Specialized Journalism: A Program Designed for the Future

As the director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, I’d like to introduce OJR readers to our Master’s Programs in Specialized Journalism.

These are not your typical journalism M.A. programs. (Though we also have an excellent one of those.) In this innovative nine-month program, we have a different aim: As journalism is reinventing itself, we are reinventing the journalism academy, here in this incomparable learning laboratory of the future, Los Angeles.

Consequently, your fellow students will be atypical, as well. The remarkably interesting group we assemble each year brings artists and arts journalists of every stripe together with journalists eager to go deep into science, demographics, education, religion and a feast of other disciplines. Their work has appeared in the legacy media as well as Neon Tommy, Huffington Post and other online sites.

You will design your own curriculum, ranging across the offerings of this vibrant and richly interdisciplinary University. Along the way, we throw in some key enhancements: The updates in digital skills and social networking, an entrepreneurial mindset and a sense of the emerging lay of the journalistic land that will equip you to be a leader in journalism’s reinvention. As online journalists, you have a head start on this journey. Together, we’ll proceed further.

We have hired some of the best minds in the new-media world and melded them with our distinguished journalism faculty. And all of this exists within the exciting environment of a full-service School of Communication and Journalism that values the creation of new knowledge about this age-old craft we call journalism, as well as the many different ways we can now serve the public’s information needs. And, assuming you can carve out the time, you can participate in Annenberg’s news outlets on every platform and take advantage of the unparalleled diversity of experiences that Southern California offers.

I surely hope you will consider joining us here at Annenberg, where journalism’s future is looking brighter every day. Please visit our website for application guidelines.

USC Annenberg gets a new name – USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Recognizing the critically important role journalism plays in a democratic society and USC’s role as a leading institution for educating and training journalists, the University of Southern California Board of Trustees has voted to change the name of the USC Annenberg School for Communication to the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

We have grown accustomed to daily reminders that journalism is in a period of great unsettlement. What we recognize here on this special day, by adding “journalism” to the Annenberg School’s name, is that this is also – and primarily – a period of enormous promise. We have asserted, here together, that journalism is a subject worthy of the attention of a great University.

And surely it is, particularly at this moment. For, even as its traditional models collapse, journalism is being reinvented. It is being reborn in new and exciting ways every day. And with this name change, we make clear the vital roles that Annenberg has played, and WILL play, in that reinvention.

First of all, we are, in collaboration with our colleagues in the School of Communication and throughout the University, doing research and deep reporting to enrich the debate that will contribute to shaping tomorrow’s journalism: Research about the new roles of the public, the policies of governments at all levels, the innovations occurring around the world, the emerging models of community and national and international news and the potential for new economic models to support information in the public interest.

Second, in our own J-school version of R and D – researching and DOING – we are increasingly serving the information needs of our communities. as legacy media’s resources so rapidly shrink. In our news outlets — Annenberg Television News, Annenberg Radio News, NeonTommy: the voice of Annenberg Digital News and our documentary program Impact, as well as Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report and Spot.us, a community-supported investigative journalism site that we are just rolling out in L.A. – in all of these, our students and faculty are putting into practice the journalistic excellence we teach.

And teaching, of course, is the heart of our promise of contribution to journalism’s future. In our classrooms and learning laboratories, and in the fine work of our centers for health reporting, arts reporting and digital news, we are ensuring that the enduring values of journalism will find their way wherever the public attention goes, from old media to new, into the worlds of Twitter and Facebook and their successors, through multi-platform storytelling, with a spirit of invention and entrepreneurialism that will enable Annenberg graduates to succeed and to lead in this arena so essential to democracy and to a life well-lived.

Students will actually read it! High school newspapers go Web-only

Like their professional counterparts, high school news organizations are moving online and fretting over budgets, but they’re also fighting censorship. This according to advisors from Southern California high schools who brought their students (some 300 strong) to the USC Annenberg School of Journalism’s high school journalism gathering Friday for a day of panels and journalism shop talk.

Many of the 30 advisors who gathered this morning to commiserate and trade solutions said they were ditching the print edition to go online only. One advisor said she was seeking “more of a social engagement site. You can actually get them to read things if you go online.”

Part of what’s driving them there is of course money. One advisor said his entire budget (it had been only $497) had been eliminated, which “forces my students to be entrepreneurial.” Tales of entrepreneurialism around the table raised everything from driver-school and tuxedo-rental ad sales to covert candy sales. Some noted they had no budget to lose. A high school neighboring Annenberg’s central-city campus said her students go to Hollywood television tapings, serving as audience members at $15 a head (transportation provided) to fund their journalism.

As for censorship, an advisor who said she is already under prior review added that she has trouble pleading her case with her principal, who sneers, “whaddya gonna do, plead ‘freedom of speech?’” when she defends her students’ work. (“At least he’s heard of the First Amendment,” a colleague responded wryly.) Said another: “I’m the only teacher on campus who, if I do my job, will be in trouble.”

One advisor said she was having so much trouble with the principal that she found herself breaking into tears for a week. “I thought that I’d LOVE to get rid of journalism,” she said, but knew it wasn’t true: “It’s so important that the kids have a voice.”

The day opened with recognition of former high school journalism advisor Jan Ewell, who was instrumental in winning passing of a bill signed into law in late September that will prevent school administrators from punishing teachers for their students’ exercise of First Amendment rights. At the panel discussion, which followed that ceremony, teachers of Ewell’s long experience joined novices to tell of newspapers that had been shut down but now were returning to life, some of them paid for by the advisors themselves. They shared stories of ASNE’s high school journalism advisors’ workshop, counsel from the the Student Press Law Center, and online chat rooms that feel like faculty lounges peopled only by journalism advisors.

Amid the travails, the work, it seems, is still worth it. “It’s addicting,” one man said of journalism advising. “Once you start start doing it…”

Annenberg’s twice-yearly High School Journalism Day gatherings are funded by the Los Angeles Times, and organized by Diane Guthman.