USC Annenberg screens newest ‘Impact’ episode

Impact, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s award-winning television news magazine, debuted its 79th episode Thursday night at its Spring Screening.

Students in Professor Dan Birman’s graduate and undergraduate documentary classes contributed to the four segments, which comprised the 30-minute episode. The segments, which ranged from comical to tragic, highlighted stories of the enduring human spirit.

“It was really all about people making a name for themselves, and pushing ourselves to do something for humanity,” Birman said.

“Instafamous,” the first segment, featured individuals who are using social media to help their careers. The story followed Sunderland, a band which promotes its music on YouTube, an actress who has gained notoriety on Vine and a sketch-comedy group who also posts its content on YouTube.

“It was a modern and edgy piece, and it was definitely the most fun segment to work on. It was my favorite of the entire year,” said Ashley Valez, a first-year journalism graduate student and Impact senior producer.

The episode also included segments about a woman who sells personalized poems at Los Angeles farmers’ market in lieu of food, and a community of          rock-climbers who push their limits on cliffs.

Students are responsible for researching, pitching and creating content for each segment. Birman said the one segment in particular that highlighted his students’ ability to create powerful content was the segment “Ghost Bikes.”

“Ghost Bikes” followed two men: one who creates memorials for cyclists fatally injured by vehicles and another who is a survivor of a cycling accident that left him an amputee.

Damien Kevitt, whose right leg was amputated after he was hit by a vehicle and dragged onto a freeway ramp, said he enjoyed working with members of the Impact staff. He said it was clear that the students were very dedicated to creating a powerful documentary.

“I’d been on other TV stations and working with students was much more light-hearted and creative,” Kevitt said. “They had that new adventure attitude and an interest in making sure something impactful was there.”

Sarah Politis, a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and producer of “Ghost Bikes,” said that she valued the experience of becoming immersed in telling someone else’s story and seeing the impact on the audience.

“It’s the details that really have an effect on people, like when we revealed his leg and the audience saw he was an amputee and heard the ‘oh my gods’ from the audience,” Politis said.

The episode also highlighted two segments: one about rats as pets and another about competitive diving, both of which will appear in the next and final episode of the year.