Journalism, Engineering, Join Forces at USC

Annenberg School and Viterbi School of Engineering launch partnership
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LOS ANGELES—The J-school and the engineering school at the University of Southern California say they are “teaming up in a transformative, interdisciplinary partnership to launch programs that will shape new kinds of communication and technology professionals for the 21st century.”

The Annenberg School and the USC Viterbi school have developed two initiatives. The first is a new Master of Communication Informatics joint degree that explores “the most interesting technological phenomena impacting communication of the future, including big data and data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, data mining, crowdsourcing, online communities, social media and the use of technology in journalism. Graduates will emerge with fluencies in data, communication and media technologies and with a focus on applications that address real-world problems.”

The second involves the creation of innovation teams as part of the new Annenberg Leadership Initiative, designed “to leverage technologies to pioneer new digital storytelling tools and methods of delivering news.” The initiative will place teams of student engineers and journalists working side-by-side in the new Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center of Wallis Annenberg Hall. The innovations teams and the initiative are funded by a portion of a $5 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation.

The university said that the partnership “embodies the two institutions' shared commitment to harnessing technology to drive change for the good of society – and their passion for contributing to a diverse, dynamic talent pool for the industries they serve.”

The new degree and innovation teams are said to be emblematic of USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III’s “Third Space” initiative.

“We’re building in the space where these fields naturally converge. Engineers and communicators who can work in both worlds will be uniquely qualified to solve real-world problems of the 21st century,” Wilson said.

Yannis C. Yortso, dean of USC Viterbi. said, "We look at engineering and computer science as the empowering disciplines of our times, driving convergence between the sciences, the professions and the arts. In our rapidly changing world, professionals in both engineering and communications need skills from both sides; they need to learn each other's languages. And the moment you have graduates with a command of both areas, you are creating some incredibly powerful individuals who know how to solve real-world challenges. This is another manifestation of our guiding concept ofEngineering

USC said the goal of the new Master of Communication Informatics degree is to “create communication professionals who are familiar with technical applications, mining data and parsing data sets.” The program will also “build engineering professionals who have a more in-depth understanding of how technologies interact with and engage the public, as well as support communications.”

The innovation teams will have full access to the technology at USC Annenberg’s new Media Center, a 20,000-square-foot facility with multipurpose television, radio and direct-to-Web video broadcast studios that allow students to seamlessly stream professional-quality programming to any medium. The environment– a newsroom, classroom and incubator – will serve as the workspace for the development of tools and products that will help power the journalism of the future, said Willow Bay, director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.