The Search for Ethics Digital technology is reshaping media and culture. Our scholars explore how to build and use these new tools responsibly.
Stories from the Street Rows of tents and tarps line the sidewalks of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Men and women settle underneath street signs, each with their own story about how they got there. This past fall, undergraduate students had the chance to research and document these human experiences as part of Mary Murphy and Sandy Tolan’s “Reporting on Urban Affairs” course. Investigating a wide range of topics related to homelessness, students wrote articles, captured photos and videos, and created multimedia projects. In the spring, their in-depth examinations of loneliness, trauma, mental illness, sexuality, addiction, assault and domestic violence were featured in The Huffington Post. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake
The Search for Ethics Digital technology is reshaping media and culture. Our scholars explore how to build and use these new tools responsibly. By Emily Cavalcanti and Diane Krieger
Game Face Athletes are looking to take control of their stories and connect directly with fans. What does this new transparency mean for the future of sports media and culture? By Jennifer Swann
Follow Me The next challenge for inï¬‚uencers: Maintaining their impact without compromising their authenticity. By Mira Zimet
1 FIRST PIC Stories from the Street
3 DEAN'S LIST New Conversations at Annenberg ON THE COVER Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare
USC Annenberg Magazine
4 POINT A
10 FIRST PERSON
5 WHAT'S ON MY PHONE?
12 FRESH VOICE
32 KNOW HOW
40 CAREER PATH
6 OVERHEARD 8 INNOVATION
35 TROJAN MEDIA ROUNDUP
Photo by Jessica Monroy
STAFFBOX ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR COMMUNICATION AND MARKETING Emily Cavalcanti ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR DEVELOPMENT AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS Tracy Mendoza CHIEF CREATIVE CONTENT OFFICER Mira Zimet DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI RELATIONS Leticia Lozoya MEDIA AND CONTENT STRATEGIST Ted B. Kissell COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST Sarah Wolfson DESIGN Pentagram CONTRIBUTING STAFF Adam Miller Assistant Director of Development MaryBeth Leonard Executive Assistant Mike Mauro Chief Digital Officer Rachelle Martin Digital Coordinator
New Conversations at Annenberg
Suzanne Boretz Graphic Designer Olivia Mowry Digital Media Producer Jasmine Torres Special Events Coordinator USC ANNENBERG ADMINISTRATION Willow Bay Dean and Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication Josh Kun Director, School of Communication Gordon Stables Director, School of Journalism USC ANNENBERG MAGAZINE Published twice a year by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. © 2018 USC Annenberg. The diverse opinions expressed in USC Annenberg Magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the editors, USC Annenberg administration or USC. USC Annenberg Magazine welcomes comments from its readers to ascpubs@usc. edu or USC Annenberg Magazine, 3502 Watt Way, G40, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281
Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare
By Willow Bay Dean and Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication
TODAY, WE HAVE unprecedented opportunities to connect, communicate and access information. Yet many of us feel less connected and less informed. At this moment of profound and, at times, destabilizing change, USC Annenberg’s mission has never been more urgent. As you have probably heard me say before … our world has been rewired. And no one left us a user’s manual. One of the most critical ways I believe we can lead the way forward is by expanding USC Annenberg’s presence in the public square to create new opportunities for conversation, dialogue and debate. Over the past year we have been the center for numerous wide-ranging and important discussions, including those around diverse voices in entertainment and media; the rise of bots and the radicalization of rhetoric; race in the fashion industry; athletes as activists; and ethics and equity in the digital age. These are more than conversations; rather, they represent our deep engagement with the issues — scholarly and professional — and the meaningful connections we are forging with experts and industry partners. After surveying readers last year, we learned that you are eager for us to position you at the heart of these discussions, too. In fact, 86 percent of you want this magazine to deepen and strengthen your relationship with USC Annenberg. You also want to know how your fellow alumni are innovating and impacting their ﬁelds, how our students are connecting what they learn in the classroom to the real world, and how our faculty are uncovering and advancing vital new knowledge. We have completely reimagined this magazine — in content and design — to offer you a twice-yearly “user’s manual” you can rely on for insights around the challenges and opportunities of our day. I want us to do more than be part of the conversation. I want us to lead the conversation. Through USC Annenberg Magazine, we hope to demonstrate how our USC Annenberg community is answering our founder Walter H. Annenberg’s charge to use communication to understand the great changes before us. Fall 2018 3
PointA FROM HERE TO THERE AT USC ANNENBERG
SWIPERIGHT @inclusionists How inclusive is Hollywood when it comes to hiring practices? Our research reveals that females are less than 1/3 of all characters on screen. There has been no change, even though females are half the population!
A close examination of inequality in the entertainment industry. When the best actress Oscar was awarded at the 2018 Academy Awards on March 4, Stacy Smith, director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, listened as winner Frances McDormand concluded her speech with “inclusion rider.” “She literally stood on stage and said, here’s one solution,” said Smith, who 13 years ago started detailed research on the casting breakdown of the top 100 ﬁlms each year. Smith ﬁrst put forward the concept of the “inclusion rider” in a 2014 op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter. The idea was that A-list actors could incorporate a clause in their contracts to stipulate that inclusion — both on camera and behind the scenes for crew members — be reﬂected in ﬁlms. The rider states that women, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities who are traditionally underrepresented, be depicted on screen in proportion to their representation in the population. For Smith, also associate professor of communication, this is a watershed moment. “The walls are crumbling in Hollywood,” she said, “and this is the ﬁrst time since I’ve been working in this space that a solution for true change can move the needle quickly and in a direction towards more inclusion — almost overnight.” For Smith, the research and advocacy didn’t stop with the ﬁlm industry. In 2018, her team wrote about discrepancies in the music industry and recently released a report about the lack of diversity in ﬁlm criticism.
USC Annenberg Magazine
Think Tank The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is known world-wide for its research-based solutions to tackle inequality.
@michaelbjordan In support of the women & men who are leading this ﬁght, I will be adopting the Inclusion Rider for all projects produced by my company Outlier Society. I’ve been privileged to work with powerful women & persons of color throughout my career & it’s Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward. #OutlierSociety #AnnenbergInclusion Initiative @MerriamWebster ‘Inclusion’ is our top search of the night, followed by ‘cinematography,’ ‘in memoriam,’ ‘feminism,’ and ‘rider.’ #Oscars @violadavis The inclusion rider is an important step. Not simply as a quota or political statement or a hashtag… but because it is necessary to reﬂect what is American (and global) culture. To achieve this, inclusion is
the only option @JuVeeProds @Inclusionists @THR Matt Damon, Ben Afﬂeck production company to adopt inclusion rider. @women_want_more Men of Country Music: Where you at? It’s weird not to see your names on the chart. Unfortunately, that’s a feeling female artists know all too well. 4 weeks of top 40 charts, 5 women, only 1 in the top 20. Country music isn’t 88% men. Radio and the charts shouldn’t be either. @Variety Sean @Diddy Combs: “There’s no black CEO of a major record company. That’s just as bad as the fact that there are no [black] majority owners in the NFL” @Reﬁnery29 A recent study by @Inclusionists found ﬁlm criticism remains dominated by white men. For too long, women have been excluded from the conversation. It’s time for a rewrite. ArtsJournal.com Aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. Of the 19,559 reviews studied, 77.8 were by male critics and 22.2 were by female critics. Stacy Smith, founder and director of the Inclusion Initiative, said ﬁlm critics are “overwhelmingly white and male.”
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
W H AT ’ S O N M Y P H O N E ?
Neha Wadekar Global Multimedia Journalist Whether it’s livestreaming clashes between police and protestors in Kenya or writing an article on the ﬁrst black African woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, Neha Wadekar instinctively knows how to ﬁnd the right medium to tell a story. “My phone has been critical to my work as a journalist,” said Wadekar, who graduated in 2016 with an M.S. in journalism. Beyond using it for livestreams and photos, she said, “I’m also connected to all my social media accounts, so I can post quickly in real time when I’m reporting breaking news.” Her passion for international journalism emerged during her spring semester at USC Annenberg, when she organized a trip to cover refugee camps in Jordan. After graduation, she was inspired by that experience and moved to Nairobi, Kenya, hoping to use her reporting skills to change the world. “That’s what every journalist wants to do with their reporting,” she said, “is to actually see impact.”
Music Nice for What - Drake Nights - Frank Ocean Any Nina Simone song
Videos MOVIES Good Will Hunting American History X Gangs of New York
TV SHOWS West Wing The Wire Mad Men
Books Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Tweets Latest story and video for ELLE UK about a fierce Somali policewoman fighting for justice for rape victims #somalia #puntland #metoo #rapejustice So excited to share this piece about Islam Elbeiti — the badass female bassist using her music to change Sudan! @rachelclarareed #africanvoices #sudan
Following @POTUS @BillGates @BarackObama @PresidentKE
Photo Courtesy of Neha Wadekar
@USEmbKinshasa @WHOYemen @CNNAfrica @FullerProject
Fall 2018 5
Don’t ever confuse what is legal with what is moral, because they are entirely different animals. In life, you’re either principled or you’re not. So, do the right thing, especially when nobody’s looking.
The truth has always been and will always be our shield against corruption, our shield against greed and despair. The truth is our saving grace and not only are you here, USC Annenberg, to tell it, to write it, to proclaim it, to speak it, but to be it. Be the truth.
I hold you in the light, and I wish you curiosity and confidence, and I wish you ethics and enlightenment. I wish you guts…. I hope that every one of you contributes to the conversation of our culture and our time and to some genuine communication.
Pick a problem, any problem, and do something about it because to somebody who’s hurting, something is everything.
OPRAH WINFREY, former talk show host turned media mogul, gave the 2018 USC Annenberg commencement address.
Photos by Karen Ballard; Illustration by Sean McCabe
History is still being written. You’re writing it every day. The wheels still spin and what you do or what you don’t do will be a part of it. You build a legacy, not from one thing, but from everything.
Fashion Speaks Series brings insights from journalism and communication to the apparel industry.
back to Southern California from New York and has been named communications deputy for the mayor of Long Beach.
(B.A., broadcast and digital journalism, ’16) has been named the new anchor at KVOA. She will be anchoring the noon and 4 p.m. newscasts and reporting. ALYSSA J. SMITH
(B.A., communication, ’10), an anchor at Cheddar, has relocated to Los Angeles to launch its West Coast studio.
According to Clinical Professor of Communication Alison Trope, when we look at fashion, we’re not just looking at the clothes. We are also thinking about the kinds of bodies that wear those clothes. We are looking at gender, sexuality, class, race and ethnicity. “All of these things are going to impact the way we further understand the way fashion gains meaning, particularly in relation to an individual’s identity,” she said. With grant support from Gabriela and Austin Hearst, parents of a USC Annenberg student, Trope organized an event called “Fashioning Change and Changing Fashion.” The three-part public forum explored how fashion is affected by the political, social and cultural landscape. The gift allowed USC Annenberg to deeply investigate one industry and view it from multiple perspectives. “Fashion has so many layers to it,” Trope said. “We wanted to bring academics and practitioners together as part of the larger discussion of how fashion is communicated.”
Rethink the Runway Alison Trope gathers scholars and practitioners from around the country to share insights on how fashion relates to culture.
(B.A., print and digital journalism, ’15) was promoted to executive editor at The Tylt. MARINA ZENOVICH’S
(B.A., broadcast journalism, ’01) was appointed global head of video and audio at The Wall Street Journal.
TAKING THE LEAD New School Directors Dean Willow Bay has appointed Josh Kun as director of the School of Communication and Gordon Stables as director of the School of Journalism. A professor of communication and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Kun is acclaimed for bridging his scholarship as a cultural historian with the curation of exhibitions, installations and public humanities projects. “My appointment reflects the open-minded, ﬂexible and experimental thinking that has come to characterize the work of USC Annenberg’s faculty, staff and students,” Kun said. Stables was previously the interim director of the School of Journalism and associate dean for student affairs, which includes advisement, career Photo by Amy Tierney
development and international programs. A recognized voice within the intercollegiate debate community, he was director of the Trojan Debate Squad for 16 years. “I am looking forward to bringing together our faculty, students and staff to develop the kinds of dynamic classes, projects and conversations that are only possible at USC Annenberg,” Stables said. “I look forward to working closely with Josh and Gordon to strengthen USC Annenberg’s reputation for excellence through its portfolio of groundbreaking research, innovative curriculum, and commitment to creating new opportunities for conversation, dialogue and debate,” Bay said.
(B.A., journalism, ’85) latest film, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018 and on HBO in July.
(B.A., journalism, ’11) founded CSCH, a creative strategy and consulting firm.
(M.A., communication management, ’13) took on a new role as director of digital strategy at M Booth.
(B.A., broadcast journalism, ’16) relocated
(B.A., journalism, ’83) was named agency president of Gumas Advertising. Prior to his promotion, he served as Senior Vice President, Client Services.
Fall 2018 7
I N N OVAT I O N
USC Annenberg Magazine
Not Your Parents’ Film Criticism By Rosemarie Alejandrino F ILM CRITICISM DIED at the birth of television. At least, that’s what former Time movie critic and editorin-chief of Film Comment Richard Corliss said in his 1990 column, “All Thumbs: Or, Is There a Future for Film Criticism?” The cause of his concern? Two new, ﬂashy television personalities he felt were the disintegration of the pure, academic, poetic form of written ﬁlm criticism — Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. That ’s right. The guys who so many movie fans believe rejuvenated ﬁlm criticism for the visual age got backlash from “traditional” written critics when their show began. It’s kind of funny to think that now — eight years after the show, featuring different hosts, went off the air — the rapidly changing digital media space might have Corliss begging for the days of At the Movies. Now, the question of “All Thumbs?” has become “Fresh or Rotten?” or “What’s Trending?” or a combination of those and more, thanks to the onslaught of online opinion, analysis and, yes, aggregation. Just as the ways we consume media have changed drastically in the last few decades, so have the ways to produce thoughtful criticism about the media we consume. Across multimedia platforms — particularly online video and podcasts — a new class of critics has arisen, made up of people who view the world of ﬁlm and entertainment criticism through a digital lens. Some don’t consider themselves critics at all. This new breed of content creators isn’t looking to compete with traditional print critics; in fact, they exist side by side in the same cinesphere, often using written reviews as a jumping-off point for their discussions. W here these video and audio critics are taking us represents an exciting chapter in the evolving narrative of ﬁlm criticism. The ability to pause and zoom allows a crafty YouTuber to dive into a scene’s shot construction in minute detail. Access to streaming services lets a critic
watch a movie over and over so as to not miss a detail while dissecting the plot for Easter eggs and hidden gems. The rise in podcasts and longform audio platforms connects the critic to the listener in an intimate setting, as if you’re listening in on a conversation between friends who love or hate a ﬁlm as much as you do. The key culture-shifting component of new media ﬁlm criticism is the critic's relationship with their audience. A critic’s specific interests and the cult of personality that sometimes surrounds them fosters a special, kinetic kind of fan-to-critic relationship. Are you interested in taking a revisionist look at classic Disney animated ﬁlms? Passionate about fair representations of race and gender in ﬁlms? Curious to see what your favorite directors might reveal about their next ﬁlm after having a glass or two of champagne? There’s probably somebody out there who shares the same interests, no matter how niche or off-kilter. It’s just a matter of ﬁnding a voice that speaks to you. According to a survey we conducted on YouTube of users on Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango channels, people overwhelmingly preferred movie-related video content over audio or text. (This might be expected given the medium on which the survey was conducted.) But when asked where they preferred to get movie recommendations, a majority of respondents selected friends and family (60%) over video reviews (11%). It’s possible that the audience for video and, subsequently, long-form audio, is seeking ﬁlm content that dives deeper than reviews and recommendations, content that aims to start and extend the conversation in new ways. a
SOPHIE-MARIE PRIME ’19 is
pursuing her master's in specialized journalism (the arts), and was awarded the second Rotten Tomatoes Fellowship in Digital Innovation and Film Criticism. Prime is planning to use social media and cultural analysis to bridge academic and popular conversations about representation in film and television.
Rosemarie Alejandrino (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts), ’18) was the inaugural Rotten Tomatoes Digital Innovation and Film Criticism Fellow, a partnership with Fandango and USC Annenberg.
©Disney-ABC Domestic Television / Contributor / Getty Images
Fall 2018 9
USC Annenberg Magazine
Global Connections Through USC Annenberg's alternative spring break program in Thailand, students discover how stories unite us all. By Steven Villescas
Global Gift A generous donation from a USC Annenberg parent supported 14 students and their travel to two iconic cities in Thailand, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
T HE NUMBER OF “firsts” that come with being a ﬁrst-generation college student are endless. I was the ﬁrst in my family to go to college and the ﬁrst to work towards a master’s degree (in communication management). I was also the ﬁrst to leave the continent. While I have had the opportunity to travel around the country as a competitive public speaker, I had never left the United States. So, when I got an email informing me that I had been chosen to represent USC Annenberg for their pilot Alternative Spring Break program to Thailand, I felt both thrilled and humbled. The International Programs Department let me and 13 other graduate and undergraduate students know that we had been selected because our applications communicated an ability to think beyond ourselves. In the months leading up to our departure, we went to meetings packed with information such as etiquette when visiting temples, safety tips, key words and phrases in Thai, and of course, the best places to get mango sticky rice. When we arrived at Bangkok Airport, my mind was both frozen and racing. The “sneak peek” into the culture I’d gotten from our orientation meetings on campus had made me eager to dive into the vibrant land just beyond the airport’s walls. Over our nine days in Thailand, I bonded with my fellow “Annenbergians” in the best ways possible. Each day, we pooled our collective communication brainpower to consult with nonproﬁt, private and governmental organizations and learn about their goals and craft messages to help them better connect with their communities and stakeholders. Our whirlwind tour included a stop at the headquarters of The Gulf Group, a Thai energy company, where we discussed possible campaign strategies to improve their relations with farmers, and a meeting with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization), where we learned about the latest youthdriven social change campaign to be rolled out across Illustration by Julia Rothman
Europe. As we met with groups like these that are doing such important work – and actually listening to our ideas about how to help with that work – this kid from Southeast Los Angeles started to feel like a real global communicator. I’d seen that moniker before, and I’d dismissed it as empty résumé-padding. But as we made connections with the people in Thailand – not only in boardrooms and ofﬁces, but riding in vans and standing on train platforms — the Land of a Thousand Smiles began to make me realize that my ideas, opinions and perspective on how to make the world a better place actually mattered. I and my 13 fellow Annenbergians started as strangers, but as we took in skyline views from rooftop lounges in Bangkok and the lush greenery from a mountaintop in Chiang Mai, our connections grew to ﬁll the space between colleague and best friend. We were learning more about ourselves as we learned about other people who lived in a different cultural context. Global communication isn’t a résumé booster, it’s a responsibility. The beauty of global communication lies in the opportunity it presents to gather the people’s stories — from all corners of the globe — to weave narratives that bring us closer together. Leaving the States for the ﬁrst time reminded me of Jim Lovell, the astronaut who covered the planet Earth with his thumb from Apollo 8. He recalled feeling small and insigniﬁcant because everyone he had ever known was now under his thumb. While I can’t yet cover Earth with my thumb from outer space, the passport in my hand allows me to travel the planet, listen to people and discover the stories we all share as humans. I believe the opportunity to have been a part of the Alternative Spring Break program will act as the perfect bridge to connect my passion for advocacy with professional communication. The program has, quite literally, meant the world to me. a Steven Villescas is a second-year graduate student working toward his master’s in communication management. Fall 2018 11
Michael Nyman has great expectations By Mira Zimet
Ahead of the Noise In 2018, Michael Nyman ’86 founded Acceleration to best serve clients in a hypersegmented advertising landscape.
MICHAEL NYMAN ’86 was at the top of his game. He successfully merged two prominent marketing and communication ﬁrms into the nation’s leading culture and entertainment agency. He was working with a group of ﬁrst-rate clients and, in his words, “life was good.” Then Nyman’s youngest child, Matt, received a letter from USC asking him to join the football team. Nyman knew the letter of acceptance into the university would soon follow. It wasn’t as if the soon-to-be empty nest was unexpected, but because it happened so fast — and so early in the year — it got him thinking. With added time on his hands, what more could he do? This opened the door to refocus, and thus Acceleration was born. Nyman, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism in sports information, envisioned an advertising and integrated marketing start-up model, without the need to take an older, established company and turn it upside down to refresh. In this “era of convergence,” he steered away from the routine that he sees a lot of ﬁrms in the industry falling back on: shampoo, rinse, repeat. “If you have a product, for example, soda, that can be consumed by a 10-year-old and an 80-year-old, you now need to come up with ideas on how to market that to each of these audiences differently,” Nyman said. “Five, 10 years ago you could have purchased an ad on a prime-time show, knowing that you’d capture a great percentage of the marketplace. Now everything is aggregated and hypersegmented.” Nyman’s new business model brings together a collection of specialized mid-size agencies, with expertise in areas such as e-commerce, digital media and search engine optimization, to meet client needs where they are now — and where they might be in the future. “Clients can’t just have great ideas, they need to be able to get their customers into these distinct markets,” Nyman said. “And, right now, there’s no one platform that’s going to get them there.” Being open to opportunity is not new for Nyman. Starting his own PR ﬁrm, Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, in the ’90s, Nyman had the momentum and the foresight to stay ahead of ever-changing market dynamics and build close connections between brands and their customers. In 2009, Nyman was asked to head the merger that combined BNC’s established brand marketing and communication leadership with PMK, a talent powerhouse. PMK*BNC doubled the size of the company in five years and profitability was up five-fold. He served as co-chairman and CEO for the next eight years. “That, to me, was the ultimate act of merging and delivering,” he said. “It’s my most deﬁning success to date.” Many awards and recognitions followed, including his being named to The Holmes Report’s inaugural Innovator 25 list for positioning the company as experts in pop culture. As he begins his new adventure with Acceleration, he reﬂects on one of the books that inﬂuenced his way of thinking about business. In Only the Paranoid Survive, Andrew Grove, founder and former CEO of Intel, explains the importance of recognizing the difference between noise and static. “Static,” Nyman explained, “is a little moment in time where something seems off, something unusual may be happening. Noise, on the other hand, is a technological or business transformation that will affect consumer habits and behaviors. Noise can be life-changing if ignored.” That being said, Nyman concluded, “I’ve deﬁnitely tried throughout my career to stay ahead of the noise.” a A member of the USC Annenberg Board of Councilors, Michael Nyman established the PMK*BNC Think Tank partnership at USC Annenberg. He is often on campus talking to students as part of various alumni lecture series. Photo by Cody Pickens
Fall 2018 13
D I G I TA L T E C H N O L O G Y I S R E S H A P I N G M E D I A A N D C U LT U R E . O U R S C H O L A R S EXPLORE HOW TO BUILD AND USE T H E S E N E W T O O L S R E S P O N S I B L Y. BY EMILY CAVALCANTI AND DIANE KRIEGER
SAFIYA UMOJA NOBLE had just begun researching the inner workings of search engines in 2009 when a colleague quipped, “You should see what happens when you Google ‘black girls.’” “I am a black girl,” Noble recalled. “I have a daughter. I have lots of nieces. I immediately did the search.” She got back a page full of pornography. “That started me on a deeper line of inquiry about the way in which misrepresentation happens for women of color on the internet, and the broader social consequences of that,” said Noble, assistant professor of communication. “This was happening on the internet, a forum where people think of the information that they come across is objective, neutral and credible.” Noble had previously spent 15 years in marketing and advertising, working for some of the largest Fortune 100 brands in the United States. As she was leaving corporate America and beginning graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the late 2000s, she started scrutinizing the rise of digital technologies – Google in particular. She noticed that many of her peers were touting the “liberatory” effect that Google was having on the information space. “I got a lot of pushback from people in academe and people in industry who said, ‘Google is the peoples’ Illustrations by Eleanor Shakespeare
Fall 2018 15
company,’ and to critique them was unfair because they were doing so much more than any other company had done to make information accessible,” Noble said. “But as this total diversion of public goods and knowledge into privately held organizations unfolded, there were questions to be asked – like, ‘Who will truly lose?’” Noble is among several USC Annenberg faculty asking these kinds of probing questions about our evolving landscape of digital media and information systems. Their research explores the importance of establishing a strong ethical framework to bear on new modes of information-
sharing – both on the part of the proﬁt-seeking ﬁrms creating these new tools, and on the part of individuals as responsible and sophisticated users of the tools. While scholars differ on how these new-media ethics might be implemented, they agree that academia must have a role in developing workable solutions. For Noble, her research led to her latest book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. One of her major ﬁndings: The results of Google searches are not value-neutral. “In the book, I interrogate the fundamental building blocks of technology,” she said. “Computer language is a language, and as we know in the humanities, language is subjective and can be interpreted in myriad ways. “It is the responsibility of companies, users and regulators to ask: What’s ethical, what’s moral, what’s right, what’s oppressive, what’s fair, what’s socially just, what fosters civil rights, and what erodes human rights? All of those conversations live in the domain of ethics.” But most who work in the information and tech industries, she argues, don’t possess the ethical training, knowledge, expertise or, in many cases, the inclination to think about what they are stewarding and how they are inﬂuencing public opinion. If people are willing to shift their attention away from journalists and academic scholars and instead rely heavily upon these media platforms to provide trusted information, Noble wonders who is guiding them. “One of the most important frameworks for computer scientists is the concept of universal design, yet the philosophical underpinnings of this universality often preclude women and people of color,” she said. “And these challenges, of course, are deeply tied to ethical structures.” Noble recognizes that over the years some engineers have tried to apply a traditional sense of ethics as they design. Nevertheless, the speciﬁc ways that vulnerable people — women and people of color — are often in the crosshairs of some of the worst abuses of technology remain to be addressed, she said. There Is No Golden Age Tech companies are far from the ﬁrst to face scrutiny for how the choices they make in disseminating information can sway thoughts and opinions. Ethics in Faculty portraits by John Davis
communication, or the lack of them, can mean the difference between news and propaganda. According to Thomas Hollihan, we can trace 21stcentury concerns about ethics in mass communication back to the Sophists of ancient Greece, who not only insisted they could teach persuasion, but virtue as well. An authority on political rhetoric and a former USC debate coach, Hollihan notes that, as they sought to attract and win over their pupils, Sophists increasingly relied upon a deliberate use of fallacious reasoning and exaggerated claims. This drew harsh criticism, especially from Plato. “Plato was hostile to rhetoric,” Hollihan explained. “He thought that the orators had inﬂamed the passions of the people and didn’t think the public was really suited to evaluate arguments.” Then along came Aristotle. “He provided a much more pragmatic and systematic view of persuasion,” said Hollihan, professor of communication and director of doctoral studies. “He talked about the psychological characteristics of audiences and the topics that most inﬂuence them.” Aristotle proclaimed rhetoric to be an instrument that can be either harmful or profoundly helpful, depending upon the virtue and value of the rhetor who uses it. In other words, intent is key. Just as Aristotle underscored the need to assess the “virtue and value of the rhetor,” Hollihan believes that, when it comes to media platforms, a fundamental evaluation of their intrinsic goals should be the starting point. Is the platform acting to fulﬁll narrow self-interests or promoting shared communal interests? Does it fundamentally operate with goodwill toward the people it is trying to inﬂuence? Is the platform honest and faithful in presenting the information people need to make a good decision, or has important information been withheld? “The bottom line is, you need ethics, character and good purpose,” Hollihan said. “There are lots of examples in history of people who have been effective in winning over audiences. But, if you do it based on fear, anxiety of the other or willful ignorance, then I don’t think you can celebrate it as good rhetoric, even if it’s successful rhetoric.” T H E R E W E R E Turning to his expertise in political communication, HolQ U E S T I O N S lihan points to the emergence of propaganda studies during World War I. When President Woodrow T O B E A S K E D — Wilson issued an executive order establishing the Committee L I K E , “W H O on Public Information in 1917, he gave the new federal agency authority to use every medium available at the time to persuade W I L L T R U L Y Americans it was in their best interest to support the war. L O S E ?” “That was the ﬁrst concentrated attempt to manipulate S A F I YA N O B L E political opinion in the United States in a very systematic way,” Hollihan said. “We created this public effort to actually persuade people, in this case, to support the war: to buy Liberty Bonds, to enlist and to get behind the war effort with enthusiasm.” At every step, society has seen technological advances leveraged to inﬂuence the masses. But the convenience or the entertainment value of these technologies has always been sufﬁcient to overcome the initial anxiety innovation produces. Fall 2018 17
“We move on and adapt,” Hollihan said. “People adapt, society adapts. Technology adapts. And social science adapts. New developments will continue to occur, and eventually the entire situation we’re in now will turn out to have been a blip in history. I don’t think we want to be too nostalgic about a perfect golden era that never really existed.” It’s All About Your Audience Henry Jenkins agrees that as technologies emerge, we always ﬁnd a way to push beyond them; that constant back-and-forth struggle is the nature of the world. In considering the nuances of tech’s modern-day powers to persuade, however, he differs from some of his colleagues. Jenkins objects to ascribing too much power to one side — the creators of these digital tools — and treating the other — the users — as if they had no power to change the situation. Jenkins, Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts, flat-out rejects the premise that people are “hypnotized” or “captured” by their devices. Human beings, he argues, never engage in any activity that’s meaningless to them. The pursuit of meaning is a core human urge, Jenkins insists, and it’s the social scientist’s job to understand how and why an activity is meaningful. His research documents how young people, far from being hapless victims hijacked by their devices, are bending digital media — and every other kind of media — to their will. Jenkins’ 2016 book, By Any Media Necessary, is based on interviews with 200 youth activists who are breaking new ground in political discourse through a media-saturated vocabulary rooted in pop culture. Jenkins’ current project, funded by a MacArthur Foundation grant, looks at youth activism through the lens of civic imagination. His 16-person research team at USC Annenberg monitors more than 30 youth-run social movements around the world, documenting M Y O W N how they use popular culture and new media to further their political goals. A collaborative book, Pop E T H I C A L Culture and Civic Imagination, will be released next year. The media skills of youth activC O M M I T M E N T ists were on full display last spring after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, as outI S T O S T A R T raged students took America’s gun debate into their own hands. “They T O F I G U R E went seamlessly from social media to a CNN town hall meeting to a face-to-face meeting with the president to a march on Washington O U T W H A T I T and speeches on the Mall,” Jenkins said. “They even communicated M E A N S. through the patches on Emma Gonzalez’s jacket.” From his perspective, the present H E N RY J E N K I N S moment is not about corporations manipulating young people. Rather, young people are taking advantage of available resources, including digital technology, and using them effectively to bring about new kinds of networked change. “That meaning may be translated into cash and exploited by corporations, but the starting point is something that kids really deeply desire to do,” Jenkins said. “My own ethical commitment is to start to ﬁgure out what it means.” 18
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Social media, for example, ﬁlls a hole in the social fabric frayed by hypermobility. Today, Americans relocate on average 12 times across their lifespan. This had been increasing generation by generation across the 20th century. To Jenkins, people using Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook are not so much slaves to these platforms as social beings using technology to build up communal cohesion and maintain social ties across long distances. “I think of it as bringing your social network with you wherever you go — like the turtle brings the shell on its back,” Jenkins said.
One practice that has media critics worried is unethical promotion of videos. The 15-second countdown that queues up the next YouTube video is not long enough, psychologists say, for the human mind to make a reasoned decision about stopping or continuing. Again, where critics see manipulation, Jenkins is on the lookout for meaning. And here he speaks from personal experience, as an avowed Netﬂix binge-watcher. “Yes, I sit and watch one show after another,” he admits, “but I’m not randomly watching. I’m exploring a list of 30 shows I want to watch, because there’s that much good TV being produced. I’ve chosen them from a broader range of media content than I have ever had available. And those shows are tied to all kinds of conversations I’m having as a fan within the web-based fan communities I participate in. Some other fans are rewriting the shows, remaking them as fan ﬁction art, and re-creating them as cosplay.” The important point, Jenkins said, is that, persuasive technology notwithstanding, digital content consumers are constantly making self-interested choices and curating their playlists. “Social media drives an awful lot of YouTube circulation,” he said. To Jenkins, far more interesting than the tricks platforms use to hold captive audiences is the logic by which viewers decide what video content to recommend through their social media network. Focusing on the platforms gives a distorted view of their power to control our brains, he believes. Studying the audience side reveals a cascade of conscious and creative responses being made by consumers, and all of the choices are meaningful to the people making them. “So, can I be distracted?” Jenkins asked. “Yes. “Can I be fed misinformation? Yes, though online communities actively debunk false information that circulates through social media. “Can I be confused, distracted, pulled in different directions? Yes. And companies can deﬁnitely make money off choices I’m making. “Still, I see many, many potent examples of conscious choice-making throughout the media landscape. The kind of disempowering rhetoric that seems to be dominant at the current time is not helpful for understanding and explaining the behavior we’re actually seeing.”
Time for Intervention For Noble, however, evaluating a platform’s integrity is paramount. She has found, like Aristotle, that intent is everything. “This is what my collaborators and I are trying to do,” Noble said. “Show how the platforms work, so we can think differently about alternatives.” One of those alternatives is Noble’s idea of a publicinterest search engine.
She regards libraries — not commercial platforms intent on driving consumer behavior — as the appropriate knowledge epicenters and gatekeepers of information in a democracy. The public mistakenly assumes Google search is like a digital public library. “Lots of research shows that most people believe the results have been curated and vetted, that they’re fair and accurate,” she said. Noble, whose doctoral training is in information science, wants to see a robust, publicly funded alternative to Google. She envisions something curated by teachers, librarians and subject-matter experts rather than the bots and underpaid offshore content moderation workers of commercial platforms. The infrastructure for Noble’s proposed public-interest search engine already exists in the archives and databases of major institutions like the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and top university and research libraries — a strong, integrated network with a history of collaborative toolmaking and knowledge-sharing. She has met with leading librarians to discuss the idea and hopes to build momentum. But in the meantime, as a sharp digital divide continues to separate the haves and have-nots in American life, Noble underscores that the have-nots are far more susceptible to, and victimized by, the misinformation and distortions perpetuated online. Jenkins sees digital media literacy education as a crucial step to bridge this gap. “The public needs to be informed about the choices it’s facing and the consequence of those choices,” Jenkins said. “People need to acquire skills at using the tools available to them.” Most developed nations, he points out, now have rigorous media literacy education requirements. “You don’t get out of British schools without passing a core task on media literacy. We have nothing like that in America,” Jenkins said. “With all we’ve heard in the last year and a half about distortions in the election by fake news and Russian interventions, we should have school systems embracing media literacy education as a central part of what they teach kids.” In an ideal world, Jenkins would like to see digital media literacy education happening not just in American schools
but everywhere people gather, including museums and churches. “Media literacy education should permeate every part of society that shapes how people make sense of the world around them,” he said. In a world of conﬂicting accounts, Hollihan agrees that teaching individuals how to evaluate stories, whatever form they might take, involves fostering a reﬁned sense of judgment to assess how faithfully characters perform the roles that they are assigned. “To some extent we have the innate ability to do this because virtually everything in our lives is introduced through stories,” he said. “Think about history: Moral lessons, even warnings from parents, all come in a storied form. We seem to have a challenge at the moment in terms of judging the claims of conﬂicting stories.” Hollihan adds that critical thinking also needs to be systematically taught. “Some studies have shown that in middle school and high school we have to take civics courses and keep up with world events,” he said. “But after that most of us are far less likely to learn anything more about how critical thinking can be applied to public policy. I think that’s a huge problem.” Noble welcomes the advent of such mass digital education, but she rejects any implication that the burden of ﬁltering out false, manipulative and toxic internet content should — or could — be shouldered by the public. “That’s like saying the public should adapt to their water being poisoned. If the information environment is poisoned, that’s not on the public at large to solve,” she said. If she could make one recommendation to Silicon Valley, Noble would insist on hiring interdisciplinary teams made of specialists with Ph.D. and master’s degrees in ﬁelds such as W E S E E M T O communication, cultural studies, ethnic studies H A V E A and women’s studies. “It’s simply not enough to say that we need a more diverse pipeline,” she said. C H A L L E N G E A T “Of course, we do need more women and people T H E M O M E N T I N of color, but more importantly, we need people who are deeply trained T E R M S O F J U D G I N G and well educated in the humanities and social sciences who can recognize T H E C L A I M S O F the output of technology systems. This is the place where we have an incred- C O N F L I C T I N G ible shortfall.” On the other hand, her advice for the ordinary S T O R I E S . digital-content consumer who wants to hasten proTHOMAS HOLLIHAN gress is to insist upon more research — funded by the government, universities and taxpayers — into the potential harm of big data-based and other types of biometric technologies that are being deployed on the public. “Demand regulation the way you demand regulation of air and water quality and food safety,” Noble said. “You have a right to information technology safety, too.” Jenkins adds that coupling regulations that encourage transparency with education around new media will begin to move the needle toward solutions. “We need to know what choices we are making and why.” a Fall 2018 21
Athletes are looking to take control of their stories and connect directly with fans. What does this new transparency mean for the future of sports media a n d c u l t u re ? By Jennifer Swann
THOMAS WILLIAMS FIRST gets his audience riled up with a chant. “Give me one clap. Give me two claps. Give me three claps. Whoo!” The former linebacker, who helped the USC Trojans win two national championships and three Rose Bowls, then recounts how an injury in his sophomore year led him to doubt whether he would be among the 1 percent of college athletes who go pro. Redshirted as a junior, Williams decided when senior year rolled around that he just wanted to “have fun.” He recalls how Head Coach Pete Carroll agreed, but advised, “I want you to remember this: Give it everything you’ve got.” Williams pushed back. “What if I’ve given it everything and the NFL doesn’t want me?” he said. “It’s wasting my time and my passion.”
Thomas Williams warms up for a USC Trojans victory over Washington State.
Carroll’s rebuttal: “If you give everything you got and the NFL doesn’t want you, then they don't deserve you.” Ultimately, Williams listened, and things started to click on the ﬁeld. “I was playing free. I was playing fast,” he told the current and former players who joined him at the inaugural NFL Speakers Bureau in March. The three-day event, organized by USC Annenberg and NFL Player Engagement, guided athletes on how to connect as a community, speak in front of a crowd, and build and leverage their personal brands. USC Annenberg faculty led sessions on topics such as building trust and credibility, advancing social issues and embracing the unique storytelling opportunities provided by Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and livestream platforms. Williams goes on to share that he didn’t give up. He graduated in 2008 and was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played for several teams before a neck injury ended his professional football career in 2011. He is now a motivational speaker and author, so establishing himself as a brand has been critical. “It’s one thing to have your status determined by your athletic ability: how fast you can run, how hard you can punch, how well you can catch a ball, how far you can hit a ball,” said Ben Carrington, an associate professor of sociology and journalism, who led one of the bureau’s sessions. “So when you start to transition away from that, you have to make sure you still have something to say.” Carrington recognizes the power generated when current and former athletes like Williams tell their own ©Christian Petersen / Staff / Getty Images
Fall 2018 23
stories. With the rise of social media and athlete-driven content platforms, he sees an unprecedented opportunity for players to speak directly to their audiences. Yet as players learn how to tell and maximize their own stories, they have also disrupted the traditional sports media industry — for better or worse. The Rise Of Athlete-Driven New Media For professional athletes, crafting a personal narrative is more important than ever. “It’s now permanent and it is now a necessity,” said Erit Yellen, a USC Annenberg instructor who teaches a course on public relations strategies. “You’re going to start to see athletes not just into running their own media, but starting to understand the power and inﬂuence of controlling overall sports content.” Yellen would know: A little more than 15 years ago, she founded one of the ﬁrst public relations ﬁrms targeted speciﬁcally to athletes. Using what she calls the actors’ representation model — or a model that includes separate roles for agents, managers, publicists and lawyers — Yellen helped transform several athletes from professional players into full-ﬂedged celebrity brands. But a lot has changed in the decade-plus since then. “We were reliant on working with journalists to tell us what was going on,” Yellen said. “There was no option for athletes to tell their own stories, so we had to be very picky about which journalists we wanted to work with.” Now, athletes can choose to self-publish news on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or to collaborate with websites like The Players’ Tribune, which allows athletes to control their own narratives. The online platforms, Yellen believes, have been a game-changer for sports stars. “Athletes are really starting to play around with how much they can control and change their own personal brands with their own content they’re putting out there,” she said. Brendan Meyer, vice president of digital marketing at the sports talent agency Wasserman, said social channels have opened up new ways for his clients to show fans what they’re interested in — and sometimes, those interests have nothing to do with sports. Case in point: Russell Westbrook, an NBA player with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has harnessed millions of followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where he showcases his personality with karaoke sessions in his car, his philanthropic work and his love for fashion. “He’s in Fashion Week in Paris, he’s meeting with designers and sharing the whole experience with his followers. He’s able to show that he’s not only somebody that wears the clothes, but he’s involved in the scene,” said Meyer, who graduated with a bachelor’s in communication in 2007. “Building credibility and authenticity opens up the opportunity for him to launch his own clothing company and write a book about fashion.” With 1.2 million Instagram followers, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and former USC Trojans football 24
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player JuJu Smith-Schuster is building a strong personal brand outside of football. Last March, Smith-Schuster made a name for himself in the gaming world when he teamed with pro gamer Tyler “Ninja” Bevins to play Fortnite against rappers Drake and Travis Scott. The live-streamed competition got nearly one million views on the streaming service Twitch. “If you take a look at JuJu’s Instagram or any of his social feeds, he’s always posting his brand through these different channels,” said Anthony Borquez, who received his master’s in communication management in 2008 and is on the USC Annenberg Board of Councilors. “He has a unique audience, because he has both gamers and sports fans following him.” “He’s providing another level of engagement for Pittsburgh Steelers fans,” Borquez added. “Maybe not a lot of other Steelers are doing it, but I would think that the Steelers are pretty excited JuJu’s out there, in the off season, having Steelers fans still connected, getting them really excited for the upcoming season.” The History and Evolution of Athlete Brands Athletes using the power of media to shape their own narratives and leverage their celebrity is nothing new. “That’s been the case in the very early days of sports, that certain athletes became heroes, and then with the development of mass media, they also became celebrities,” Carrington said. “There were countless examples throughout history of athletes being exceptional in what they did. They turned themselves into stars.” The late heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali might be the most famous example. “He was very clear in his use of catchphrases and in his use of the spectacle of press conferences and the media to promote not just the ﬁght, but himself,” Carrington said. Ali, whose name change from Cassius Clay reﬂected his high-proﬁle conversion to Islam, was also a political and social activist who pulled no punches when it came to speaking his mind. It didn’t always help his career. In April 1967, during the Vietnam War, Ali famously refused to be drafted into the military. He cited religious reasons, but he also pointed to political ones, suggesting he didn’t want to ﬁght for a country with a history of violence and discrimination against African-Americans. Ali suffered for it: He was stripped of his crown, convicted of violating Selective Service laws and banned from boxing. “I think during that time there was deﬁnitely a large inﬂuence of athletes impacting social issues through media,” Yellen said. “And then, unfortunately, because they did not have the economic power that athletes do now, there was a punishing and a lashing out.” It’s the reason why some athletes have historically chosen not to use their platforms for social activism. Yellen cites Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson as inﬂuential basketball players who could have spoken out on issues such as mass incarceration and policing of black communities in the 1980s and ’90s, for example, but instead remained silent. They had no shortage of endorsement deals. “If you see that your predecessors were ﬁnancially punished, it’s best to keep your mouth shut because there’s a lot to be said about economic power,” Yellen said. “Athletes are now ﬁnancially stable enough to take a risk. The fans are seeing the vulnerability and the transparency of athletes and their impact.” That’s not to say that there still aren’t ﬁnancial consequences to speaking out — or in some cases, kneeling down. In 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback © Cindy Ord / Stringer / Getty Images
JuJu Smith-Schuster has more than 1.3 million Instagram followers interested in Pittsburgh Steelers football and gaming.
Outside the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Alexa Palermo accompanies the USC Trojans football team.
Colin Kaepernick courted controversy, garnering ﬁerce criticism from the likes of President Donald Trump, for taking a knee during the National Anthem. The gesture was intended to protest police shootings of unarmed African-Americans in the United States. The following year, Kaepernick left the 49ers, reportedly receiving a third of his original $126 million contract. Today, he’s still unemployed by the NFL. “They were very cognizant that if they spoke out on certain issues, they were vulnerable — vulnerable for their jobs. Most NFL players don’t have guaranteed contracts,” Carrington recalled of the NFL players who attended his Speakers’ Bureau workshop in March. “If they become a problem in the eyes of the owners, then suddenly they don’t have a job. There are huge pressures, commercial pressures, ﬁnancial pressures, contract pressures on athletes — and NFL players in particular — not to speak out.” How Athletes Are Leveraging New Platforms Still, when athletes do choose to speak out on any number of issues today, they have far more ways to do so than Ali once did. In fact, some high-proﬁle athletes have even launched their own media companies to get their messages across. Former Major League Baseball shortstop Derek Jeter founded the news website The Players’ Tribune, basketball star and L.A. Laker LeBron James created the video platform Uninterrupted and Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant formed the production company Thirty-Five Media, to name just a few. “Athletes are now in a position to produce stories about athletes, starring athletes and developed by athletes, and to distribute these largely via their social channels,” said Meyer. "Fans have opted to receive this content and its reach often matches or exceeds that of major sports publishers.” But some caution that athlete-owned websites shouldn’t be conﬂated with outlets that publish sports journalism. “They control the narrative. They control the examples. They control who they talk to, who gives them quotes,” Shelley Smith, a longtime sports reporter and ESPN SportsCenter correspondent (who is also a USC Annenberg adjunct professor), said of sites like The Players’ Tribune. “If they want to do a real, vetted, factual and good story, then they come to us.” Carrington, too, is skeptical about the degree to which these new media companies can empower athletes. He and Smith advise that even if athletes’ names are attached to the content, it may not have been written by them. And of course, that content can still be re-edited and taken out of context by other news outlets. But Carrington also sees the beneﬁts these platforms provide. “Athletes can take more control over how they’re represented and what they get to say and how they get to say it,” he said. “They can often speak directly to fans and broader audiences in a way that previously would have been much more heavily controlled and shaped by commercial media distributors.” The Future of Sports Journalism at USC Annenberg Another upside to new platforms, according to Carrington, is the opportunities they offer for more female athletes and journalists in the sports media landscape. “Right now, it’s basically men talking about men’s sports to other men,” he said. “News coverage has completely squeezed out women’s sports beyond Serena Williams, the U.S. women’s soccer team every four years and gymnastics during the summer Olympics.” Photo by John McGillen
Carrrington refers to a study done by Michael Messner, professor of sociology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Cheryl Cooky, associate professor at Purdue University, in which they determined that 98 percent of sports coverage revolves around men’s sports. Not only is there a lack of women’s coverage, according to Carrington, but the little that is produced is of a much poorer production quality. However, Carrington believes podcasts such as “Burn It All Down,” featuring ﬁve women and their takes on the sports world from a feminist perspective, are starting to chip away at male-dominated sports coverage. “I think we should actually celebrate the fragmentation of the colossal, often deeply misogynistic, culture of men’s sports media because it opens up a space for more female voices and more female athletes,” he said. Training the next generation of sports media producers and sports journalists amidst the industry’s reshaping is why Carrington said he joined USC Annenberg in 2017. “We really want to situate USC Annenberg as a place to do critical sports journalism and critical sports media,” he said. “If we can do that, in many ways we will be helping those industries survive by having a more reﬂective and critical take on the strengths and weaknesses, the beauty and the ugliness of sports.” Jeff Fellenzer also believes that USC Annenberg and Los Angeles will serve as the epicenter for advancing the ﬁeld. “I think we’re seeing the landscape changing,” said Fellenzer, a two-time alumnus of USC Annenberg and an associate professor of professional practice. “The pulse of sports is all along this downtown Figueroa corridor. It’s a time when you can make an impact.” With his own career having been based in media, business and entrepreneurship, Fellenzer said he aims to share his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm with his students. Alexa Palermo ’18, who took two of Fellenzer’s classes, credits him in part for sparking her interest in the sports industry. She entered USC Annenberg as an aspiring entertainment reporter, but after taking his courses and working on the sports production team through Annenberg Television News (ATVN), her interests shifted. At USC SportSCene, Palermo was mentored by senior, mostly female, students who took her under their wing. These relationships led to an internship with USC Athletics. She spent a year and a half running their social media, interviewing athletes and creating Instagram stories. A few months after graduation, Palermo was hired at Fox Sports. “At USC Annenberg, I learned how to manage, how to hold myself in a certain way and ask the right questions,” Palermo said. “Ultimately, you have to remember that even your favorite athletes are people like you.” a Fall 2018 27
TRUMAN BURBANK IS on his knees digging around in his garden. His rear end is to the camera as his wife, Meryl, dressed in her nurse’s uniform, arrives home on her bike. “Hi, honey,” she says. “Look what I got free at the checkout.” Pulling out the Chef ’s Pal from her perfectly arranged grocery bag, she looks straight into the camera. “It’s a dicer, grater, peeler, all in one!” she pitches with a bright smile. “Never needs sharpening – is dishwasher safe!” In The Truman Show — starring Jim Carrey and Laura Linney — these not-so-subtle product placements awkwardly embedded throughout the ﬁlm seem ridiculous. Truman is the only one not “in the know” that his entire life is being ﬁlmed for public consumption, with no breaks for commercials. The brazen enthusiasm with which his family and friends hawk their wares is completely lost on him. Having his life constantly invaded by brands is part of his reality. Twenty years after the ﬁlm’s debut, we stand in Truman’s shoes. Sponsored posts and inﬂuencer recommendations inﬁltrate our lives to create a seamless, 24/7 advertising and marketing barrage. “Back when The Truman Show was released, people’s standard for advertising and endorsement was based on television, billboards and magazines,” said Robert Kozinets, Jayne and Hans Hufschmid Chair of Strategic
were advertisements that did not necessarily reveal anything about the celebrity as a person. Then social media exploded in the 2000s. “We now had a ticket to an inside look at celebrities’ lives,” continued Miller, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism in 2006 and a master’s in professional writing in 2010. “This humanized celebrity in a major way and opened the door for these ‘real people’ to make their mark in their chosen ﬁeld of passion or expertise. It democratized the idea of celebrity itself.” However, Kozinets also points out that “inﬂuencer” as used to describe this new, democratized celebrity is just an industry term. He cautions that it’s not how people actually think about it. “We don’t want to follow an inﬂuencer now,” he said. “We want to follow someone who speaks in an authentic and helpful way. We’re looking for someone to help us solve a problem or get a new perspective on our life.” The challenge comes with managing this authenticity. For Kozinets, and USC Annenberg alumni experts in the ﬁeld, a modern-day inﬂuencer’s trajectory and success hinge on how they assert their expertise and forge partnerships. BUILD FOLLOWINGS AND FRIENDSHIPS Sophie Elkus was the kind of friend you’d turn to if
Follow Me>>>>>>>>>>> Public Relations. “The thought of regular people, like me, endorsing something was kind of silly. But with the advent of technology and then media turning into social media, regular people now had permission to start speaking about brands in their lives in a whole new way.” Kozinets explains that marketers in the late aughts registered this, bringing about the inﬂux of inﬂuencer or “word-of-mouth” agencies. The idea of using inﬂuencers to market a product is not new. For centuries, companies have been relying on the endorsements of the famous to showcase their brand’s prestige. In 1765, British entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood distinguished his china by producing a cream-colored tea set for King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte. The set quickly became known as Queensware, and for consumers “Wedgwood china” became synonymous with elegance. “Celebrities for years have sold their name and image to promote goods and services, but it was done in a more untouchable, unknowable way,” said Lindsay Miller, online news and cultural director at PopSugar. In the ’50s, Ronald Reagan and Rock Hudson plugged cigarettes, and later Elizabeth Taylor attached herself to a number of fragrances — but there was still a separation from the star and the product. Audiences were aware these
you had no idea what to wear on a date. She had this knack for combining an exaggerated bell-bottom ﬂare with a pared-down, feminine silk blouse. Growing up in Paciﬁc Palisades, a coastal neighborhood on Los Angeles’ Westside, Elkus ﬁlled her bedroom with “vision boards,” collecting images torn from Vogue and Elle, and dreaming of a career in fashion. When she was a junior in college, she started her fashion blog, Angel Food Style, and her ﬁrst fans were her sorority sisters at Kappa Alpha Theta. “Initially, I just posted text and some photos,” she said. “It was two-dimensional, and I didn’t have any personal connection to my audience. Once social media blew up, it allowed my readers to see me every day and feel like they were right there with me.” Graduating from USC Annenberg in 2014 with a degree in public relations, Elkus watched her friends go off to mostly ofﬁce jobs, while she dedicated herself full-time to her blog, building her social media following and collaborating with brands. Now, at age 26, as she continues to build her microcelebrity status, Elkus herself is at the cusp of two much-sought-after generations for marketers: Gen Y (or millennials, 1980s to the mid-1990s) and Gen Z
The next challenge for influencers: Maintaining their impact without compromising their authenticity. By Mira Zimet Illustration by Edel Rodriguez
Fall 2018 29
“Influencers are seen as trustworthy and relevant because they have expertise in the types of products they promote and engage with.” Deanne Yamamoto
(or Gen Blend, mid-1990s to early 2000s). In particular, according to Forbes, Gen Z is poised to make up 25 percent of the U.S. population, more than the baby boomers or millennials. “Gen Blend judges with their eyes first,” writes Deanne Yamamoto, managing director at Golin LA, in the USC Center for Public Relations’ annual Relevance Report. “They don’t want polish or perfection. Instead, they want people who look like and believe in the same things that they do.” Yamamoto, who graduated with a B.A. in communication in 1992, notes that “the story behind the story” is key for inﬂuencers like Elkus. “It’s why celebrities are dwarfed by the Instagram
“A lot of brands are still ﬁguring out how to do this,” she said. “Brands hire bloggers and inﬂuencers to take advantage of the trust they’ve built with their audience; brands use that trust to promote a product that the inﬂuencer genuinely likes. But if a caption is edited too much, it no longer retains the voice of the inﬂuencer and is no better than printing an ad in a magazine.” Tiffany Everett, who started her career in PR working for clients like Activision and Nike, explained that traditionally if a company such as Nike engages a star athlete to promote its brand, the expectations are clear. “A paid star athlete will talk about how they love Nike and Nike will drive that message,” she said. However, Everett, who currently works as the director
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> inﬂuencers and YouTubers who are their makeup artists, designers and personal chefs,” Yamamoto writes. “Inﬂuencers are seen as trustworthy and relevant because they have expertise in the types of products they promote and engage with.” A recent survey by digital agency Deep Focus found that more than 60 percent of Gen Z prefers to see real people, not celebrities, in ads. “I think folks got tired of aspirational advertising,” said Joy Ofodu, who has been designing microinﬂuencer campaigns since graduating in May with a bachelor's degree in communication. “Sure, it’s cool to see Kobe Bryant and Ayesha Curry selling things, but nowadays we want to know that companies are actually about what they say they’re about.” The easiest way to demonstrate that, according to Ofodu, is to put the product in the hands of everyday people. She believes brands should let the inﬂuencer show off the product to their networks, as they are better able to explain why it matters to them. “A few years back, it was tempting for people to think ‘Oh, this person has two million followers, we should deﬁnitely do something with them,’” Miller added. Not necessarily anymore. Miller noted that brands are starting to move away from working with people who are famous for being famous. They want to see the individuals promoting their product as having legitimate clout in whatever arena they’re inﬂuential in, whether it’s fashion or beauty or sports. Marketers are less concerned with followers and more interested in engagement. “To be really successful now,” Miller said, “you need to have a strong point of view or some real level of expertise to have staying power.” THIS IS NOT AN AD BUY Even though brands recognize the power of inﬂuencers, Elkus points out that some of her clients are still reluctant to give away all the creative power. 30
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of digital for Golin and earned a B.A. in communication in 2002, advises her clients to consider inﬂuencers their partners rather than giving them stringent rules and guidelines. “As a brand, if you reach out to an inﬂuencer because you like their content and are impressed by their audience, respect their process and see yourself more as a collaborator with them,” Everett said. “Avoid giving them too strict guidelines, like mentioning your brand 10 times within their video. Instead, help them ﬁnd natural ways to incorporate your brand in ways their fans will be most receptive to.” “This is not an ad buy. This is not a TV commercial. This is a partnership,” she said. Establishing a true synergy between a brand and what an inﬂuencer is already sharing is critical. Otherwise, as Ofodu observes, the result is “odd” when someone all of a sudden starts pushing “mascara to the masses” when she’s never advocated for a speciﬁc product on her Instagram feed before. Ofodu believes that it takes time and discretion to select a brand that your audience will believe that you are actually using. “Better yet,” she adds, “if you don’t even know it was an ad in the ﬁrst place.” Yamamoto encourages brands to rewrite the rule book if they want to win the hearts, minds and e-wallets of Gen Z. “The world according to Gen Blend is changing at internet speed,” she said. “Brands that are inclusive, thoughtful and swift to act will be relevant, swipe right. Otherwise, swipe left.” Kozinets will be enlisting his students to start writing the playbook this Spring, when he teaches a new course focused on the quickly evolving ﬁeld of inﬂuencers and inﬂuencer marketing. “This isn’t just about promotion, this isn’t just about public relations,” he said. “This is the frontier of where capitalism is going. It’s personalized, it’s expertise-based, it’s technology all wrapped into one.” a
Sophie Elkus Los Angeles-based lifestyle influencer “I had vision boards in my bedroom growing up with clipped magazine pages.” APRIL Started personal handle on Twitter.
JUNE Before freshman hman year, interned for Arianna Huffington n at Huffington Post. 2010
AUGUST Started at USC.
APRIL Switched major from print journalism ournalism to public relations.
“During one of my PR R lecture classes, I realized it was a better tterr route to take for a career in fashion.” JUNE Internship at Who What Wearr and Bvlgari Jewelers. APRIL 28 Elkus’ ﬁrst rst Instagram post – 49 likes.
y active users. APRIL 30 Instagram hit 50 million monthly
“I wanted to make thee blogg into a business from day one. ne. I though thought ht it could be a cool way to monetize my fashion interest and expertise.”
DECEMBER By December, analytics showed Angel Food Style's reach had grown beyond college campuses and expanded to an international audience. FEBRUARY Went to Fashion Week. New w York Fashi
FEBRUARY Instagram hit 100 million monthly y active act users. NOVEMBER C CBS Los Angeles named her “Best Los Angeles Fashion Blog.” JANUARY Y Overr 1,0 1,000 likes on a post; most of the images im curated at this point.
MARCH Started beauty section of blog as people started leaving Instagram comments ask asking what makeup products she was wearing in he her photos.
“Byy myy se senior year, I was makingg cons consistent earnings through brand collaborations and affiliate links. lin I imagined whatt would happ happen if I focused business full time.” on the bus
APRIL 30 Went to o Annual Lucky y Magazine Beauty and Blog Conference. JULY Started “Angel ngel Food Style” as fashion blog while le a juniorr in college. Took photos of what she was wearing, wrote ote a blurb and uploaded. Posted ﬁrst entry, “Summer Pleats.” JULY 22 Posted about blog on Instagram.
“I invested in a DSLR R camera. My friends took ook photos of my daily outfits utfits and I'd upload and write about each look, credit the brands, and list similar pieces for less.” SEPTEMBER R Went to Fashion Week ek in NY and added images mages on Instagram. m.
OCTOBER 9 Was featured in Teen Vogue as a “Best-Dressed Reader of the Day.”
Photo by Felicia Lasala
MAY Graduated from USC USC, had a handful of clients that she w worked with on a regula regular basis. AUGUST T 2 Instagram la launched Instagram Stories.
“The laun launch of IG stories gave me the opportunity to show w unedit unedited snapshots of myy day. Th That evolved into more li lifestyle content.” JANUARY Added travel to blog as JANUAR companies started hiring her to go to locations locatio to promote their brand.
MAY Traveled to the Cannes Film Festival w with San Pellegrino as the o only American influencer infl invited. JULY Reposted Re photo from Cannes Film Festival had a reach Festiv of more m than 757K and a 23K views. AU AUGUST Elkus has more than 150K 15 followers on Instagram.
Shawna Thomas on taking (the right) risks Interview by Allison Engel
Trying Something New “There is an appetite for weirdly in-depth looks at topics you might not think you are interested in.”
WHEN THE PRESIDENT of the United States disparages journalists and calls their work “fake news,” how should the Fourth Estate respond? Shawna Thomas, who is in the eye of the presidential storm as Washington, D.C., bureau chief of VICE News and senior producer for VICE News Tonight, said there is no winning for journalists who try to hit back. The best way to react, said Thomas, who earned her M.A. in journalism in 2006, is to focus on the job at hand. “We have to be right,” she said. “We have to check everything three times and make sure our sourcing is correct. And when we get it wrong, we very clearly have to say it’s wrong, get it right and move on.” It’s a difﬁcult situation, she acknowledged, because journalists have a low approval rating among Americans. “Number one, we have jobs. Number two, they seem like elitist jobs. Complaining only makes us look more elite. I don’t know that we can win the optics on that situation.” That said, Thomas ﬁrmly believes that “if our leaders continue to attack the Fourth Estate, they are eroding the basis for our democracy.” In 2016 she left a top-of-the-journalism-ladder position at NBC’s Meet the Press, where she was senior producer of the live show as well as senior digital editor, to jump to VICE News. She arrived a few months before Election Day to help get their new HBO show, VICE News Tonight, off the ground. People said she was crazy to leave NBC News to go to what many consider a startup, even though VICE, in some form or fashion, has been around since 1994. Why the jump? “They were looking for a D.C. bureau chief, and I was curious,” Thomas said. “One of the great things about VICE News is that we are trying our hardest to do something new, and we are not afraid to try.” Last summer, VICE News Tonight had a breakout moment with its coverage of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thomas was coordinating senior producer, and the pitch came from her team. Correspondent Elle Reeve embedded herself with a white nationalist, revealing a surprising level of organization among the nationalist groups through horrifying interviews that shocked audiences. Going in, the piece was budgeted for 5 to 7 minutes. But after viewing the footage, VICE News devoted its entire show to Reeve’s report, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror.” The episode and the team behind it won multiple awards, including a Peabody. “We allow people to look at the camera and say complete sentences,” said Thomas. “There’s no narration track. We ask people to talk from their informed point of view.” Her time at USC working on Annenberg TV News (ATVN) equipped her with the technical skills to be a shooter-producer-writer-editor-director. “You learn how to produce a half-hour of news every single day,” she said. “It was all about getting that experience in a safe space.” After graduating from USC, Thomas landed a job with NBC in New York, where she worked her way up from news associate to political assignment editor to digital associate producer to Capitol Hill producer to White House producer, where she mastered “the logistical nightmare that is coordinating television coverage of the president day-to-day,” she wrote in her résumé. An Emmy Award came in 2009, for election night coverage the year before. Three more Emmy nominations came for Decision 2010 coverage, the 2013 federal government shutdown and an interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney after Thomas had moved to Meet the Press. Thomas said her current job involves trying to stay relevant and creative and coming up with interesting ways to cover issues. “We can do explainers like Sesame Street does, and turn dry topics into something interesting with graphics that add a level of research and detail,” she said. “We can be funny and write with personality — as long as it’s factual.” a Photo by John Loomis on location at the Newseum
Fall 2018 33
Crossfader Josh Kun examines the unifying power of music through a new cross-cultural communication chair.
FIELDNOTES JOY BARRETT SABOL
(B.A., public relations, ’74), retired in 2017 from Lockheed Martin where she was vice president of communications for the missiles and fire control business area for 16 years. Barrett Sabol spent more than four decades in communication management at a number of Fortune 100 companies, including Rockwell International and Honeywell.
Josh Kun aspires to be a “crossfader,” someone who toggles and slides between different inputs. His aim is to focus on points of connection and intersections among different identities, cultures, communities, publics, platforms, disciplines, institutions and ways of interpreting and living in the world. As the inaugural holder of the Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication — established in April with a $3 million endowment gift from a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous — Kun will advance innovation, leadership and research into the ways music and popular culture can serve as conduits for cross-cultural exchange. “Professor Kun is a true cultural historian whose work transcends the city and its borders and explores the connections that we have to each other,” Dean Willow Bay said. “As Los Angeles becomes increasingly diverse and popular music becomes increasingly global, we are grateful to our visionary donors for recognizing the enormous potential of Josh’s work.”
USC Annenberg Magazine
ANDREA EVANS (B.A., communication, ’12) has been named director of social and video content at US Equestrian. BILENDA HARRIS RITTER
(B.A., journalism, ’75) has been appointed to a fouryear term as the Republican Party Designee on the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners. In addition, she is the State Attorney for the Arkansas Military Department and Arkansas Army National Guard.
Cultural Curator Josh Kun, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, uses music as a way to understand society, culture, social change, placemaking and community building.
CREATING LEADERS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD For a second consecutive year, the USC Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement (AYA), a donor-funded program, welcomed 26 high-school students for a fourweek intensive program. The youth were chosen from underserved communities to explore media, technology, communication and journalism. Students developed a rich conceptual understanding of the role that media communications and journalism play in fashioning civic-minded thought leaders and innovators. Michael Tseng, who was part of the program’s ﬁrst cohort, returned to participate and share his experience.
ister’s election campaign in Delhi.
(B.A., communication, ’05; M.A., communication management, ’07), former director of football operations for USC Trojans, completed the World Marathon Challenge in February 2018. He completed seven marathons on seven continents in seven consecutive days.
(B.A.,communication, ’05; M.A., communication management, ’06) is one of AT&T’s new EEO consultants, working on internal and external equal employment opportunity investigations. MARK THORESON
ANDREW KALLICK (B.A., broadcast and digital journalism, ’15) has become an entrepreneur in creating A Good Print, working with influential artists and helping the world with each sold print.
(B.A., journalism, ’55) has retired to Vancouver, WA, after a 32-year career in nonprofit fundraising ranging from universities to hospitals to the Smithsonian Institution.
“After attending AYA, I could see myself as a journalist,” said Tseng, who has been accepted to the class of 2022. “It was the deﬁning moment when I said, ‘This is my true passion and what I want to do in my career.’”
(M.A., journalism, ’15) was selected as vice president of broadcasting for the Indian prime min-
(B.A., print journalism, ’12), joined the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and will be 2018–19 president for the USC Young Alumni Council.
Illustration by Suzanne Boretz
TROJAN MEDIA ROUNDUP
Karina Saidi NPR Next Generation Radio Project “When most Angelenos are sleeping, the flower mart is bustling. Three nights a week the activity starts at midnight — carts of cherry blossoms clatter by, grates screech, all to the low constant hum of walk-in coolers. If you look closer, past the brilliant petals and $4 clearance specials, you’ll f ind that the people curating and caring for the flowers are just as international and inviting as their wares.” —Karina Saidi Karina Saidi, who graduated in May 2018 with an M.S. in journalism, focused her radio piece on Verónica Guisa, a lawyer who relocated from Guadalajara. Guisa details what life is like working the graveyard shift in her sister’s family-run wholesale shop in the Los Angeles Flower Market. As part of the NPR Next Generation Radio Project, hosted by the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA), students learn how to showcase their audio storytelling skills.
Podcasts Wim Wenders: A Man of His Word, Scheer Intelligence, hosted by Robert Scheer Pilot: In Conversation with Ahmed Best on Race and Star Wars, How Do You Like It so Far?, hosted by Henry Jenkins and Colin Maclay A New Dawn For Earned Media, For Immediate Release Podcast Network, Jennifer Floto joins host Shel Holtz
Articles Daniel Durbin, The Politics of the Super Bowl, InMedia - The French Journal of Media Studies Randy Lake, Hegemony, Legitimation, and Dissent: A Companion Reading of Breaking the Silence, Journal of Multicultural Discourses Jieun Shin ’16, Lian Jian, Kevin Driscoll ’14, and François Bar, “The Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media: Temporal Pattern, Message and Source,” Computers in Human Behavior
Documentaries Scoop: Journalism in the Movies, produced by TCM for its new streaming service, Filmstruck, featuring Joe Saltzman
Books Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear by Mike Ananny Mike Ananny, associate professor of journalism, offers a new way to think about freedom of the press in a time when media systems are in fundamental flux. He draws on journalism studies, institutional sociology, political theory, science studies, and 10 years of journalism discourse about news and technology to make his case. As Terrorism Evolves: Media, Religion, and Governance by Philip Seib Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Saﬁya Umoja Noble
Photo by Olivia Mowry
Fall 2018 35
C O M M U N I CAT I O N T EC H N O LO G I E S A N D S T R AT EG I E S
An App and a Carrot Lessons from the ﬁeld.
By Mira Zimet NORMA’S FAMILY STEERS clear of vegetables. Even when she receives veggies from her food pantry, she knows only a few ways to prepare them and her family grows bored with the bland tastes and textures. She is in a cooking rut. Norma is not alone. Peter Clarke and Susan Evans, who have worked with food banks nationwide since 1992, have found that pantry clients often don’t know how to prepare appealing and varied meals using fresh produce. So, over the last decade, Clarke and Evans have sought to solve this problem by building, ﬁeldtesting, and disseminating digital tools, including an app: VeggieBook. There’s a catch, though. “You can’t just offer an app and expect miracles to happen,” said Clarke, professor of communication. “You may be able to get folks to download it, but then you have to show them ways to use the app in their lives.” Clarke and Evans have found that certain “triggers” are crucial for spurring use of VeggieBook. “Guidance in exploring the app’s helpful features, along with having vegetables on hand, encourages users to experiment with new and ﬂavorful servings right away,” said Evans, a research scientist. “One of our clients once told me: ‘Wow, in the carrot section, there’s 36
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a recipe for carrot pieces baked with apple slices. I never would have thought of that, but my family loves it, and the recipe uses ingredients I usually have around.’” Clarke and Evans also discovered family dynamics around cooking often improve with the app, and young people are more inspired when they are part of the meal decisionmaking process. When Norma’s son, Mariano, was able to access VeggieBook as part of the ﬁeld trial, he uncovered an untapped passion for culinary arts and began helping his mother in the kitchen. Now, according to Norma, “No veggie is off-limits for Mariano.” Susan Evans and Peter Clarke received the International Communication Association’s 2018 Award for Applied Research for their work. Illustration by Peter Hoey
2017 the group conducted a
controlled ﬁeld trial using the Veggie
15 Los Angeles food pantries with nearly 300 families over an 11-week period. Results: Book app at
Participants with the app prepared
38% more vegetable-based dishes than control families without the app. Veggiebook is in English and Spanish.
“Vegetables have grown more expensive, while junk food has gotten cheaper. Low-income cooks want their families to eat healthily and are looking for how-to help.” SUSAN EVANS RESEARCH SCIENTIST
cuses on racial and female identity, while offering a comic sensibility, for which she taps into being a black female writing from her own perspective. As part of the USC Annenberg-HBO Diverse Voices Forum, Rae captivated a crowd of hundreds in the Wallis Annenberg Hall Forum, where she offered insights on developing a creative enterprise that is both sustainable and authentic. During the talk, she touched on visual representations of black women in television, as well as the process of developing storylines that speak to current socio-political issues. Some of these themes included the intersectionality of black and brown unity and highlighting parts of Los Angeles that are often stigmatized in mainstream media.
THE POST Following a screening of The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, professors Geoffrey Cowan and Mary Murphy lead a panel discussion featuring John Dean, former White House counsel to Richard Nixon; Karlene Goller, former deputy general counsel and vice president of legal for the Los Angeles Times; and Susan Seager, media defense lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine. FIRESIDE CHAT Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Alex Taylor (B.A., communication, ’09), president of Digital and Content at Clique Media, shares her expertise with the Women’s Leadership Society.
Truth in TV Issa Rae discusses multiculturalism on TV.
“I’ve always had a love affair with the city of Los Angeles. I was born here and spent most of my life in the area that I grew up,” said Issa Rae, the creator, writer and star of her own HBO series, Insecure. She found initial success with her YouTube web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which later became a New York Times best-selling memoir. Rae uses humor and pop-culture references to draw audiences in to her storytelling. Her work largely fo38
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Diverse Voices Forum USC Annenberg and HBO partner to create a year-long series that explores the role of diversity in the future of entertainment.
CONTROLLING THE CONVERSATION The Annenberg Innovation Lab and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism present a conference exploring the ethics of social platforms and content moderation. THE LENS OF DISRUPTION Over three days of talks, workshops and demos with technologists and business leaders, students and faculty consider the potential of virtual reality and augmented reality to reconﬁgure the media industry landscape.
DAY OF S(C)ERVICE Students and alumni come together for mini professional development and mentoring sessions with the focus on helping students build their personal brands. BUZZFEED CAREER TREK Early-career program manager Dionna Muldrow (B.A., communication, ’06), welcomes Career Trek students to BuzzFeed’s L.A. office for an inside look at how the company operates its social media and production teams. DIÁLOGOS The Center on Public Diplomacy hosts Ambassador Haris Lalacos for a conversation about Greece’s role on the world stage and the challenges and opportunities in Greek-U.S. relations. EVOLUTION OF ETHICS Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, is the keynote speaker for the 28th Annual Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium on Public Relations. Center for Public Relations (CPR) Director Fred Cook reveals highlights from CPR’s 2018 Global Communications Report, and Paul Holmes moderates a discussion of ethics in PR.
Photo courtesy ©2018 Home Box Office, Inc.
CORII BERG Key to the Trojan Family
In May, Corii Berg ’89 was named president-elect of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and will become president in the 201920 school year. He has served on the Board of Governors for the past four years and on the USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board for the past
six. Berg is starting a term on the USC Annenberg Board of Councilors and is often on campus interacting with students, offering tips and advice. Berg, who earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and political science from USC and then a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, started his career at a law firm before joining Sony in 1995. He had been at Sony for more than 20 years, the past nine as senior executive vice president and head of worldwide business affairs for Sony Pictures TV production. In June, he moved to Lionsgate, where he was appointed general counsel and will serve as their senior legal and business affairs executive. He will be involved in mergers and acquisitions, strategic investments and initiatives related to the growth of Lionsgate’s content platform. Corii and his wife, Cari, a fellow Class of ’89 USC Annenberg alumna, are the proud parents of three children, including Eben, a USC Annenberg junior.
QUENTIN SCHAFFER Tommy-Award Winner Quentin Schaffer ’76 knows the power of public relations. He has worked for more than 30 years at HBO, initially as a senior publicist and rising through the ranks to his current role as executive vice president of corporate communications. One of the main architects of HBO’s press operations, Schaffer, who earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism, helped oversee campaigns for award-winning programs such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones and Westworld. But, it was through his various philanthropic and business relationships, connecting USC to industry leaders in New York City, that resulted in his being honored with USC’s 2018 Tommy Award. Schaffer is on the USC Annenberg Alumni Board, is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and in December, 2017, was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame. This year he helped launch a joint partnership between HBO and USC Annenberg titled The Diverse Voices Forum, bringing Issa Rae, Anna Deavere Smith and David Simon to campus. Then in May, thanks to Schaffer, HBO hosted USC Annenberg students during the New York City Maymester program. Photos Courtesy of Corii Berg and Quentin Schaffer
Tommy Awards All proceeds from the award show enable the New York City alumni club to award scholarships to current students from the greater New York area.
USC ANNENBERG SCORED BIG at the 2017 National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. Several alumni won for their work on the student-run, digital magazine Ampersand: Didi Beck (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts), ’17), first place, best profile, “Alexandra Grant Wants to Live Like a Ghost”; Thomas Carroll (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts), ’18), first place, best arts or entertainment feature, “Of Walking on Concrete”; Paola Mardo (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts), ’17), third place, soft news feature category, “Why Tiki? A Deep Dive into America’s Fascination with Tiki Bars, Tropical Drinks and the South Pacific”; Leah Rosenzweig (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts) ’18), third place, books/art/design category, “The Confused Sense of Place”; and Justin Sedgwick (M.A.,
(L-R) Angelique Perrin, Kristin Marguerite Doidge, Tim Greiving, Justin Sedgwick, and
Weekly); Tim Greiving (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts), ’12 ), second place, best journalistic use of social media by an individual to tell or enhance a story, “Danny Elfman’s Strange, Circuitous Path to the Concert Hall” (KUSC); Renee Gross (M.S., journalism, ’17), second place, best profile, “Actress Eileen Grubba Fights Prejudice Against People with Disabilities”; Michelle Lanz (M.A., journalism, ’09), first place, soft news feature category, “The Man Behind the Lyrics to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Didn’t Live to See the Final Film” (KPCC); Angelique Perrin (M.A., specialized journalism, ’17), second place, student journalism category, “Black Money” (USC Annenberg); and Kristin Marguerite Doidge (M.A., specialized journalism, ’15), third place, soft news category, “Nora Ephron Tribute ‘She Made Me Laugh’” (Bustle); third place, business (any arts or entertainment-related business story category), “Recasting Film-TV Synergy” (Los Angeles Business Journal); and third place, celebrity news category, “Kanye West Let Out a Cry for Help; We Just Weren’t Listening” (GOOD Magazine).
Thomas Carroll. Photo courtesy of Kristin Marguerite Doidge.
specialized journalism (the arts), ’18), first place, best commentary/critique, “Life After Tom Petty’s Death.” Additional alumni recognized include: Sarah Bennett (M.A., specialized journalism (the arts) ’12), first place, food/culture category, “El Roto Is Helping Long Beach Get Closer to a Taco Truck on Every Corner” (OC
ADEEB KHAN (B.A., communication, ’05) was selected as one of Denver’s 40 under 40 by the Denver Business Journal. ERIC KAHNERT (B.A., broadcast journalism, ’02), anchor for CBS News 8 in San Diego, won a Golden Mike award from the Radio and Television News Association for best 60-minute evening newscast in Southern California.
Fall 2018 39
C A R E E R PAT H
Marco Gonzalez Born in California’s San Fernando Valley, Marco Gonzalez enjoyed a childhood ﬁlled with adventure. When he was in ﬁfth grade, his mother moved the family down the Paciﬁc coast to Colima, Mexico, where he spent the next seven years. He became ﬂuent in Spanish and cultivated what he called a “new world vision.” Returning to the Valley for high school, Gonzalez remained in the area, earning a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge. A minor in journalism gave him the writing bug, but he didn’t heed the creative calling until a little later in his career.
1 After seven years working at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Gonzalez was ready to change career tracks. He’d picked up some freelance writing gigs, but it was a continuing education course in public relations that led to his “Aha” moment. He applied to only one graduate school — USC Annenberg — and was accepted into the communication management program in 1998.
3 At USC, he took part in a ﬁve-week International Communication Studies program and traveled throughout Europe, visiting the BBC, Radio One, and various newspaper and PR ﬁrms. “It really opened my eyes — and my ambition — to eventually try to work in one of these places,” he said.
USC Annenberg Magazine
Following graduate school, his ﬁrst position was director of communication for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. It was his ﬁrst opportunity to oversee a comprehensive operation, including media relations and marketing.
Photos courtesy Marco Gonzalez; ©iStock / 3DStock (megaphone); ©iStock / tashka2000 (glass); ©iStock / Nenov (Aloe Vera)
His next job at Univision was, in Gonzalez’ words, “a perfect marriage.” He oversaw their music group, promoting artists such as Jenni Rivera and Marco Antonio Solis (above left), and earning them extensive media coverage.
A headhunter introduced him to Herbalife, where he headed their communication efforts for all their Hispanic markets, both in the U.S. and throughout Mexico and South America. He established programs and initiatives and dealt extensively with crisis communication.
“Throughout my career in communications, I have started in newly created positions. It’s been up to me to create initiatives that didn’t exist before. I’ve made them my own; I’ve been responsible for their growth. That’s been so rewarding for me.”
Marco Gonzalez ’00, Los Angeles, California
“Now I’m back to what I love: Hispanic media, entertainment and television.” As vice president of public relations and corporate affairs at LBI Media, Gonzalez tells the story of the Spanish-language broadcaster. A recent win was a three-page spread in Los Angeles Magazine about the only late-night talk show on Hispanic TV — Noches con Platanito, whose host is a clown.
Buenas Noches Sergio Verduzco (left) stars as the clown, Platanito, on Estrella TV’s hit show. Noches con Platanito is one of the many programs that Gonzalez (right) promotes at LBI Media.
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