places in the world to study communication and journalism, public affairs and public diplomacy…our journalism school is now the center of attention. Annenberg 3.0 is a school of innovation and comprehensiveness. We do it all, and we do it brilliantly. It is a wonderful, wonderful school.”
Wilson’s welcome breakfast was the first part of a series of events acquainting Annenberg’s programs, faculty and facilities to the parents of current students. Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism, followed with a roundtable panel on Creative Approaches to the Issues Facing Today’s Newsrooms, at which a group of experts discussed some familiar concerns to journalists.
“Your students are getting a really great mixture of basic skills with a very innovative mix of multimedia journalism and entrepreneurial storytelling,” Overholser said.
Vikki Porter, director of the Knight Digital Media Center, joined Overholser and journalism professors Marc Cooper, Bill Celis, Andrew Lih and executive in residence David Westphal onstage to talk about ways Annenberg is trying to train the newest generation of journalists.
“This is an extraordinary place to be after being in a newsroom for several decades,” Porter said of her own experience, adding that it would be crucial for news organizations to think entrepreneurially as well as journalists themselves – as the field continues to reinvent itself. “We (the Knight Center) are trying to save journalism. That’s what it says on our Web site…we involve students as much as we can in our projects, trying to engage them in the thinking that is required in newsrooms.”
Communication professor Stacy Smith then hosted a talk with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody on “Women, Power and the Industry,” saying that despite women demographically making up half the world’s population, they were still dramatically underrepresented in the percentage of roles written for the screen.
“She and I are feminists, so put us together and we’ve got a lot to say” said Cody of her collaboration with Karen Kusama, the director of her newest effort, the horror film Jennifer’s Body, whose title character uses her femininity to wield horrific powers. “We were trying to make a statement about the genre.”
Smith and Cody elicited frequent laughter as they talked about Cody’s colorful career – and the personal and professional misses along the way, which Cody cheerfully shared with the audience.
“What was the ‘horror’ in Jennifer’s Body?” Smith asked Cody.
Cody’s response brought more laughter.
“The horror was in the box office performance,” said Cody, whose accomplishments include writing the award-winning movie “Juno.”
Cody also described her relationship with long-time producing partner Mason Novick, her other producing collaboration with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks – currently presenting the television series United States of Tara on Showtime – and the creation of what Cody has tabbed “Fempire,” which has committed itself to writing roles “in the service of women” and making more work for female actors.
“The most important thing for women in the industry right now is saturation…volume,” Cody said. “We need to work. It doesn’t all have to be perfect.”
The final panel of the day brought a handful of recent graduates of USC Annenberg for a “Five Under 25” discussion. Josh Rodriguez (Print Journalism ’09), Monica Alba (Broadcast Journalism ‘09), Jessica Parks (Print Journalism ’06), Roderick Scott (Broadcast Journalism ’07) and Samantha Billet (Broadcast Journalism ’07) joined Ashley Mediano (Communication ’07) to talk about their successes in the world of job searches and internships.
Although all the panelists had achieved recent success and shared advice – Alba co-founded the Social Issues Documentary Film Contest and Mediano interned at Elle magazine as its West Coast representative – it was Parks who gave the students in attendance a particularly positive push.
“Don’t ever sell yourselves short – especially in journalism,” Parks said, referring to the importance of approaching internships with confidence. “You bring a lot to the table when you’re young. They want you there for a reason…in journalism you’ll find that everyone knows everyone. Don’t burn your bridges. Stay in touch with your mentors.”
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Creative Approaches to the Issues Facing Today’s Newsrooms video
Five Under 25 video