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School of Journalism receives national diversity award

The School of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has been honored with the national Equity and Diversity Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

USC Annenberg is the fourth recipient of the accolade that honors “progress and innovation in racial, gender, and ethnic equity and diversity.”

“It is powerful indeed to be recognized for something so important to us at USC Annenberg and so essential to our craft and to our nation,” said Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism. “Journalism helps us know one another, address challenges and build a future. Everyone must be represented in the story if we are to achieve these goals. I am grateful to so many of my colleagues who know this in their hearts, and to Los Angeles, where enthusiasm for change is in the DNA.”

In the last four years, the School of Journalism has hired nine new faculty members, six of whom are women or people of color, including Overholser, the first female director in the school’s history. Of the school’s 41 full-time faculty, 32 percent are members of underrepresented groups or women.

Meanwhile, last fall’s incoming class of graduate students was the most diverse to date. This academic year’s graduate curriculum revisions infused classwork more than ever with assignments that focused on diversity. Upcoming undergraduate revisions are on track to do the same. And in regularly held forums, leaders are booking a broader range of speakers to offer students more diverse viewpoints.

In addition, the USC Annenberg Diversity Initiative, “Celebrating Difference,” produced several recommendations designed to educate students how to cover race and class, understand the nuance and data of such stories and avoid stereotypes in coverage.

The initiative was lauded by the AEJMC awards committee as a potential model for other schools.

“ ‘Celebrating Difference’ provides journalism and mass communication programs across the country with several useful recommendations for addressing equity and diversity issues,’” said Dwight E. Brooks, journalism professor at Middle Tennessee State University and chairman of the committee.

School of Journalism associate director Bill Celis, who chaired the initiative, said USC Annenberg has made “great strides in how we teach and think about diversity in its many forms. The award recognizes the work of many colleagues in journalism and strategic public relations who hold fast the idea that we must change the way we prepare students for 21st century America,” he said.

The AEJMC’s awards committee also praised the school’s community outreach.

“The committee was impressed by the program’s partnerships with the California Chicano News Media Association and the Maynard Institute for Journalism,” Brooks said. “These partnerships represent strong commitments to diversity while also strengthening community media outreach efforts.”

The AEJMC also noted USC Annenberg’s outreach through community news sites that explore and serve underrepresented neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area:

Intersections: South L.A. delves into working-class, immigrant and Latino and African-American neighborhoods. It also mentors high school students who contribute to the site along with other South Los Angeles residents.

Alhambra Source, which covers news in Mandarin, Spanish and English, has a mentoring component and features regular contributions from residents.

Boyle Heights Beat, a collaboration with the Spanish newspaper La Opinion, publishes online and in print – in Spanish and English – and targets the 90,000 residents of the East Los Angeles community. It also has a mentoring component and offers regular contributions from residents.

The Equity and Diversity Award will be presented on Aug. 9 during the keynote session of the AEJMC conference in Chicago.

Incoming AEJMC president Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon will visit USC Annenberg during the 2012-13 academic year to make an on-campus presentation of the award.

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School of Journalism receives national diversity award

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