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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

HuffPost Collaborates With USC Annenberg To Produce News That Helps

"We want to see this as truly covering all the news," said Huffington. 

The Huffington Post will partner with USC's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism on a new editorial section called "What's Working," a collection of solution-based stories focusing on positive news. 

Such stories would examine the cause and effect of patterns like lower crime rates, said Arianna Huffington.

"Gun violence has been going down in Los Angeles," she said. "It would be great to see real, in-depth stories about why. You know, how did that happen? And talk to the groups who have been working on this." 

She cited Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang intervention program, as a potential source and example of social enterprise.

More often than not, "the stories I'm referring to are covered as an afterthought," said Huffington. "They're covered around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the kicker at the end of the local broadcast. And we want to elevate them."

The goal now is a humbling one: to set off a "positive contagion."

"You know how people say copycat crimes are one of the dangers of covering, as we need to cover, school shootings, for example? Well, I believe that in the same way we can have copycat crimes, we can have copycat solutions," said Huffington.

The collaboration has been in the works for some time, said J-school Director Willow Bay, a former senior editor at the Huffington Post who called the co-founder "a longtime friend, a former boss, and forever partner."  

"I think students largely by virtue of their generation and of their age are naturally optimists," said USC Annenberg Director Willow Bay. (Alan Mittelstaedt/Neon Tommy)
"I think students largely by virtue of their generation and of their age are naturally optimists," said USC Annenberg Director Willow Bay. (Alan Mittelstaedt/Neon Tommy)
"We didn’t want to leap into anything that we didn’t think was special and important and a great fit for students," said Bay. "I think students largely by virtue of their generation and of their age are naturally optimists, and see the world as full of possibility. That’s a great thing for a journalist."

Bay urged students not to underestimate the importance of feel-good stories. "It doesn’t mean that you leave your critical thinking skills at the door. Not at all," she said. "You poke and you prod, and you investigate, and you question, and you pursue, and you do all of those things. But all of those things don’t have to lead you to crisis coverage."

While the newspaper already has solution-based coverage dedicated to good news, Huffington said such stories remain a conscious editorial priority. "Now we are doubling down on it," she added. "We want to see this as truly covering all the news."

The recent international expansion of the Huffington Post, which now has editions in 13 countries, means it will serve "as a global initiative," said Huffington. "In fact, our German editor-in-chief is the editor of the entire initiative." 

For USC students, the new venture "almost makes me not want to graduate,” said Anna-Catherine Brigida, a senior majoring in journalism. “It’s a great opportunity to get our work in respected outlets and get our work out there to a larger audience.”

Cameron Quon, a sophomore and aspiring medical correspondent, said he had never worked for an outlet outside of Neon Tommy. "I am sure that working alongside Huffington Post editors will fine-tune my skills like never before."

The pitch for "What's Working" came one day while Huffington and Bay were hiking in Brentwood. "Arianna and I don’t do meetings. We do hikes,” said Bay. “We share all sorts of ideas, personal and professional. And it’s really an invigorating way to brainstorm."

Going forward, the collaboration should "leverage the Huffington Post’s strength at marketing stories," said Bay, but also encourage students "to see the world from a broader lens. Publish your pieces as you would, on ARN, ATVN, Neon Tommy, Impact. We think many of those stories would be a great fit for this challenge."

Asked if there was anything in particular she wanted to see from students, Bay paused. "Yeah," she said, smiling cautiously. "Here's what I think. I think even in a place filled with digital natives, I would encourage you all to push the boundaries, and to experiment more with forms and formats."

Good starting places would be brainstorming "the next frontier in video" or developing a social media plan for Annenberg's news outlets, said Bay. "What is the perfect Instagram, Vine, Snapchat piece? What does that look like? And what is our strategy?" 

Interested students should send story pitches to media center faculty advisers Alan Mittelstaedt and Stacy Scholder .

Reach Editor-at-Large Michelle Toh  and News Director Ani Ucar . Follow them on Twitter here and here.

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