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USC Annenberg project wins New Media Award

USC Annenberg Project Wins New Media Award
As part of the Tiziano Project, professional journalists helps students record stories about life in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Tiziano Project, a nonprofit collaborative media organization staffed or directed by USC Annenberg alumni and students, recently won the New Media Institute’s “Best in Industry” New Media Award in the culture/multimedia storytelling category.

The institute honored the Tiziano Project for its 360° Kurdistan, which presents the personal accounts of Iraqi citizens living in the Kurdish north alongside their multimedia journalism mentors. The purpose of the initiative is to provide viewers with an understanding of life, culture and news in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A team of four professional journalists and 12 aspiring reporters from Iraq produced the site as part of a two-month multimedia training program in Erbil. Reporters received training in writing, photography and videography while producing stories about the life and times of the region.

“The Tiziano Project is something that we all truly believe in, and we decided that we needed to put everything we had into this project to show what our team is capable of,” said Tiziano Project executive director Jon Vidar MA ’06. “Winning this award is validation that our idea, our work and our efforts are all moving in the right direction. We hope now that other people will be interested in what we are doing and other organizations will look to partner with us in other projects.”

Vidar met project founder and president Andrew McGregor in a spring 2007 photojournalism class at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, where they discussed the vision of teaching journalism and creating jobs in war-torn regions. By that summer, they were in Kigali, Rwanda to educate talented locals who could produce content for Western news agencies.

Other USC Annenberg students or alumni working with the Tiziano Project include director of technology Chris Mendez, art director Jessica R. Yurasek and multimedia and videography specialist and mentor David Torstenson ’03. Journalism professors K. C. Cole and Michael Parks are on the advisory board.

“Working with Tiziano has given me the opportunity to directly apply many of the communication tools that I’ve learned in my program,” Yurasek said. “Primarily this has been the use of brand-strategy techniques, social media strategy and image management.”

Mendez said the impact of the project can best be seen in the students who are using new media skills to improve their lives. Two of the students from Northern Iraq recently acquired multimedia jobs.

“The reason I joined the Tiziano Project in 2008 was because I liked making an immediate, positive impact in a local community,” Mendez said. “I believe that everything starts locally. From there, channels like Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook can help make positive change scalable.”

The Tiziano Project is working on new ideas for projects, including one that teaches at-risk youth in South Los Angeles. The primary mentor is a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. Another project would take the project back into Iraqi Kurdistan as early as March.

The Tiziano Project is always looking for equipment donations and frequent-flier miles to help offset the cost of sending trainers around the world. For more information, e-mail

USC Annenberg project wins New Media Award

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