USC Annenberg Alumni Magazine Fall 2020

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Thought for Food Going beyond the plate to explore issues of community, identity and food justice.


USC Annenberg Magazine

The Beacon Project

Six students participated in USC Annenberg’s first summer reporting internship program. Led by veteran journalists and professors Christina Bellantoni, Gary Cohn and Mark Schoofs, the students in the Beacon Project researched and reported on USC’s culture and governance as the university seeks to regain the trust of its community. Their articles appeared in BuzzFeed News, LAist, the Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media. Support for their work was provided by an estate gift from the late alumnus and Los Angeles real estate broker William Irving Griffith ’46. “We couldn’t think of a better mission for a journalism school than helping students shine a light on the many challenges USC is facing,” Schoofs said. The New York Times featured senior Sasha Urban (center) and the project in a September article. Photo: Andrew Cullen for The New York Times




Thought for Food

Going beyond the plate to explore issues of community, identity and food justice. By Ted B. Kissell


Shine a Light

Leveraging communication strategies has never been more critical to advancing an open conversation about mental health in our communities. By Greg Hardesty


It’s Sensitive

Preparing communicators to protect their intellectual property through rigorous digital security practices. By Emily Cavalcanti and Katharine Gammon







The Beacon Project Walking the Walk

ON THE COVER Photography by The Voorhes


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Illustration by Chris Gash


First Pic: (L-R) Ashley Zhang, Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan, Austin Peay, Sasha Urban (center), Keith Plocek, Mark Schoofs, Gary Cohn, Consuelo Cifuentes, Sam Kmack

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Suzanne Boretz DESIGN Pentagram CONTRIBUTING STAFF Adam Miller Director of Leadership Annual Giving MaryBeth Leonard Executive Assistant Mike Mauro Chief Digital Officer Sarah Wolfson Communications Specialist Rachelle Martin Digital Coordinator Olivia Mowry Digital Media Producer Jasmine Mora 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. © 2019 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 magazine@usc. edu or USC Annenberg Magazine, 3502 Watt Way, G40, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281

Photo courtesy of USC Song Girls

Walking the Walk By Willow Bay Dean and Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication

This Fall, we were excited to welcome our new president, Dr. Carol L. Folt, along with new leadership, including Provost Charles Zukoski and USC Annenberg alumnus Glenn Osaki, who is serving as the university’s first chief communications officer. Dr. Folt is beginning to share her priorities, and it is abundantly clear that students are at the center of every decision she makes. And she walks the walk. Literally. During home football games, Dr. Folt can be found talking with students as she prowls the student section in her cardinal-and-gold Nike sneakers, a gift from the USC Song Girls. At her inauguration, she invited students to sit directly in front of the stage and even left her seat during the ceremony to pose for photos with them. Later that day, she made her way to Hahn Plaza to join student protesters for the Climate Strike. Dr. Folt said in her inaugural address that what she has found so striking about our students is their selflessness. “Of all the students who have talked to me about what matters to them, they want to talk about helping other people, not themselves,” she said. “It’s always about other people.” I, too, am enormously excited by what I see in this generation. Our students know how to use their collective voices to speak up and demand change, and they continually seek out opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways. As you explore this issue’s feature stories on complex topics like food justice, mental health and digital security, you’ll find that our students are playing an important role alongside our faculty and alumni in not only developing a critical understanding of these nuanced challenges, but in devising solutions to them. At USC Annenberg, I am proud to say that we have always been focused on encouraging our students to redefine what is possible — and deeply appreciate the president underscoring that commitment. I am also grateful to our faculty, staff, alumni, families, and industry partners whose support allows us to continue to foster this environment, where our students are empowered — and we are inspired — to take action. As Dr. Folt has urged us, “Working as Trojans together, there are no limits on the power of change that we have.” Fall/Winter 2019 3

Immersive Storytelling

JOVRNALISM team uses technology to amplify voices. Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice and self-styled “hackademic,” started his popular course “Hands-on Disruption: Experimenting with Emerging Technologies” in 2015. Each semester, students decide on a theme and then explore that theme using immersive storytelling techniques, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) — an approach Hernandez has dubbed JOVRNALISM (notice the “VR” in the name). Students have traveled to Washington, D.C. to cover the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March, and stood on the edge of the Salton Sea to document its environmental devastation. In Tijuana, they created a five-part series about people caught in the deportation web. Students also collaborated with Skid Row’s homeless population, providing 360-degree cameras to empower them to tell their own stories. This Fall, students worked with local nonprofit Peace4Kids, which supports youth transitioning out of the foster care system. The deep coverage that comes out of these semester-long projects is often shared by media partners; student work has appeared in The New York Times, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, NPR, KCRW, and KCET among others. Hernandez’s students have also won numerous accolades for their work, including a Webby Award in 2019.

Journalism major Kaidi “Ruby” Yuan ’20 is the inaugural Emerging Technology Fellow, an opportunity funded by the Heeger Brothers’ Fund. The fund was established by USC alumni Robbie Heeger (BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’12) and Adam Heeger (BA, business administration, ’11).

@YuanRuby “So, how do you teach this to your students?” I got asked this question at least five times at the festival. People didn’t think I was a student. This is how well @webjournalist and @TheJOVRNALISM have prepared us. @jovrnalism #jovrnalism is looking forward to bringing you #homelessrealities of Los Angeles and immerse you into the stories of these incredible people we had an honor to work with.

@capturingrealitycom Shifting from storytelling to story living. Journalism students from USC Annenberg have used RealityCapture to create an AR experience to tell the story of people with difficult living conditions. @AJContrast What does it mean to fall in love while living on the streets? Tim and Daisy take you into their love story in their first ever #360video, part of our #MyPeopleOurStories collaboration with @TheJOVRNALISM AlOtroLado-Org Thrilled our collab series w @TheJOVRNALISM won @TheWebbyAwards!

@TheJOVRNALISM #HomelessRealities also won for MULTIMEDIA PACKAGE #JOVRNALISM staff. @LAPressClub Judges’ comment: Wonderfully varied and interesting multimedia package. So many compelling human stories, well packaged and easily accessible. @ PIRCforjustice Al Otro Lado and USC Annenberg created an amazing docu-series featuring stories from those who have been deported. Look past the headlines and statistics about deportation. When you do, you’ll find people who are caught between a country that kicked them out and a country they don’t understand. InquireFirst Check out this #JOVRNALISM production by students at USC Annenberg titled “The Deported: Life Beyond the Border.” This creative project on a complex binational issue was guided to completion by USC journalism prof Robert Hernandez. @jovrnalism We are honored and proud to be recognized by the @lapressclub, awarding us with FOUR first place awards and one second place. The winning projects include #TheDeported #HomelessRealities #ImmersedInKorea and we even won for Best Website (online).

Photo by Olivia Mowry

W H AT ’ S O N M Y P H O N E ?

Adrienne Bankert National News Correspondent

When Adrienne Bankert first began her career as a traffic anchor at KCRA-TV in Sacramento, her lifelong mentor reminded her to take the time to stand in her coworkers’ shoes so she could better understand their roles and avoid taking anyone for granted. She took the advice to heart and has continued to prioritize kindness as she’s worked her way up in the industry. An Emmy Award-winning journalist, Bankert graduated with a BA in communication. She has worked as an anchor, interviewer and host and can currently be seen on all of ABC News’ platforms, including Good Morning America, World News Tonight and Nightline. Bankert recently accomplished another goal: publishing a book. Your Hidden SuperPower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You With Anyone will be published by HarperCollins Leadership in Spring 2020. In the book, she unpacks how kindness needs an update in our society, lives and careers. Bankert shares stories of how kindness reveals hidden strengths and true identities. “My hope with the book is to empower people to live at 100 percent authenticity,” she said. “Living fearlessly and being your best self starts with knowing who you really are.”


A Moment Apart, Odesza Happy, Pharrell Williams



A Carol Christmas (2003) Red Table Talk, hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith (premiere, 2018)


Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story by Anthony Daniels

On Social

@Nightline Simah Herman led a secret life of chronic vaping for 2 years before ending up in the ICU. Now she is opening up to @ABC News’ @ABonTV about how she became addicted to vaping and her caution to other teens. @ABonTV Make sure your motivation and your mission are in alignment. This is when fulfillment happens. -AB


@GMA @abcnews @hannaisulglow

Photo by Jace Angelo

@5forsure @finleyshirts @youththeory

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It’s no longer ‘these are the social platforms I need to be on. I’m talking to my fans, I’m good.’ You need a much deeper strategy. You’re expecting everybody to work hard to f ind you rather than the other way around.



Do your homework. Before I interview someone, I spend hours preparing. If they get a sense that you know who they are, that you’ve bothered to do your homework, you’re 80% there. Most people don’t bother. JESS CAGLE, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, PEOPLE MAGAZINE



Throughout each semester, USC Annenberg students have the opportunity to connect with and learn from an array of GUEST LECTURERS. These leaders bring their expertise into the classroom as they offer a real-world glimpse into the business, media, technology, sports, and entertainment industries. 6

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Rap allows you to play with words. It’s a way to manipulate language and meaning, to uncover subtext, to illuminate the unspoken connotations or realities that might exist alongside words that we use all the time. MIKAL FLOYD-PRUITT, VISUAL ARTIST

Photos by Yannick Peterhans and Olivia Mowry; Illustration by Sean McCabe

In sports PR, you’re working with a lot of personalities, whether it’s on the team or with the media, but when it comes down to it, it’s really all based on relationships.


The Trojan Family Steps In

When student loans, scholarships and part-time jobs aren’t enough, Student Success and Emergency Aid Funds can help.

PATRICK BECKER ( BA, communication, ’08) was hired at CNN as a senior producer on New Day.

ALEXANDREA BELL ( MS, journalism, ’19) was hired at 23ABC in Bakersfield as a reporter and weekend weather anchor.

Savanna Mesch always knew she’d have to pay her own way through college. But earlier this year, just a few credits shy of graduating, she was down to her last few dollars. Then she heard about USC Annenberg’s Student Success and Emergency Aid Funds. Supported entirely by donations from alumni, parents and friends, the funds support educational opportunities like studyabroad programs and other experiential learning experiences for students in need. Mesch applied for help to cover her rent through final exams, and school leaders approved her request. Relief came within days, making her one of the more than 200 USC Annenberg graduate and undergraduate students supported by the special funding in the past year. More than 280 donors have given a total of nearly $3 million to the funds since their creation in 2015.

“I felt I could finally relax and focus on school. It was awesome just not having to worry.” — Savanna Mesch (BA, communication, ’19)

BERKELEY CAVIGNAC ( BA, communication, ’14) was hired as a marketing strategy specialist at Walt Disney Television.

MEGAN H. CHAN ( BA, print journalism, ’05) has moved back to the Bay Area and joined Google News Lab as their news ecosystem lead.

Photo by Olivia Mowry

course, “Emerging Analytics: New Digital Models and the Future of Media.” The class, taught by adjunct faculty member and W2O senior advisor Bob Pearson, is designed to show students how analytics are transforming legacy media models. In addition, W2O, which has 15 offices across the United States and Europe, offered a three-part Data Analytics and Insights Workshop this Fall. “Our students will benefit greatly from W2O’s expertise in data analytics,” Dean Willow Bay said. “I’m particularly grateful for their support for graduate student scholarships, as this will help USC Annenberg make important progress in diversifying the public relations field.”

COLIN STUTZ ( BA, print journalism, ’08) was promoted to senior editor, industry news at Billboard Magazine.

TAYLOR VILLANUEVA ( BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’16) joined Emblem PR as a public relations assistant account executive.

KATIE WARMUTH JAROS ( BA, public relations, ’10) was hired at Zume, Inc. as their director of public relations.

CALEIGH WELLS ( MS, journalism, ’18) was hired at KCRW as a reporter/producer.

CRUNCHING DATA Strategic PR Collaboration Kyndall Echols and Vivien Li, both second-year master’s degree students in the strategic public relations program, were the first recipients of scholarship support from the marketing communications firm W2O Group. The scholarship, which helps students build expertise in data analytics, is just one aspect of W2O’s collaboration with USC Annenberg, which will run through 2021. “I knew that analytics was a huge part of public relations, and I would definitely run into it in the workplace,” Li said. For Echols, it was the opportunity to learn how to back tactics and strategies with numbers. Starting in Fall 2019, W2O began supporting a 15-week PR elective

RAFAEL GARCIA (BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’15) was hired by The Wall Street Journal as a video producer.

KATIE DURKO (BA, public relations, ’10) is the co-founder of The Edit, a female-led creative social media agency.

DÉRON FANTROY ( BA, public relations, ’19) promoted to manager, communications at Viacom.

ELLY WONG (BA, public relations and international relations, ’10) joined KPCC and @LAist as a reporter on their investigative journalism team. YINGZHI YANG ( MS, journalism, ’15) joined Reuters in China as a tech correspondent.

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‘Say It Again’ By Sulafa Zidani Memes have become an inescapable part of our everyday communication. They usually appear on social media as combinations of images and clever captions, the best of which go viral on Twitter and overflow into our Facebook and Instagram feeds. One of the more popular memes is Grumpy Cat, whose classic turned-down mouth resembles a frown and is often coupled with cynical block text commenting on life. Quotes like “So many reasons to be grumpy, so little time,” or “I had fun once, it was awful,” sum up the sentiments of how the cat — and, by extension, the people who post the meme — are feeling. I had been studying memes for a few years when, in late 2018, a meme in a group chat of my Arabic-speaking friends caught my attention. The meme showed Dexter, the genius boy from Cartoon Network’s show Dexter’s Laboratory, whispering into the ear of a yellowhaired girl with a dangling heart earring, who looks enamored with what he has to say. The block caption “bikimbawder” is printed below the image. If you read the word out loud, it is a transliteration of how some primary Arabic-speakers might pronounce the English words “baking powder.” Initially, I laughed. I’m an Arab-American and this caption reminded me of the people in my life who pronounce “baking powder” in this way. However, my laughter turned into discomfort as the researcher in me awakened. I went back to study the original scene in the 1996 episode of the show, titled “The Big Cheese.” In it, Dexter is supposed to study for his French exam, but puts it off. At bedtime, he places a contraption on his head that allows him to learn French, via a tape, while he sleeps. The tape gets stuck on the phrase “Omelette du fromage” (which ironically is the wrong way to say cheese omelette), and those three words become the only phrase Dexter can say. At lunchtime, it lends Dexter special attention from girls at his school, who appear to enjoy his French accent — they beg him to “Say it again, Dexter.” Over the next few months, the play on the “Say it again” meme appeared on social media with captions using stereotypical pronunciations in a variety of accents: Arabic, Spanish, French, Filipino, and Italian, among others. In addition to the “bikimbawder” example, there was another asking Dexter to reveal — in a Spanish-speaker’s accent — his favorite fruit. He answers: “estroberi.” The tension I Illustration by Suzanne Boretz

felt between laughter and discomfort did not go away. I decided to dig deeper to see how people are using memes to reflect, reinforce or disrupt certain values and power relations in American society as they relate to immigrants and accents. I realized that the source of tension is in the ambiguity of its interpretation. The phrases in different languages are received with great enjoyment by Dexter’s female listeners. However, both Dexter’s accent and the reader’s enjoyment of it can be interpreted as either celebratory or belittling. In the context of the often stereotypical portrayal of immigrant people in mainstream U.S. media, one way to look at this meme is as a reclamation of one’s pride in their culture and accent. In other words, celebratory. The meme is passed along primarily by people who speak or understand the accents cited in it. They express a shared meaning around the accent and the fact that only they can understand the intent. While this might be part of what the meme represents, we should take a careful look at what is also embedded in this reclamation in terms of power dynamics: The meme presents these accents in a way that could be read as objectifying and belittling. By emphasizing the cuteness and exoticness of the accent, the meme can come across as patronizing, and render the person speaking as objectified, belittled and “othered.” In other words, while those sharing the meme might not intend to mock Arab aunties for mispronouncing baking powder, they are still presented as objects of cuteness rather than people with social agency who are equally able to speak, to be heard and to make an impact on society. What it lacks is the necessary call to be seen as equal in the cultural hierarchy, a call that says, “This is my accent, and it does not make me inferior to anyone.” As for me, I have not stopped purposely mispronouncing words like “bikimbawder” when I speak Arabic with my friends — I like that it can cause a laugh and create an atmosphere of bonding around shared meaning. But working on this study has made me more self-conscious in my language choices, and I now welcome this tension that comes with affectionate mispronunciation. I see it as a reminder of how complex the relationship is between my language choices and my place in society. a

SULAFA ZIDANI i s a communication doctoral candidate researching participatory culture, language and global power dynamics in digital media. Her aim is to uncover the deeper meanings, values and ideologies behind digital participation and expression.

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Illuminating Fresh Voices


“Original visions, strange visions — that’s why a lot of us fell in love with the movies in the ’70s.” MARTIN KAPLAN, Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society and director of the Norman Lear Center in an Oct. 3 article in The New York Times about why the Joker movie was a risk Warner Bros. wanted to take.

With more than half of Americans listening to podcasts and an estimated $1 billion in annual podcast revenue expected by 2021, USC Annenberg and the Sacks Family Foundation are investing in the future of podcasting. Leveraging this explosive growth, the Luminary Fellowship program hopes to infuse the podcast industry with fresh voices and perspectives. The program seeks to address the gap between public broadcasting internships, which are typically unpaid, and a historical lack of diversity among news and editorial staff by providing one of the school’s talented recent graduates with funding for a six-month professional fellowship. Michael J. Sacks, chairman of both the Sacks Family Foundation and Luminary, a podcast content and technology company for which the fellowship is named, emphasized that supporting journalism students pursuing the vocation has never been more important. “We are honored to support a world-class institution like USC Annenberg and students who are passionate about public broadcasting and podcasting in particular — a unique medium where long-form and investigative journalism thrives, uncovering important stories and bringing them to life for listeners around the world,” Sacks said. Additional funding from the foundation will also support podcast-focused curricula and programming.

Studio B This studio in USC Annenberg’s Media Center is ideal for recording podcasts and radio broadcasts.

CREATING COMMUNITY Civic Media Fellows The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab (AnnLab) has launched the Civic Media Fellowship program to empower social entrepreneurs, artists, organizers and scholars to increase awareness, understanding and engagement around pressing areas of public interest — with particular attention to underrepresented communities. The fellows are all emerging leaders and come from diverse perspectives, communities and areas of practice. With founding support from the John D. and Catherine T.

MacArthur Foundation’s three-year, $3.5 million grant, fellows enjoy a unique opportunity to reflect on their journeys while collaborating on creative and meaningful projects. They emerge with new ideas, practices, colleagues and possibilities. “The Civic Media Fellowship serves intrepid people whose paths do not neatly fit into traditional domains, celebrating their unique approaches and helping them take on emergent challenges and opportunities,” said AnnLab Executive Director Colin Maclay.

“I’m happy to report that a new day has come. Hiring practices have changed. I just got chill bumps telling you this!” STACY L. SMITH, associate professor of communication and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in an Oct. 7 Variety article reporting that after decades of stagnation, women film directors are seeing major gains in Hollywood.

“Just as Hollywood has changed Comic-Con, Comic-Con has also changed Hollywood. One of the measures of success in this new era is how much passionate fan following you get.” HENRY JENKINS, Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education, in a July 19 article in NPR’s Marketplace about how ComicCon, after 50 years, is still the place for epic fandom.

“The key here is not that they are authentic, it’s that they appear to be more authentic than they are in traditional media.”

DAVID CRAIG, clinical associate professor of communication, in a Aug. 27 article in Vice on how some of the biggest stars in the world have turned to a medium people used to get famous in the first place: vlogging.

Photo by John Davis


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FRANCE, GERMANY, HUNGARY, SPAIN AND THE UNITED KINGDOM Thirteen undergraduate students spent four weeks this summer in Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Madrid and London as part of the International Communication Studies program. They met with executives at international media companies, including Q5, HBO International and the Olympic Channel.

PARIS, FRANCE In July, professors Rebecca Haggerty and Laura Davis presented their study on the educational effects of Stylebot, the copy-editing chatbot, at the World Journalism Education Congress.


HONG KONG Intrigued by the concept of “East meets West,” Melissa Lim Yi, who is pursuing her master’s in strategic public relations, interned this summer with an events management firm. She worked on marketing plans and social media tactics and conducted research on competitors.

Bundled in a white winter coat, her head covered with a beanie, a microphone clutched in her gloved hand, Katherine Butler stood in front of a section of the Berlin Wall in October conducting street video interviews, asking passersby if they understood the importance of cultural diplomacy. “Can you give me any examples of cultural diplomacy?” she queried. Butler, a master’s in strategic public relations student and a fellow with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD), had the chance to travel to Berlin, where the center co-hosted the forum “Cultural Diplomacy in the Age of Populism” with the Canadian Embassy there. In addition to the taping at the Berlin Wall, Butler live-tweeted from the embassy, conducted video interviews with key participants and was invited to share multimedia expertise with the Canadian Embassy’s PR team. Butler also had the opportunity to do an Instagram Stories takeover on both USC and USC Annenberg’s social feeds, where she shared her entire experience. “I felt like what I was doing there was really making an impact,” she said. This is part of CPD’s Beyond-the-Classroom Learning initiative, which has brought USC Annenberg students to Washington, D.C., and other international capitals of public diplomacy, including Brussels, Edinburgh and New Delhi.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA As part of the graduate internship program, Kayla Stamps, who is in the master’s of communication management program, worked at Street Talk, a South African television series that encourages citizens to debate, discuss and express their views.

Photo by Lisa Rau

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Shredding Perceptions

An exploration of culture and identity through a fusion of skateboards with traditional Iranian art. By Leila Nazarian

Art has the ability to transcend national borders and language barriers, giving it a unique power to generate empathy. Any piece of art has this power, whether it be a painting, a sculpture, a photograph — or a skateboard deck. While I was earning my master’s in public diplomacy, I took professor Nicholas Cull’s “Cultural Diplomacy” course. Before this, it had never occurred to me that art and culture could be a framework for diplomacy. Over the course of the two-year program, I wrote a few pieces about the role of film in cultural diplomacy, and the idea of combining these two concepts stayed with me long after I graduated. I have a very personal stake in improving cultural understanding between two countries: my home country, the United States, and my parents’ homeland, Iran. Born in Santa Monica, I spent most of my childhood in Palm Beach, Florida, before moving with my family to Iran when I was 11. Having lived in these two countries, with their difficult mutual history, I feel I have a responsibility to show others that there is more to Iran than its current role in the balance of power in the Middle East. Its rich art and culture are a great introduction to gaining a nuanced understanding of the country. The way I went about doing this was through skateboard decks. Having lived in the birthplace of skate culture — and dodged so many skateboards on my walks through campus — I wanted to juxtapose this iconic beach-lifestyle object with art inspired by my Iranian background. I was drawn to the influence of skate culture and its roots as a counterculture activity that appeals to social “outsiders,” and also to the status skateboards can have as coveted contemporary art pieces. I first started down this road by looking for skateboard art that I could hang on the walls of my new apartment, but didn’t find anything that suited my aesthetic. I was also interested in showcasing art from my 12

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Iranian roots, and ended up having a few custom-made pieces designed — which were unlike any other on the market. I received such incredible feedback from friends, family and social media that I decided to turn this concept into a business. I chose the name Eclectic Decks, dedicating the company to the exchange of different cultures through the creation of art pieces that broaden our collective understanding and promote cross-cultural dialogue. My first collection for Eclectic Decks took its inspiration from traditional Persian tilework; one design specifically came from the Qajar era, with its distinct color palette of yellows, pinks and blues. The designs were screen-printed onto the skateboard decks in Los Angeles, combining my two cultures in a very real way. I then decided to take the craftsmanship a step further and traveled to Isfahan, in central Iran. I commissioned one of the best artisans there to create Persian marquetry, also known as khatamkari, onto blank skateboard decks made in Southern California. This elaborate process required the artist to fill each centimeter of space with as many as 250 pieces of metal, bone, ivory and wood, laid side by side and glued together in stages. The screenprint editions can be used as actual skateboards; these handmade khatamkari pieces, while also completely functional, are meant to be appreciated as art. Eclectic Decks has taken me on a surreal cross-cultural journey from a skateboard factory in Southern California to artisan workshops in the narrow alleys behind the Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan. I hope that this harmonious fusion of traditional Iranian artwork with such a quintessentially American object will inspire others to “shred” their way to cross-cultural journeys of their own. a Leila Nazarian graduated in 2013 with a master’s in public diplomacy. Illustration by Johanna Goodman


Emmanuel Martinez digs into the data By Ted B. Kissell

Emmanuel Martinez at the San Francisco offices of The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal.

Emmanuel Martinez freely admits to something that would have been shocking in the world of journalism not too long ago: He’s good at math. His skill at using very large data sets to find very human stories has earned him widespread accolades. As a data reporter for The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, Martinez, along with colleague Aaron Glantz, created the series “Kept Out,” which uncovered ongoing housing discrimination against African Americans and other people of color. The series won the 2019 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting and was named as a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism. Martinez, who earned his master’s degree in print and digital journalism in 2014, said the most rewarding part of the whole process for him has been the messages he has received from people of color about the impact the stories have had. He recalled one anecdote about a man who, after repeatedly being denied a loan, “just got fed up” and paid cash. “If you can buy the building in cash and the bank is telling you ‘no,’ what is happening there?” Raised in a small rural town near Fresno, California, by parents who had emigrated from Mexico, Martinez earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, focusing on literary journalism. When he came to USC Annenberg for his graduate studies, “I knew I wanted to do journalism — and that’s all I knew,” he said. Most of his first year, he vacillated from wanting to do long-form writing, to long-form radio, to TV pieces. “I was kind of all over the place,” he admitted. It was lecturer Dana Chinn who introduced him to data journalism — finding stories within data and spreadsheets. “I really gravitated toward that because growing up, math was the subject that came most naturally to me,” he said. “Data journalism was a good way to marry that analytical math skill set with storytelling.” After graduating from USC Annenberg, Martinez began a Google Journalism Fellowship, which placed him at The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in the Bay Area, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization. That fellowship led directly to his being hired full time as a data journalist there. “Investigative reporting is either digging through documents or digging through data,” he said. “The higher-ups at CIR saw the power of data in terms of storytelling.” The idea that became the award-winning “Kept Out” series started with an observation from Glantz, Martinez’s reporting partner, that rates of home ownership among African Americans were actually lower today than they were in 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was passed. To uncover why and how this was happening, Martinez used data collected through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which requires lenders to report their mortgage applications to the federal government. By setting the right parameters, he discovered that loan applicants of color were being denied at much higher rates than white applicants of the same income level. The next step in the year-long project was the on-ground reporting to get the human stories behind the numbers. What they found led to sweeping change: Philadelphia, where some of the largest gaps were found, launched a program to review home loan applications from people of color who had been denied. Attorneys general in five states and the District of Columbia launched investigations of discriminatory practices in mortgage lending. Major banks took steps to improve the diversity of their lending. “The data drove the narrative,” Martinez said. “When you can combine the personal experience with the data, it puts a face to the analysis,” he said. “It makes the analysis more accessible to the public, and you’re able to have tremendous impact.” a Photo by Cody Pickens

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Thought for Food Going beyond the plate to explore issues of community, identity and food justice.


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USC Annenberg Magazine

Among the muted colors, comfortable chairs and deep quiet of the Los Angeles Central Library’s Rare Books Room, the history of L.A. restaurants stares up at Josh Kun from a sturdy wooden table. Spread across the surface are selections from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archive of the city’s restaurant menus, including some of the very oldest, dating back to 1895. These primary documents are the centerpiece of Kun’s To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City. Kun is reliving the research that informed the 2015 book in a conversation with Nicola Twilley and Cynthia Graber, the hosts of the food podcast Gastropod. As Graber holds a microphone to catch Kun’s response, Twilley, who reviewed the book for The New Yorker when it was first released, asks Kun to explore how food is both boundary and bridge. Food, Kun responds, allows us to draw boundaries around ourselves while also building bridges for others to understand us. “This is my grandmother’s dish, this food comes from my past, this belongs to my community,” says Kun, director of the School of Communication and Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication. “On the other hand, food is one of the very things that allows us all to experience entry points into other ways of being, into other cultural practices. You taste somebody else’s food, and you want to know more about the person who cooked it.” This duality Kun highlights is just one of the many complexities inherent in talking about food. As L.A. has emerged in the 21st century as a global hub for food, the conversation has grown to encompass the myriad social, political and economic issues that shape L.A.’s food culture: immigration, gentrification, labor rights, food insecurity, and sustainability. Whether they’re writing a restaurant review, developing an eatery’s marketing campaign, or conducting research, today’s communicators know they need to deliver the full picture, one informed by food justice, to an increasingly sophisticated and demanding public. “The things that matter most are the things that demand to be understood from multiple perspectives,” Kun says. “How else would we talk about the very thing that keeps us alive?”

Food, Culture and the Identity of a City “Food has always been not just something that I love writing about, but something that people want to talk about because it’s so immediate,” said Eddie Kim, a staff writer for Mel magazine. “Everyone has a relationship with food, whether it’s with great food or with no food.” Kim, a former editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, didn’t specialize in food journalism while an undergraduate at USC Annenberg, and he has covered a variety of subjects in his professional career, including his in-depth

coverage of homelessness in Los Angeles. But he says the breadth of his journalistic training has helped him bring a passionate, rigorous approach to discussing food. In his biweekly Mel magazine column “Eat Your Heart Out,” Kim asks his interview subjects to talk about a dish that represents their lives. “This ends up turning into a conversation about family, about immigrants, about mental health challenges,” Kim said. “It gets people to be just as vulnerable as any other kind of question.” In a recent feature story, “The Spectacular Culinary World of Muslim Chinese Americans,” Kim reported not only on Uyghur Muslim restaurants in Southern California, but also the religious and political persecution the community is facing in China. He explored how they are using their restaurants both to maintain their own community and to share their community with others. “They’re stuck in America, and what they have is the food they make and the food they sell and the conversations they try to spark with the customers who come to their restaurants,” said Kim, who earned his BA in print and digital journalism in 2013. “That’s fascinating to me, because I grew up in a restaurant family — my Korean parents making Japanese food. They’re longing for home and feeling trapped while making these noodles or these stir-fries that are so essentially indicative of life back home.” Jenn Harris, a senior food writer with the Los Angeles Times, finds that focusing on food in L.A. often opens the door to writing about not only the intricacies of culture, but also the realities of hard-news topics. “We’re trying to do more than just write, ‘This is delicious,’” said Harris, who earned a master’s in journalism in 2010. “For example, I just published a story on L.A.’s restaurant industry that developed into just how expensive owning a restaurant is here, with some restaurateurs telling me they can barely keep the lights on, and how they have to get a side hustle just to make payroll. “That launched me into a deeper dive into why this is happening,” she added. “Why is it that your Caesar salad is going to be $32? Why do so many restaurants close?” The answers are complicated, involving zoning, rent, gentrification, and immigration policy, among many other factors. “A fear of mine is that, in 10 years, all you’ll see are chain restaurants,” she said. “The little guys are not going to be able to afford to function anymore. “We’re trying to spotlight issues like that, but we could always be doing more,” Harris said. Kevin Pang, who earned his bachelor of arts in journalism in 2003, is also seeing the food-journalism landscape shift. “Twenty years ago, food writing was dominated by ‘lifestyle-y’ writers,” he said. “Now, a lot of outlets are doing substantive work. Food writing is no Fall/Winter 2019 19

longer just about how to cook quinoa and the seasonality of corn: There’s writing about gender identity, LGBT issues, restaurant workers’ compensation issues.” He says he sort of “fell backwards” into food writing while at the Chicago Tribune, where he started his food journalism career in 2004. “I’ve come to the realization that the tenets of journalism apply just as much to covering food as to covering the courts,” he said. “Accuracy, good reporting, understanding narrative structure and storytelling, even how to file a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request — all things I learned at Annenberg.”

“Food is this really valuable entry point into understanding culture, society, power and inequality.” G A R R E T T B ROA D ’ 1 3

After almost a decade at the Chicago Tribune, Pang co-founded the Onion’s food section The Takeout, and was editor-in-chief there for two years. A five-time James Beard nominee, he won the award in 2010 for his video series The Cheeseburger Show. The most interesting part about food writing for Pang is how much he’s learned about Chicago by covering its food scene. “When you write about a city’s food, you’re writing about its people,” he said. “More than music, more than architecture, more than visual art — the food of a city explains more about that city’s ethos and people than any other medium.”

Driving Social Change Through Food Kun says there’s been a kind of “waking up” over the past five years to the centrality of food, both as an academic pursuit and as a tool for social and cultural analysis. “At the same time L.A. is blowing up as a food city, it is also blowing up as a city of tremendous food insecurity and food segregation,” he said. “How do we reconcile the love and the joy and the passion that people have for celebrating food with the lack of attention for hunger and food insecurity?” In 2017, Kun’s growing engagement with food issues led him to co-found the Southern California Foodways Project, an organization of scholars, journalists, chefs, farmers, and policy experts dedicated to exploring the history, industry and politics of food in Southern California. Other USC Annenberg scholars have devoted their research to exploring food in Los Angeles. Garrett Broad joined USC Annenberg’s communication doctoral program in 2008 to investigate issues of social justice within the food system. “Food is this really valuable entry point into understanding culture, society, power and inequality,” Broad said. For his first major research project, he worked with a nonprofit in South Los Angeles called Community Services Unlimited (CSU). The organization was founded by the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1977 as part of its “survival programs.” Broad spent years researching and volunteering 20

USC Annenberg Magazine

with CSU, learning how their mini-urban farms, fresh produce marketplaces, and nutritional education programs engaged their community through food. More importantly, he learned how lessons that came out of those models could drive social change. That work became the basis of Broad’s first book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change (University of California Press, 2016). “I like to talk about what I see as a paradox of abundance and injustice,” said Broad, who earned his PhD in 2013 and is now a professor of communication at Fordham University in New York City. According to Broad, the amount and variety of food available across the United States, and particularly in California, is wondrous — but not everyone has access to it. “That abundance has come at the expense of some major tradeoffs that are really concerning,” Broad said, pointing to environmental concerns, exploitation of workers throughout the food system, and the scarcity of healthy food in low-income communities. Two other USC Annenberg researchers have taken a direct approach to handling the food scarcity issue in underserved communities. Peter Clarke, professor of communication, and Susan Evans, research scientist, have been looking into this issue since the early ’90s. They co-direct From the Wholesaler to the Hungry, a project that has launched more than 150 new programs that bring fresh produce to low-income Americans. Over the course of their research, they learned that while families are now better able to obtain fresh produce, if they don’t know how to cook it, it often goes to waste. In 2013, they created an app, VeggieBook, filled with recipes and food-use ideas designed to help their low-income clients prepare vegetables in appealing ways. The app has been certified as an effective obesityprevention intervention by a national consortium of public health agencies. “Increasing food justice requires helping household cooks discover how to prepare healthy meals, as well as increasing their access to nutritious foods in markets and neighborhood food pantries,” Evans said. “We built the VeggieBook app to boost users’ kitchen skills and engage children as well as their parents in food choices. Our results demonstrate how powerfully food habits can change with assistance from digital tools.” While Clarke and Evans’ work is focused outside of campus, over the past few years, the USC community has begun to address the fact that some of its own students struggle with food insecurity. The USC Annenberg Agency — a faculty-directed, student-staffed advertising agency founded by a USC Annenberg parent donor in Spring 2019 — took on the issues of food insecurity and housing insecurity among students as its first project. The agency is structured as a directed-research course taught by Freddy Tran Nager, entrepreneurial communication expert in residence. Students spoke with housing-insecure students, interviewed administrators and staff who are working on the homelessness initiative, and met with local churches that provide services. They also learned about the USC Food Pantry, a virtual food pantry USC launched in 2017 for students who were going hungry. “One of the things that we discovered through our research was that a lot of students who are food-insecure are our graduate students,” Nager said. “Undergraduates get a food plan and they get housing support — but a lot of the graduate students come to Los Angeles and underestimate costs to live here.”

Building upon this research, the class came up with a plan for a campaign that details the resources available to help students in need. This year, the agency’s 14 graduate students have begun to roll out their campaign, which began with a Homelessness Awareness Week in November. One of the goals of that week, Nager said, was to reduce the stigma associated with needing help. “I think this is part of a broader movement,” he said. “I think there’s greater understanding now of the myriad of problems in our society, which wealth inequality has brought to the forefront. We’re starting to build that awareness: If there’s food injustice, institutions have to adapt to that.”

Telling the Story of Food For undergraduate and graduate students interested in communicating about substantive food issues, USC Annenberg faculty have developed several courses that can start them on that journey. One popular course, “Lifestyle PR: Food, Fashion & Fun!” initially grew out of the lifestyle PR specialization in the strategic public relations master’s program. “Students don’t only want to do the celebrity angle when it comes to food,” said Jennifer Floto, professor of professional practice and co-director of the program. “They really want to know more about the problems out there, and how they might get involved with solving them.” One-third of the course is devoted to food PR; Floto starts that section with an overview of the food and beverage industry before focusing in on specific areas of food and beverage PR (conglomerates, celebrity chefs, etc.). From the outset, the course has focused on not only how to craft messaging, but how to use that messaging to engage with a public that has meaningful concerns about food — including responsible sourcing of ingredients, sustainability and fair labor practices. “The biggest thing students want to know about is the issues,” Floto said. “Most of them are Millennials or Gen Z — they want to save the planet.” Floto adds that companies are realizing they can’t hide anymore when it comes to food justice because their consumers are more concerned about these issues than ever before. And students who learn to engage with those issues in a responsible way, Floto said, become sought-after hires after graduation. Samantha Wan, who earned her master’s degree in strategic public relations in 2012, has returned to the “Food, Fashion & Fun!” class several times as a guest speaker. On her most recent visit this Fall, Wan, who joined Barton G. Hospitality earlier this year as vice president of public relations and digital media, shared that chefs and restaurant owners are recognizing that today’s consumers are interested in the food experience, not just the food itself. Wan said issues of sustainability and social justice are more relevant now than ever. “Consumers are educating themselves on sustainability and sourcing and want to know where their food is coming from,” she said. “They are willing to pay premiums for food sourced responsibly. Restaurants are taking it upon themselves to be transparent. Many of them are working on methods that will show customers who, when, and where a fish is caught, or a vegetable is harvested.” When it comes to training the next generation of journalists who will be covering those restaurants, USC Annenberg strives to balance theory and practice. Sasha Anawalt’s “Food Culture Journalism” graduate course

offers guest lectures from food journalists working at the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, to name a few. Students in Anawalt’s class also have the opportunity to get out into the community to try the food. Each guest lecturer not only comes into the classroom to teach, but also leads a series of L.A. food tours. Their stops have included a coldstorage warehouse, a craft distillery and the largest panko factory in the U.S. On one of their tours, with Los Angeles Times staff writer Gustavo Arellano, they visited L.A.’s historic Olvera Street, starting from the venerable Cielito Lindo taco stand and finishing up at Las Anitas, a sit-down restaurant. All the while, Arellano helped put the street and its Mexican restaurants into both culinary and historical context. Anawalt, professor of professional practice and the director of the specialized journalism (the arts) program, designed the course to make sure her students were bringing a critical eye to one of the world’s most vibrant and complex food cities — including asking big questions about food inequities and distribution. “We need to be training our food journalists to do investigative reporting,” said Anawalt, who taught food writers Jenn Harris and Eddie Kim, among many others. “They need to be able to think about science, about population, about data, and really analyze it. They can use food as a lens to look at some of the major problems ahead so that they can get to be experts on it and — ideally, hopefully — effect positive change.” The study of food journalism at USC Annenberg recently received a notable show of support. The Julia Child Foundation, established by the world-renowned chef, author and television personality in 1995 to support the culinary arts, has pledged support for a food

“Consumers are educating themselves on sustainability and sourcing and want to know where their food is coming from.” S A M A N T H A WA N ’ 1 2

journalism scholarship at USC Annenberg. Anawalt says the scholarship is a further sign of the school’s commitment to informed and rigorous food journalism. Whether they’re helping a restaurant promote its use of sustainable ingredients, raising awareness of food insecurity on campus, writing articles about how food reflects and defines a city’s history and culture, or researching new models of sustainable and ethical food systems, USC Annenberg students, faculty and alumni are demonstrating that responsible storytelling about food must reach far beyond the boundaries of the plate. “I don’t think there’s a better place in the world to study food systems than California,” Garrett Broad said. “There’s this matrix of food systems and food culture, which is why you see a lot of great food writing and a lot of great food scholarship come out of Southern California.” a Fall/Winter 2019 23

Shine a Light Leveraging communication strategies has never been more critical to advancing an open conversation about mental health in our communities. B Y







Nichole Banducci was with her family when wildfire flames, fanned by Santa Ana winds, raced over the Santa Monica Mountains. ¶ As the deadly Woolsey Fire descended into Malibu in the early morning of Nov. 9, 2018, Banducci, her husband Brian, in-laws and three children prepared to evacuate. They loaded their dog, cat, rabbits and belongings into two cars, a van, a truck and their 1964 Shasta Oasis trailer, and headed out. ¶ Less than an hour later, flames ravaged Banducci’s Malibu Park neighborhood, destroying her home. ¶ The loss Banducci experienced with the Woolsey Fire not only challenged her physically and emotionally, but also served as a point of inspiration. Now, the wellness advocate and educator will debut a new online program in early 2020 called “Fortify Against Stress” that she developed to equip others with the tools they need to improve their well-being.

hen you experience a trauma, your body’s auto- Open Conversations “W matic response to stress causes heightened potential for anxiety and depression,” said Banducci, who earned her “It’s become more mainstream to talk about mental bachelor’s degree in public relations in 1993 and an MBA from USC Marshall in 2001. “The subsequent emotional, physical, and hormonal/chemical changes to your body set the stage for ongoing mental health concerns. I’m hoping I can help my clients better understand this.” Banducci, along with other USC Annenberg alumni, faculty and students, are leveraging their expertise across communication, journalism and public relations to help advance the public’s understanding of and conversations about mental health. With one in five adults and one in six youth in the United States experiencing a mental illness each year, their work has perhaps never been more pressing.

health, and I’d love to say that we — the media — have played a role in that,” said Jacqueline Howard, who earned a master’s degree in broadcast journalism in 2010 and is now a reporter for CNN Health. “Reducing the stigma attached to talking about mental health really is our responsibility as communicators.” Over the course of her career, many of Howard’s reporting assignments have led her to delve into the complexities of mental health. One especially poignant series she co-wrote for CNN centered on the topic of suicide following the death of Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN’s popular travel and food show Parts Unknown.

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“What I’ve learned is that with every story related to, not just sui- disorders, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, suicide, and autism spectrum cide, but mental health in general, you need to allow those affected disorders, among other conditions. Results showed that fewer to tell their stories their way,” Howard said. “I’ve realized we — the than 2 percent of all film characters and roughly 7 percent of TV journalists — are just the avenue through which they can do that.” characters experience mental health conditions on screen. Listening to and sharing the experiences of mothers like Dr. Stacy L. Smith, AII’s founder and director and the study’s lead Timoria McQueen Saba, whose postpartum hemorrhage nearly author, said the entertainment industry continues to be out of sync killed her, drove another CNN article Howard wrote exploring with reality despite close to 20 percent of the U.S. population experising maternal mortality rates following childbirth. riencing some form of mental health condition or illness per year, In addition to highlighting how black women are dispropor- according to a recent National Institute of Mental Health report. tionately more affected than women of other races by pregnancy “The prevalence of mental health conditions among the audience mortality, Howard explored how Saba was eventually diagnosed with far outpaces the characters they see on screen,” said Smith, assopost-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the hemorrhage. ciate professor of communication. “This presents a distorted view “[Saba] stayed awake at night with images of the world for those who live and thrive with of the blood flashing in her mind,” Howard mental health conditions, but never see their wrote. “She now knew the feeling of her ‘body stories represented in popular media.” losing life,’ she said, and she couldn’t stop Beyond the results, the report provides strathinking about it.” tegic tools and solutions to help entertainment “It’s become more Howard continued to chronicle Saba’s healprofessionals write more authentic depictions. ing process as she connected with a social For example, only 5 percent of film and 9 mainstream to talk worker who devised a treatment plan that percent of TV characters were shown in treatcombined therapy and restorative yoga. ment, while 22 percent of film characters and about mental health, As a 2019-20 National Fellow at USC 62 percent of TV characters were shown in or Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism, mentioned therapy. By incorporating depictions and I’d love to say Howard is continuing this investigation into of treatment and different kinds of therapies for rising maternal mortality as well as the role of mental health conditions, content creators can that we — the media — postpartum mental health care in preventing help advance an important message to audiencsuicide, which studies have shown is a leading es that effective treatments are available. have played a role cause of death for women during this period. “Most Americans understand that mental “In today’s world, where news can come at you health is a critically important part of their in that. Reducing the so fast, the fellowship allows me to really dig overall health. And yet, mental health literacy into some of the biggest challenges in health among the general public remains low,” said stigma attached to and health journalism in a way that I can’t do in Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP’s chief medical a breaking-news environment,” she said. officer. “By showing audiences people who live talking about mental Michelle Levander, the center’s founding diwith and manage their mental health in an rector, believes that reporting such as Howard’s authentic way, we can encourage people, and health really is our is vital because it allows expert storytelling to those who surround them, to be more sophistiaffect community and societal change. She cated in managing their mental health.” responsibility as noted that investigations related to mental health make up a significant number of the projects currently underway at the center, communicators.” Wellness Through Community which marked its 15th anniversary in 2019. One group that the AII study discovered is virSupported by an “impact reporting” model, J A C Q U E L I N E H O WA R D ’ 1 0 tually absent from media portrayals of mental the center’s fellows have helped change polhealth conditions is the LGBTQ community. icies around mental health in communities There were no LGBTQ film characters with a across the country, bringing new resources for mental health condition across the 100 top films trauma-informed approaches and programs. “Mental health has traditionally been something of a ‘news of 2016 and only eight TV characters across 50 popular shows in desert’ topic,” Levander said. “While the center has supported 2016-17. The lack of LGBTQ characters shown in this capacity is a number of projects related to mental health, I feel there’s way striking, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicates that mental health conditions are nearly three times more likely to ocmore to be done.” cur among members of the LGBTQ community. Hoping to identify ways to better serve those who identify as LGBTQ, doctoral student Traci Gillig focused on the interInto the Spotlight ventions, interpersonal relationships and structural factors that Hollywood A-listers are one group that has played an integral role influence their health and well-being — and the well-being of in helping to fill this gap in the media’s coverage, Howard noted. those who are part of other marginalized groups. “We are seeing a major shift in lifting the stigma as celebrities She partnered with a nonprofit called Brave Trails, which talk publicly about their mental health,” she said. “I think journal- launched in 2014 as the first leadership camp in the western United ists and news outlets are seizing this opportunity, too, as they seek States for LGBTQ youth, to conduct her dissertation research. to connect with their audiences on a more personal level.” “Their programming is part traditional summer camp — hiking, Yet, even with actors such as Kristen Bell, Gina Rodriguez arts and crafts,” said Gillig, who has worked with Brave Trails and Jon Hamm increasingly opening up about their own strug- since its founding. “They also offer resources and activities that gles, a recent landmark study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion pertain specifically to the campers’ LGBTQ identities, helping Initiative (AII) revealed that few of the characters they portray them navigate the stressors that can come from that.” across popular film and TV series exhibit mental health condiShe first met the camp’s founders when she was volunteering tions and those that do are routinely dehumanized. at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. As she worked with them, Conducted in partnership with the American Foundation for she saw an opportunity to connect their new camp with research. Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and funded by the David and Lura What started as a small project eventually grew in scale and Lovell Foundation, the study examined 100 top-grossing films spanned five years, becoming the foundation for her dissertation. and 50 popular TV series to evaluate the prevalence of mood “As the sense of community at Brave Trails continues to grow, 26

USC Annenberg Magazine

the question becomes, what sort of outcomes does that have for According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of youth, and how can we learn from what they’re doing and offer U.S. respondents ages 13 to 17 indicated anxiety and depression up information that applies to other efforts?” she said. were major issues among their peers. And Centers for Disease “The fact that we found significant reductions in depressive Control data shows that the suicide rate for Americans between symptoms over time was evidence for the benefit of programming 15 and 24 has reached the highest rate since 1999. that’s not explicitly therapy, but that helps affirm people’s identiFor Kaleigh Finnie, her struggles with mental health began in ties in other ways,” added Gillig, who is now assistant professor of her teens. Her father, Shaun, said that despite Kaleigh’s bubbly communication at Washington State University. outward appearance, his daughter could be moody and had reHer latest line of research looks at how people outside of mar- ceived some counseling for anxiety. By her senior year of high ginalized populations perceive marginalized groups and will offer school, she seemed to have improved significantly. Yet, unbemore insights on how to use media portrayals and other interven- knownst to everyone, Kaleigh continued to struggle with mental tions to help shift attitudes, while also generating understanding health issues throughout her freshman year at USC Annenberg, and supportive policies. and in the summer of 2015, while back home in the Houston area, she took her own life. As the family came to terms with their loss, they eventually decided to partner with USC Annenberg to establish the Kaleigh Gamifying Healthy Behavior Finnie Memorial Endowment, which was launched in September. For nearly three decades, Lynn Miller, professor of communi- The merit-based fund provides scholarships and awards to USC cation and associate dean of research, has also been working to Annenberg undergraduate and graduate students who hope to develop intervention tools that can help improve the well-being contribute critical research and generate important conversations of those in the LGBTQ community. around mental health. Her chosen medium, however, might not be what you’d expect. In October, students submitted 25 proposals, from which a Miller and her team have designed an interactive video game that committee selected six to receive funding this Spring. aims to prevent risky sexual behavior in men who have sex with men. “As part of their applications, several of the recipients braveUsing an innovative approach, which they call Socially ly shared their own personal struggles with mental health,” said Optimized Learning in Virtual Environments (SOLVE), the Suzanne Alcantara, assistant dean of student services. “Their game immerses players in an interactive world in which they go ideas for how to begin to turn the tide for their generation were on a “virtual date.” Real-life challenges like whether to ask a part- incredibly inspiring.” ner to use a condom are simulated, while interventions embedded Senior public relations major Joelle Ferguson plans to use the throughout encourage players to change decisions to reduce risky support to help USC continue to improve their communication sexual behaviors. Players also have the option to strategies around mental health awareness and make the same choices again. resources on campus. One of the game’s goals is to normalize “I, along with so many other students, can a player’s desire to have sex, thus reducing identify with Kaleigh’s experience,” Ferguson shame associated with the desire, Miller exsaid. “During my senior year of high school, “Many depressed or plained. Studies have found, she added, that I lost both my mother and grandfather, and shame can often be a contributing factor by my sophomore year at USC, I developed anxious individuals see in depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. symptoms of depression.” While research has also shown that people Her project, which begins with holding things differently, who harbor shame are less likely to make a town hall to focus on students’ perspechealthy choices, Miller’s game offers a possitives on wellness and campus resources, will and we’re trying to ble way to rewire this dynamic. culminate with the development of a uniOver the last year, Miller and her team have versity-specific online course that seeks to capture, in a game, how begun exploring how the gaming tools they inform students about self-care and resources have developed can be adapted to target those beginning at orientation. they understand the suffering from depression and social anxiety. Other award recipients include Daric “One thing we’re trying to emphasize is norCottingham, who is pursuing a master’s in speworld and what affects mativity,” said David Jeong, who earned his cialized journalism. He plans to create a podcast PhD in communication in 2017 and is now a called Smile and Wave to provide a platform for their reactions.” postdoctoral research scholar in Miller’s lab. “I individuals to share their own stories and feel think this is something that could be applied less isolated. Andrea Moore, who is earning LY N N M I L L E R to any type of health issue, including mental her master’s in communication management health, in which some sort of shame-type elewhile working as a staff member within USC ment is involved.” Student Health’s Office for Health Promotion In one game, a person with social anxiety Strategy, will build a social media marketing enters a crowded bar and makes choices about campaign aimed at educating USC faculty on who to interact with — or not. Such virtual experience, Jeong how to adopt best practices in addressing student mental health maintained, could help that person cope better in the real world. in their classrooms. “Many depressed or anxious individuals see things differently, Senior journalism major Dan Toomey’s proposal to establish and we’re trying to capture, in a game, how they understand the a health and wellness desk in USC Annenberg’s Media Center world and what affects their reactions,” Miller said. “Once we will also receive support. As a managing editor for culture and understand that, we can fine tune the game to encourage these outreach at Annenberg Media, Toomey said the funding will individuals to adapt and to grasp what a life without depression bolster the recruitment and training of student journalists specifmight look like.” ically focused on mental health. He sees this not only as a chance to create internal workplace change within the media center, but also an external impact for the entire USC campus. “I’ve conducted interviews with dozens of students, professors, Telling the Story of Mental Health administrators and parents around mental health issues,” Toomey Understanding the world of “Generation Z” — usually defined said. “Each of these talks has conveyed to me the same message as people born since 1997 — has also become increasingly urgent. about mental health: We need more communication.” a Fall/Winter 2019 29





When Megan Jordan travels overseas, packing for her digital life can be tricky. She leaves her personal cellphone and computer at home, and carries only work devices stripped of sensitive data. And when she visits a hotel’s gym, she steers clear of anyone working out nearby because they could potentially download her data. As the chief communication officer and senior vice president of global corporate affairs for ChromaDex, she remains vigilant in her cyber practices to help ensure the nutraceutical company’s brand and intellectual property aren’t compromised. “If we can’t protect that research, it will stymie innovation,” said Jordan, who earned her bachelor’s in public relations in 1992. “So, I’ve become increasingly more passionate about our role as communications professionals in ensuring the controls that are there.” Even with worldwide information security spending expected to exceed $124 billion by the end of 2019, the fact remains that digital security starts and ends with individual users like Jordan. Hackers most often target employees’ unsecured devices to create a portal into an organization’s network and ultimately the sensitive data that resides there. The impacts of these hacks can not only be operationally debilitating, but also intensely personal. One landmark example, the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures seeking to derail the release of its then-upcoming film The Interview, proved that exposing employees’ confidential files and emails can be just as destructive as deploying malware to destroy data. In another infamous case, Chinese hackers infiltrated The New York Times in response to their investigation into China’s prime minister Wen Jiabao, accessing the email accounts of reporters covering the probe and compromising information about their sources.



In a world rife with cyber threats that can jeopardize everything from a company’s brand to press freedoms and elections, USC Annenberg faculty and alumni are pioneering new ways to advance digital security awareness and leading-edge training that will empower individuals across the communication and media landscapes.

Protecting Sources, Clients, Brands and Yourself Marc Ambinder, who was appointed expert-in-residence in digital security at USC Annenberg this Fall, is helping to spearhead these efforts. He sees secure communication as both a professional obligation and a necessity for anyone in the business of content creation, curation or marketing. “Your documents, contracts, emails, notes, audio files, photos, videos, scripts, layouts, storyboards, and intellectual property are inherently vulnerable to attacks from competitors, from triggered audiences, from governments, from malicious hackers and nation-states,” he said. While communications professionals pay attention to the presentation and to their audience, however, Ambinder points out that an acute need persists for a more active approach through practical, dynamic training about the production of information and its security. As a national security journalist himself, Ambinder has done reporting on extremely sensitive topics including CIA contingency programs, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, and the Joint Special Operations Command. He has been teaching investigative journalism at USC Annenberg since 2017 and just created the school’s first course on national security reporting. Now, he wants to leverage his expertise to create Fall/Winter 2019 31

comprehensive, scalable and useful modules to train communication professionals of all types. Ambinder has teamed up with the Freedom of the Press Foundation to launch a two-year, multi-part project that will comprehensively study what is preventing colleges and universities from offering critical digital security courses to students, and subsequently develop a semester-long curriculum that can be implemented to solve this problem. “The next generation needs to be equipped with security knowledge, so they can properly learn the many nuances of digital security, and so they can evangelize best practices,” he said. “It’s our belief that teaching digital security at institutions like USC is the only way to properly scale the skill set.” The idea ultimately is to do a risk assessment for protecting information, Ambinder said. That means first, students have to be aware of the threats that may exist: Who would want access to their information? The second step is to mitigate those potential problems or those breaches of their intellectual property. “It’s not just about journalism,” he added. “It’s a problem for anyone, because you have valuable intellectual property you want to protect.” The third step is to make choices. It’s not feasible to employ every digital security tool in every situation; for example, a VPN (virtual private network) is useful but

preparing ourselves to enter the workforce, it is vital that we understand the tools we need — like a password manager and two-step authentication — to protect ourselves, our sources and any other important information.”

Digital Security on an International Scale As the chief strategy officer at the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Shawn Powers is helping to incubate and distribute the digital security tools that help advance training efforts like those at USC Annenberg. His interest in the field began during his doctoral studies at USC Annenberg, where he focused on the intersection of public diplomacy, technology and national security. After graduating in 2009 and joining the faculty at Georgia State University, however, he decided to take a more hands-on approach and joined the U.S. Department of State to head up the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Since joining the USAGM in 2018, he has helped lead the independent federal agency in overseeing all U.S. international broadcasting as well as five publicly funded news networks around the world, including Voice of America.


on understanding how to protect your privacy and protect your rights is essential.” S H AW N P O W E R S ’ 0 9

it also slows things down. Students have to be aware of the tradeoffs inherent in security decisions. Ambinder asserts that although there are scholars who study digital security, and there are courses that students can take, no curriculum yet has adopted this risk-analysis approach. He has already begun piloting these strategies through an hour-long training session with students in USC Annenberg’s Media Center this Fall. He hopes to develop a teaching template that other schools across the country could use. Senior Annaliese Tusken, Annenberg Media’s assistant director, participated in the training and found it an eye-opening experience to consider how susceptible she is to data breaches with her own work. “I myself, and I know many other students, likely didn’t realize how easily our information can be compromised,” she said. “Digital security is such a complex subject and cybersecurity breaches can start very small. As students 32

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More specifically, he is concentrating on markets where freedom of the press doesn’t exist because economic conditions aren’t robust enough to sustain it. Among Powers’ primary tasks is promoting internet freedom and developing secure communications between journalists and their sources. One way to do that is to give journalists a way to talk with sources through encryption. A grant from his office made it possible to create the encryption protocols that back up Signal, a secure messaging app. “Digital security is absolutely essential for journalists to remain effective and safe in the kinds of markets that we’re in, like Russia, China and Cuba,” he said. “But the technologies we’ve developed aren’t just for journalists, we’ve made them open and available for consumers around the world.” He is also exploring the possible threats and opportunities inherent at the nexus of technology and media,

including low-Earth-orbiting satellites owned and operated by the private sector, and 5G, which can provide a platform for distributing high-bandwidth content at low cost. Even podcasting, which is just beginning to catch on in developing markets, he said, could also open up new avenues because companies such as Spotify aren’t yet on governments’ radars to censor. “I think digital literacy is crucial,” Powers said. “I’m not saying everyone needs to learn to code, but I do think that everyone needs to understand how technology works. Focusing on understanding how to protect your privacy and protect your rights is essential.”



Securing Our Elections The USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) also recognizes that digital literacy coupled with security will be at the forefront as the 2020 election approaches. Experts anticipate that the United States will once again be the target of foreign and domestic cyberattacks that could compromise the country’s infrastructure, local and state governments, and news and information. Seeking to empower elections officials nationwide to reinforce their defenses against digital attacks that may affect the integrity and outcome of elections, CCLP has launched a new program that will provide in-state training sessions in all 50 states. CCLP’s effort began this summer with initial support from the Democracy Fund and collaboration with the National Governors Association to conduct workshops in six states. “Each state had a unique focus,” said Adam Clayton Powell III, director of CCLP’s Washington, D.C., programs. “For example, in Minnesota, we explored the legislative and regulatory approaches that can be brought to bear on misinformation, disinformation and misrepresentation, including deepfake videos.” Now, with additional grant support from Google, CCLP is expanding the program across the entire country, leveraging faculty expertise from six of USC’S schools to create and deploy leading-edge, bipartisan election-security curricula. “Our goal is to help states be better prepared for foreseeable threats — regardless of source, origin, party or candidate targeted,” said University Professor Geoffrey Cowan, the project’s principal investigator. Powell, the project’s managing director, will spearhead the curricula development by convening a series of working sessions in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, drawing on faculty experts from across the university, including some who have run presidential campaigns for candidates from both parties. “We are creating an initiative that will demonstrate the important role that academic institutions may play in helping to protect the integrity of our elections,” Powell said. “Google’s generous support to develop and sustain this multi-disciplinary project is vital.” Starting in January 2020, the project will launch in-state programming consisting of a day-long series of briefings and exercises. While the curricula will be designed for state and local election officials, campaign officials of all parties, academics, nongovernmental organizations, journalists and students, programming will be open to the public and media to ensure maximum transparency. “For decades, USC Annenberg has been a leader in the field of communication technology,” Cowan said. “With this initiative, the school is continuing to demonstrate its commitment to a bright, diverse and democratic future.” a

MYTH I’m not in danger of being the victim of a digital attack. REALITY You’ve already been the victim of a digital attack. You might think that a hack of passwords and emails is different from a cyberattack, but you’re not thinking like the bad folks think. Most people use the same passwords for many applications, and it’s relatively easy to purchase these stolen data sets off the dark web. SOLUTION The solution is easy: Use two-factor authentication for every site and app that offers it and use a good password manager.

MYTH As long as I use an encrypted chat app, my sources are safe from exposure. REALITY Any app that uses end-point encryption adds a layer of protection, and it should be the default method of communicating with sources or sensitive clients. It’s important to remember, though, these apps don’t protect the metadata; the “to” and “from” and “time” information, which, for a reporter, might reveal sensitive information. SOLUTION Bottom line, encrypted apps are a starting point for security, but they must be used properly.

MYTH I can travel abroad with my own phone and laptop and not have to worry about my digital security. REALITY This is a scary blind spot for many people, especially communicators. Even if you’re a junior-level employee at a firm that does big business, a growing number of countries will know before you present your passport to their customs and border officials that you are affiliated with that company. SOLUTION If you must bring your own phone, wipe it clean (two times over) before leaving and re-install the bare minimum of apps directly — not from a cloud backup — and never plug your phone into a public charger. When you return home, wipe it clean again, and then restore it from the cloud. Invest in a cheap laptop for work travel.


How Social Media is Helping Big Tobacco Hook a New Generation of Smokers B Y R O B E R T K OZ I N E T S , O R I G I N A L LY P U B L I S H E D O N T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N

ROBERT KOZINETS i s the Jayne and Hans Hufschmid Chair in Strategic Public Relations and Business Communication


Big Tobacco is using social media to hook young people on smoking, circumventing decades of laws restricting the marketing of traditional cigarettes to minors. In major cities around the world such as Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Jakarta and Milan, tobacco companies have been holding extravagant events with names like “K-Player” and “RedMoveNow” that were designed to connect with young people. Often featuring alcohol, live music and attractive hosts, these lavish events spare no expense as they seek to find new buyers for their tobacco products. The problem? Those party-goers are carefully targeted young influencers, who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with friends and followers of social media using appealing

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hashtags like #iamonthemove, #decideyourflow and #mydaynow. And although the influencers are over 18, their social media followers can be much younger. This exploitation of social media’s organic reach is one of the findings from a global research project I’ve been working on since 2016 with more than a dozen different scholars. The anti-smoking advocacy group TobaccoFree Kids noticed a lot of photos of young people with cigarettes turning up in their online scans of global social media and asked me to look into it. My own research focuses on how to rigorously research online culture using natural observational techniques, something that this study definitely required. My team’s task was to monitor, report upon and

analyze the programs behind the hashtagged social media posts of young people smoking. What we learned about tobacco companies’ current advertising surprised us. Skirting Marketing Restrictions Tobacco companies have always had a knack for finding creative ways to skirt regulations intended to curb marketing to young people. In 1971, the U.S. Congress banned tobacco ads from television and radio. In response, companies invested heavily in outdoor advertising and magazines. In 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement banned tobacco on outdoor and billboard ads. In response, tobacco money flowed into sponsorships of sports, music and other events. These types of event sponsorships were banned, with some exceptions, in 2010, at the same time wider restrictions on youth marketing were also introduced. No matter the medium, the messaging was often the same: find ways to reach new and young potential smokers. As documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library reveal, tobacco executives have long believed that the continued survival and success of their companies depends on one thing: convincing young people to buy their products. In 2005, the World Health Organization banned tobacco advertising in 168 signatory countries. By 2010, the U.S. had closed a lot of Big Tobacco’s favorite advertising and tobacco loopholes. With conventional media mostly off-limits, what was Big Tobacco to do? Like the Marlboro Man, the unregulated Wild West of social media rode to the rescue. The Perfect Marketing Medium Social media fits Big Tobacco’s advertising needs to a T. At least 88 percent of American youth say they use social media apps like Facebook and Instagram regularly, and the technologies are notoriously difficult to regulate. With Tobacco-Free Kids’ financial support, I assembled a growing team of researchers to investigate. Our work is ongoing. My team collected a plethora of social media data and also conducted interviews with a range of tobacco brand ambassadors, party attendees, influencers and industry insiders from around the world. What we found was an astoundingly effective use of social media by a range of different tobacco companies to connect with the next generation of potential cigarette smokers. While tobacco companies were careful to abide by the letter of the law — the influencers involved in these posts were all of legal smoking age in their countries — social media has a public setting that makes it an effective and largely unregulated form of broadcast. Legally, anyone age 13 or over can have an Instagram or Facebook account. Our “netnography” — a type of qualitative social media inquiry that focuses on cultural contexts, social structures and deeper meanings — only looked at public posts, images that any 13-year-old with an account could see. Photo by Yannick Peterhans

Training Camps and Pop-Up Parties Our investigation uncovered a range of promotional activities and a web of public relations and advertising agencies that cleverly leveraged the strengths of social media to keep tobacco advertising under the radar of existing regulation. We found tobacco companies in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines recruiting “nano-influencers” of just 2,000-3,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram and encouraging them to post about their tobacco-sponsored adventures. In Indonesia, we found brand ambassador training camps that lasted two full weeks and were run by the domestic tobacco company Gudang Garam. At these camps, young nano-influencers were paid generous fees, taught about cigarette brands’ images and then provided lessons about how to better maintain their social media feeds. Public relations agencies in Uruguay taught their influencers how to take pictures of cigarette packages in ways that best accentuated their brands, offering tips on lighting, hashtags and the best time to post them for maximum impact. Some companies used Facebook pages to recruit young people to attend their parties. After answering a few questions on the Facebook page, for example, responders were enrolled in a mailing list resulting in invitations to cool pop-up “parties and edgier events.” At those parties, young people were greeted by attractive attendants who offered them cigarettes and encouraged them to pose with floor designs modeled after cigarette brand logos. After snapping pictures, they were encouraged to post them on their social media feed using the party’s decisiveness and action-oriented hashtags. The result was unquestionably a new form of cigarette promotion. These activities clearly violate the spirit of the existing agreements not to indirectly advertise to young people. You can call it stealth, undercover or guerrilla marketing if you wish. Whatever its name, this is 21st-century cigarette advertising that reaches millions of young people around the world. Exploiting Social Media Our research has not only helped shine a light on Big Tobacco’s unchecked use of social media, it has also informed a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting that it investigate and enforce these novel forms of cigarette advertising. Although it might be difficult for governments to keep on top of media in these rapidly changing times, they must do so if they hope to prevent global smoking rates and their consequent health problems from rising once again. Indeed, with leadership change in the Food and Drug Administration, new and tighter regulations on tobacco and vaping in the United States are already being cast into doubt. Social media provide an incredible advance in communications that democratize communications in unprecedented ways. However, that openness is easy to exploit by marketers with dubious motives. a Fall/Winter 2019 35


Planning the perfect schedule By Mira Zimet

Noriko Kelley a t CBS Studio Center’s Stage 2 in Studio City, Calif.

From an early age, Noriko Kelley set her sights on two things: USC and entertainment. Her grandparents, who often babysat Kelley and her two siblings, lived close by, and a well-worn route to their house wound through the University Park campus and by the Shrine Auditorium. At Kelley’s request, they often stopped outside the landmark building, which has been home to the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, before crossing the street and walking past Tommy Trojan. Little did she know when she walked by the longtime home of the big award shows that she would one day grow up to be the person who decided when those shows aired. As executive vice president of program planning and scheduling at CBS, Kelley works hand-in-hand with executives and talent on all primetime programming — including the Emmys and Grammys — when they cycle to CBS. Kelley has also been instrumental in many of the network’s successful scheduling decisions; according to Deadline, CBS wrapped up the “2018-19 TV season as the country’s most watched broadcast network in primetime, making it 11 consecutive seasons on top.” Kelley traces her career motivations back to her parents and grandparents, who made sure the American dream was always within her reach. “The one thing that I got to see with my parents — who were both educators — is that they absolutely loved their jobs,” she said. “I wanted that same sort of passion, drive and longevity in my career.” When it was time for college, “USC stood out for me,” she said. Kelley began her journey as an East Asian languages and cultures major at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Even though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, I knew that I would figure it out once I was here.” During her senior year, Kelley interned at the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi, and was hired on full time after graduating in 1998. She started covering film premieres and her eyes quickly opened to the possibilities within the world of entertainment. With her focus now shifted, Kelley returned to USC in 1999 to begin the master’s in communication management program. “I found USC Annenberg and thought, this is the perfect blend of everything that I’m looking for: a little bit of business, a little bit of cinema — I could even take classes in law,” said Kelley, who now sits on the USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board. “I was learning about the entertainment business, and also individuals who made up the business, whether they’re agents, managers, presidents of divisions, or department heads.” Through the Annenberg Career Fair, Kelley secured a summer internship as a television research analyst with CBS. The internship turned into a six-month gig, which rolled into a full time job at CBS after her graduation in 2001. In 2002, Kelley was hired as an assistant to Kelly Kahl ’91, then executive vice president of scheduling. Over the last nearly 20 years, Kelley has been promoted at CBS six times, with one of her many accomplishments being a decision to relocate the hugely successful The Big Bang Theory to Thursday night. Kelley’s most recent promotion came in 2017, and with this one she broke an important glass ceiling, becoming the first woman to head scheduling at a major broadcast network. “To me, there’s no better way of saying that you stand for inclusion than promoting someone to be the first,” Kelley said. As for attaining the childhood dream of loving what she does, Kelley can honestly say she did. “Growing up, I wanted to be able to wake up every day and get really excited about where I work — and I do,” she said. “I love figuring out how to deliver a schedule that’s going to create high ratings and revenue, and I love knowing that anyone in the world can be affected by CBS’ schedule. I live and breathe TV.” a Photo by Christina Gandolfo

Fall/Winter 2019 37

Poetry and Place

High school students explore identity and belonging.

KAY ANGRUM ( BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’16) has a new position as on-air host and multimedia journalist at NBC in New York.

During spring and early summer of this year, students from high schools near USC took part in the “I Too Am: Teens, Media Arts, & Belonging” project. Alison Trope, clinical professor of communication, and DJ Johnson, from USC Cinema’s Media Arts + Practice Division, along with communication PhD student Olivia Gonzalez, designed the project, naming it after the iconic poem by Langston Hughes, “I, Too.” They hoped to use the poem as a way for students to contemplate questions of belonging and displacement in relation to their own identities. “It was about getting high school students to tell their stories and to reflect on who they are and where they belong,” said Trope. “I too am part of this community. I too am part of California. I too am part of America.” With seed funds from RAP (Race, Arts, & Placemaking) and a grant from the USC Provost’s Arts and Action Initiative, students visited and learned about the history of iconic locations, including Joshua Tree National Park and the Farmers Market. Throughout each trip, students reflected on where they visited and addressed the question: “What is my story?” as it relates to place and identity.

“This was about exploration, re-discovery, and creative practice. Some were seeing these spaces for the first time. Some were seeing them in new ways.” — Olivia Gonzalez

MENTORSHIP ‘Seeing ME in the MEdia’ This Fall, USC Annenberg piloted a new one-semester mentorship program, “Seeing ME in the MEdia,” to support first-generation college students and students of color in achieving their academic and professional goals. The program matched 29 Annenberg alumni mentors with graduate and undergraduate mentees to encourage career exploration. All participants were invited to an on-campus kickoff reception in September, where USC alumnus Paul Martin, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at Sony Pictures Entertainment, was the featured speaker. Communication management master’s student Bintou Agne was 38

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paired with mentor Chanel Lake (BA, public relations, ’15), an account manager at Amazon. “Chanel is supportive, empathic, knowledgeable and very informative,” Agne said. “She is not only helping me tremendously but is constantly checking in on me and making sure I am taking the proper actions to be successful in my career.”

RACHEL COHRS ( BA, print and digital journalism, ’18) joined Modern Healthcare in Washington, D.C., as their politics and policy reporter.

JASON DONNER ( BA, broadcast journalism, ’06 and MCG, communication management, ’08) is the incoming new president of the Radio and TV Correspondents Association of Washington D.C.

CHIP JACOBS (BA, public relations and international relations, ’85) has published his debut novel, Arroyo (Rare Bird Books).

MANDANA MELLANO (MA, communication management, ’01) founded PEONY, a boutique talent recruitment and advisory firm.

CLAIRE NETTLETON ( BA, communication and French, ’04 and PhD, French, ’10) is the author of The Artist as Animal in Nineteenth-Century French Literature (Palgrave MacMillan).

BRENNA CLAIRR O’TIERNEY (MA, strategic public relations, ’13) is the new director of communications for the USC senior vice president’s office.

MARINA PERELMAN ( BA, communication, ’99) was named assistant news director at NBC4.

CYLOR SPAULDING ( MA, strategic public relations, ’05) was hired as assistant professor of public relations at California State University, Fullerton.

MIYA WILLIAMS FAYNE (BA, print journalism, ’08) was hired as assistant professor in the department of communication at California State University, Fullerton.

Photo courtesy of Alison Trope


Climate Conversation Students question candidates about climate change.

As part of MSNBC’s two-day Climate Forum held at Georgetown University on Sept. 19-20, USC students had the opportunity to remotely question 2020 presidential candidates about their climate change proposals. USC Annenberg was one of three satellite locations where MSNBC crews filmed live. “It is easy to not show up, not ask questions and not demand change, but that is the behavior that tells politicians voters don’t take these issues seriously,” said Chace Beech ’20, MS in journalism program. Her question to Marianne Williamson: “Do you support managed retreat from the coastline or do you support building more walls to protect communities that are living on these coasts, particularly in California?” Christina Bellantoni, director of USC Annenberg’s Media Center and the host of the event, said the students “had done their homework on the candidates and their platforms. This generation has it right on this issue and is actually able to effect change.”


“Mike Ananny,” Human Centered, hosted by John Markoff

“Dmitri Williams on Call of Duty,”

Marketplace Morning Report, hosted by David Brancaccio

“Johanna Blakley: TV and Politics (Episode 196),” WashingTECH Tech

Policy Podcast, hosted by Joe Miller


Laura Castañeda and Rebecca Haggerty, “Undergraduate Students

Prefer Learning Text and Broadcast Skills Sequentially Versus Concurrently, but Assessments of Their Final Projects are Mixed,” Journal-

ism & Mass Communication Educator Steven Proudfoot (PhD student, communication), “Look at What

You’ve Done: Exploring Narrative Displeasure in Video Games,” The

Popular Culture Studies Journal Becky Pham (PhD student, communication) and Renae Sze Ming Loh,

“Conducting Fieldwork on Children and Media: Comparing Research in Singapore and Vietnam,” Journal of

Children and Media


Roberto Suro was named a Berlin

Prize Fellow.

Willow Bay received The Digital Entertainment Group’s Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology.


Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures by Christina Dunbar-Hester,

associate professor of communication, provides a firsthand look at efforts to improve diversity in software and hackerspace communities.

Participatory Culture: Interviews

by Henry Jenkins

Photo by Olivia Mowry

Fall/Winter 2019 39



The New Normal Teens join USC Annenberg and Common Sense in Mexico City for discussion of new global study on mobile device use.

By Ted B. Kissell For Pedro Resendez, navigating cellphone use in his early teen years was a challenge, particularly because of the tension it caused with his parents. But, over time, the family dynamic changed. “I think my parents started trusting me more,” he said. “They know that I use the phone as a positive rather than a negative tool.” Resendez spoke before a packed audience at the Centro de Cultura Digital in Mexico City on Oct. 1 as part of a seven-member panel of Mexico City high-schoolers discussing The New Normal: Parents, Teens, and Mobile Devices in Mexico, a new study from USC Annenberg and the media and family nonprofit Common Sense. Close to half of teens (45 percent) surveyed in Mexico say they feel they spend too much time on their mobile devices, half say they “feel addicted,” and 77 percent of teens say they feel distracted daily by their mobile phones. Four out of five Mexican parents agree that their teens are distracted by these devices daily, and almost two-thirds feel they spend too much time on them and believe they are “addicted.” The New Normal researchers have been surveying parents and teens about how mobile devices affect family dynamics since 2016, conducting similar studies in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. At the event in Mexico City, USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay and Common Sense CEO James P. Steyer shared and discussed the latest results. “We need to do all we can to understand the benefits and downsides of this transformative technology in the lives of our teens, and in the lives of our families,” Bay said. 40

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Steyer noted that while there were many similarities between the Mexico survey results and the three other countries studied, some differences stood out. “To me, the single biggest thing that comes across in Mexico that is different from the other countries is the emphasis on family in a unique way,” he said. The study found that Mexican parents and teens are doing more to ensure healthy use of mobile devices, with 33 percent of parents and 29 percent of teens saying they “very often” try to reduce their time on the devices, compared with just 12 percent of parents and 7 percent of teens in the U.S. Maria Del Río, another panelist and a high school junior, affirmed the same challenge in her family’s daily life. “There’s definitely been a few times where my parents are like, ‘We’re at the dinner table, put your phone down,’” she said. “I recognize that maybe I have been spending too much attention on my phone.” Bay pointed out that the vast majority of parents and teens said the use of devices makes no difference in their relationship to each other — and also noted that more than 70 percent of Mexican parents do things like take away mobile devices as a punishment for bad behavior or impose some kind of restrictions on their use. “Mexican parents are actively engaged in mediating their kids’ device use, otherwise known as ‘parenting,’” she said.

“This generation is emerging as the most plugged-in, connected, and socially conscious generation the world has ever seen.” WILLOW BAY USC ANNENBERG DEAN

33 percent of parents and 29 percent of teens in Mexico said they “very often” try to reduce their time on the devices, compared

12 percent of parents and 7 percent with just

of teens in the U.S.

Fall/Winter 2019 41


With a focus on the themes of discovery, creativity and innovation, faculty showed how a top-tier research university can contribute to the global public good. One of the presenters on stage at Bovard Auditorium was Allissa Richardson, assistant professor of communication and journalism. Richardson discussed her research on how African Americans and other marginalized communities create their own news networks, producing groundbreaking journalism using mobile and social media, particularly in times of crisis. Richardson’s presentation shared the same name as her forthcoming book: Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism. She explores the lives of mobile journalist-activists who documented the Black Lives Matter movement using their smartphones and Twitter, calling them the latest in a long line of pioneers in the black press who witnessed slavery, Jim Crow and, now, police brutality. “The spirit of our university is that we’re always fighting on, so we should tell students about their right to bear witness,” Richardson said. “If you see something, don’t look away from it — we can’t distance ourselves and become numb.” A CONVERSATION WITH LISA DESJARDINS PBS NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins and Christina Bellantoni, director of USC Annenberg’s Media Center, discussed Desjardins’ experience covering Congress and politics in Washington. The event was part of the R. Rebecca “Becki” Donatelli Expert-in-Residence series.

Bearing Witness

USC Annenberg’s Allissa Richardson joins faculty speakers at inauguration of USC President Carol L. Folt.

As USC celebrated the inauguration of Carol L. Folt as the university’s 12th president on Sept. 20, symposiums took place over the preceding two days, with TED Talk-style presentations highlighting innovative work from USC faculty. Their diverse fields of study represent many of the nearly two dozen individual schools and centers at USC. 42

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Allissa Richardson is considered a pioneer in mobile journalism. Her research examines the intersections of advocacy journalism, black social movements and critical race theory.

RACIAL RADICAL: GENERATING NEW WOKE WORDS A multimedia event featuring Milwaukee-based visual and spoken-word artists Fondé Bridges, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt and Dasha Kelly was sponsored by USC Visions and Voices and RAP (Race, Arts, and Placemaking). The artists identify unnamed racial experiences and generate new language to describe them. AN AFTERNOON WITH ROBERT IGER Robert Iger discussed his book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of The Walt

Disney Company (Random House), sharing insights on leadership, innovation and inclusion. Elizabeth Daley, dean of USC Cinematic Arts, moderated the conversation, which was followed by a student Q&A. Q&A WITH ELIZABETH BANKS Director, producer and actor Elizabeth Banks spoke with Stacy L. Smith, associate professor of communication and founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, about gender representation and the need for inclusivity in storytelling. Prior to the Q&A, Banks screened her new movie, Charlie’s Angels. 2020 RELEVANCE REPORT Fred Cook, director of the USC Center for Public Relations, convened public relations leaders from top agencies and corporate communication firms to discuss the latest edition of the Relevance Report, which helps predict PR industry trends in media, technology and society.

Photo by Steve Cohn


BOB GOLD Communication Professional of the Year

The Public Relations Society of America’s Los Angeles chapter unanimously voted Bob Gold (MA, communication, ’80) the 2019 Communication Professional of the Year. A member of the USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board, Gold is the founder, president and CEO of Bob Gold & Associates, an entertainment technology public relations and marketing firm. Gold grew up in New York and was a child actor. He danced on the Ed Sullivan show with Juliet Prowse and starred in the original produc-

tion of Oliver! on Broadway. When his voiced changed at 15, he chose to retire from the business. He liked production but wanted to be behind the camera and gravitated to public relations where he could put his producer skills to work with clients. Gold used strategies learned in his graduate communication management classes to get him there. “Learning to understand the changing communication industry was powerful and prepared me for my future,” he said. During his more than 30 years in public relations and marketing, Gold helped launch dozens of companies, re-branded others, and created successful campaigns for numerous start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. He also personally mentors USC students every year. “I just about cried when I got the news,” Gold said. “To be honored for a lifetime of work by your peers is the highest recognition that can come. I do feel like I’ve achieved everything I had envisioned for myself when I was growing up.”

FELLOWSHIPS IN FILM CRITICISM Rotten Tomatoes and Sony Pictures In the 2019-20 academic year, Rotten Tomatoes and Sony Pictures Entertainment awarded fellowships to two graduate students in the Specialized Journalism (The Arts) program. This was the third year in a row that a student was named the Rotten Tomatoes Fellow in Digital Innovation and Film Criticism — a unique collaboration between USC Annenberg and Fandango, the parent company of film and TV editorial site Rotten Tomatoes. This year the honor went to Cate Young. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Young was “always a literary person,” she said. “As much as I have opinions on things, I have never really been able to talk about the technical aspects of filmmaking in an authoritative way. This program will enable me to do that.” The Sony Entertainment Fellowship in Film Criticism, which began in 2015, is a joint venture of USC Annenberg and USC Cinematic Arts. Keith Reed, a native of Chicago, and this year’s recipient, had been looking for a master’s program that would be the right fit for his focus on film and TV criticism. “I’m interested in the way the television landscape is diversifying and incorporating new stories and fresh concepts,” he said. Both will be mentored by program director Sasha Anawalt, professor of professional practice, who touted the students as being “forward-thinking critics whose work will help define this next generation of artists.” Photo courtesy of Bob Gold

Cate Young has written essays, reviews and articles for Cosmopolitan, Vulture and Jezebel, and has launched her own feminist pop culture blog, BattyMamzelle.

Keith Reed has worked with The Daily Iowan and Little Village Magazine. Reed also cofounded, creative directed and edited “no small talk,” an online publication.

USC ANNENBERG STUDENTS, ALUMNI AND STAFF garnered 33 awards at the 2019 Southern California Journalism Awards hosted by the Los Angeles Press Club. Alumni winners included Gary Baum (BA, print journalism, ’05), print journalist of the year (Hollywood Reporter); Gary Baum, first place, “Hollywood Royalty (No Actual Nobility Included),” (Hollywood Reporter); Matt Hamilton (MA, journalism, ’14), first place, “More Than 20 Women Accused a Prominent Pasadena Obstetrician of Mistreating Them. He Denied Claims and Was Able to Continue Practicing.” (Los Angeles Times); Matt Hamilton, first place, “A Scandal at USC,” (Los Angeles Times); Christina Campodonico (MA, specialized journalism (the arts) ’15), third place, “A Place to Play: 50 Years of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Venice,” (The Argonaut); Kristin Marguerite Doidge (MA, specialized journalism (the arts) ’15), second place, “The Pop Innovations of a 50-YearOld Soundtrack,” (The Atlantic). Staff winners included: USC Annenberg Office of Marketing and Communication, second place, “USC Annenberg Magazine, Fall 2018.”

SHAWNA THOMAS ( MA, journalism, ’06) was part of the Vice News Tonight team that won six news and documentary Emmy Awards for its groundbreaking coverage of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

SABENA SURI ( BA, public relations, ’12) was named the 2019 Tory Burch Fellow. Suri is the founder of BOXFOX, a gifting company.

ANI UCAR (MA, broadcast journalism, ’15), producer, was part of the team to win a news and documentary Emmy Award for Vice News Tonight’s “Moment of Truth: Kavanaugh and Ford.”

RAISHAD MOMAR (HARDNETT) (BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’14) won two mid-Atlantic regional Emmy Awards for feature news stories for The Philadelphia Inquirer. This was the first Emmy win for Inquirer journalists. LAURA BOUZARI ( BA, English, ’17 and MS, journalism, ’18), producer at KOAT, was part of the team recognized by the New Mexico Broadcasters Association in their 2019 Excellence in Broadcasting Awards as “Best Morning Newscast” and “Best Evening Newscast.” BRITTANY HOPE (BA, broadcast and digital journalism, ’18) was also part of the KOAT team to win “Best Morning Newscast.”

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Zach Colvin When Zach Colvin was growing up, his family’s dinner conversations often centered around marketing. His father ran his own firm that pitched medical sterilization products and his mother was a vice president at Deutsche Bank. “It became very clear to me that, in marketing and public relations, words have the power to transform potentially mundane ‘products’ into something really cool and creative — and that sell,” Colvin said. “It made me think, wow, that’s really something I think I could be good at.”


Top public relations firm Golin recruited public relations major Colvin as an intern during his senior year at USC Annenberg and then hired him full time as an account coordinator after he graduated in 1995. “It was at Golin that I really started to gravitate toward technology and PR, and that formed the basis for all my career moves.”

Colvin spent the next few years “bouncing around” at a number of public relations firms, deciding to return to the East Coast in 2001 to be near his ailing father. A criminal law class he took as an undergraduate stuck with him, and he moved to Florida to pursue a law degree. Colvin earned a JD, and while he eventually decided law wasn’t for him, an internship at a district attorney’s office in Westchester, New York, opened his eyes to cybercrime and the power of technology.


In 2004, Colvin returned to Los Angeles and public relations, working at Zeno, a communications agency spin-off of Edelman, another top PR firm. Two years later, he was recruited to Allison+Partners. “This is where my career and life took off in a very positive way,” he said.


USC Annenberg Magazine

Photos courtesy Zach Colvin


At Allison+Partners, Colvin started as an account manager. One of his first clients was a then-somewhat-unknown video-sharing site, YouTube. “YouTube was literally three dudes working above a pizza shop. One of my early jobs — because they were being sued by traditional media companies at this point — was to analyze the lawsuits and provide briefings to my bosses.”

“Public relations done well is the perfect blend of art, science and relationships. You have to be great at all three in order to be excellent at your craft. If you want to move the needle for your clients, you have to think bigger and more creatively than your competition.” Zach Colvin ’95 San Francisco, California


Over the next 12 years, Colvin worked his way up from account manager to partner and general manager. He eventually moved to the Bay Area, where he worked with a number of “technology giants,” including Dropbox, Waze, Pinterest and WhatsApp. “It was absolutely a great career accelerator for me to be in the catbird seat and see how technology is able to impact human behavior.”


When Allison+Partners launched their “conflict” shop — Headstand — in July 2019, Colvin was tapped as global president. Headstand services clients whose needs are in conflict with current Allison+Partners clients. “PR firms are launched every week, but they are essentially all the same, focusing on templates and formulas to address client challenges. At Headstand, we’ve flipped the way agencies partner with clients — to provide choice and individual solutions. Free thinkers and boundary-pushers solve the big challenges and change the world along the way,” he said.

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