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State of the Union coverage attracts Trojans to USC Annenberg

Obama speech draws a big crowd

by Greg Asciutto and Olivia Niland
USC Annenberg reporters cover the presidential address, striving to provide engaging content for their  audience. (Photo/courtesy of USC Annenberg)
USC Annenberg reporters cover the presidential address, striving to provide engaging content for their audience. (Photo/courtesy of USC Annenberg)

Nearly 150 students and faculty members packed the East Lobby at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to watch the State of the Union address. Those unable to find seating spilled onto the second floor and staircases for the event, which continued the school’s tradition of hosting live screenings for students with all majors and disciplines.

“Encouraging political awareness among the student body is big,” said Haran Sivakumar, director of internal affairs for the USC College Republicans. “The State of the Union is one of the biggest events politically that happen in a nonpresidential election year, so we encouraged people to come out and hear what the president has to say.”

When not applauding or laughing at the president’s remarks, students had the opportunity to analyze coverage of the address aside peers who are training to become leaders in the media industry.

Representatives from the student media organizations Neon Tommy, Annenberg Television News and the Daily Trojan were in attendance, both to report and participate in conversation about the importance and implications of the chief executive’s words.

Local television outlets set up around USC Annenberg’s East Lobby to cover the screening as well. Telemundo and KTLA-TV were on hand to interview students for both live and delayed broadcasts.

“Any school of journalism and communication needs to have all resources open to students, and this is one of the biggest resources you can have,” said print and digital journalism major Yasamin Azarakhsh. “Being able to see how veteran reporters work in the field is great for us.”

At Neon Tommy, USC Annenberg’s award-winning multimedia news outlet, the atmosphere was more of a laid-back frenzy as some 20 writers gathered in the newsroom to live-tweet, live-blog and report at their own State of the Union event.

“We invited longtime reporters and new writers to the newsroom,” said Deputy Editor Hannah Madans. “We have an awesome team of reporters ranging from 18 to 30 years old, so that creates a lot of really creative, original content.”

Throughout the address, the newsroom buzzed with the hum of clicking laptop keys and eager attitudes. For three hours, entertainment and political reporters alike were on the front lines of live political coverage, working to produce fresh and engaging content for the publication’s global audience.

“We asked our writers to not just reiterate what’s already been written,” said Editor-in-Chief Brianna Sacks. “Our coverage is really exciting because we’re fusing news and opinion and offering content that’s different. I think that really speaks to the digital storytelling skills and tools that USC Annenberg has given us as writers.”

The USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy hosted the screening in partnership with the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

A panel discussion followed the viewing, featuring USC College Republicans representative Jack Merritt, USC College Democrats President Sarah Herald, UCLA visiting law Professor Bill Simon and USC Unruh Institute Director Dan Schnur, who is on leave.

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