Annenberg breaks ground on new facility

USC hosted the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday of the Wallis Annenberg Hall, marking the launch of a $150 million fundraising initiative.

Breaking ground · USC administrators and supporters of the new Annenberg building mark the start of construction Thursday of the 88,000-square-foot, five-story Wallis Annenberg Hall. – Priyanka Patel | Daily Trojan

The hall will be located next to the Pertusati Bookstore at the corner of Childs and Watt ways, and is scheduled to open in the fall semester in 2014.

A $50 million lead gift for the 88,000-square-foot, five-story building was donated by Wallis Annenberg, chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation and the longest serving trustee on USC’s Board of Trustees. The hall will provide innovative technology and facilities to prepare students for an industry that is becoming more reliant on digital media.

“All the spaces have been carefully designed to be connectors and not containers, to be inviting and transparent, to encourage those passing by the building to enter the building to experiment to collaborate, to innovate and to learn,” said Dean Ernest Wilson III of the Annenberg  School for Communication and Journalism. “It’s designed to tear down the old media silos of print and broadcasting and web so it presents a converged newsroom that the students will understand. So when they get real jobs in the real world, they will have that unique experience.”

The money raised will go toward supporting new projects for the new Annenberg building, including new technology enhancements, scholarships and fellowships. The new building will include a 20,000-square-foot newsroom that will publish student work across multiple platforms, a multistory digital media tower showcasing live student programming and a 360-degree assignment desk that will help facilitate the work of all Annenberg organizations while bringing the work of print, online, web and radio together.

USC hopes the new building will continue Wallis Annenberg’s love for journalism and further her feeling of the field’s importance in society.

“To share the compelling story of our daily lives, modern journalists must be equipped with all of the technology skills and the ethical principles to do their jobs and to do this well,” President C. L. Max Nikias said during the ceremony. “Wallis Annenberg has long recognized that it is not merely enough to train journalism students how to talk about a particular subject. She understands that they must also be given a deep knowledge of the very latest digital technologies, and that’s why it’s so important for us to have this new building to house our journalism programs and to provide the state of the art laboratories and equipment that will allow them to experiment, learn and succeed.”

In a move announced in May, Annenberg laid off nine employees as part of a restructuring effort. The action led to some speculation that the cutbacks were made to save money for the new building. But, the cutbacks were not related to the building project, Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism, told the Daily Trojan. The cuts, instead, were made as part of an attempt for the Annenberg School to “achieve savings in the wake of fiscal headwinds,” she said.

The funds for the building project came directly from donations, Overholser said.

Students who attended the ground breaking supported the new building, excited it would provide a beneficial experience for everyone, no matter the major.

“It will be a great, completely high-tech space for people to come together and create ideas, discuss ideas and facilitate them and watch them come to reality,” said Eric Lavis, a graduate student studying communication management.

Jenna Kovalsky, a senior majoring in public relations and international relations, said she felt proud to see the beginning of a building that would focus on bringing students together.

“I think this is an exciting time for Annenberg,” Kovalsky said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being innovative so having this new space will be another opportunity for us to bring students together and collaborate and improve the field of journalism and communication.”

Faculty members are also looking forward to the improvements the building will have for the classrooms and the Annenberg organizations. They hope features like the converged newsroom will have a positive impact on changing the way student organizations will report and distribute news.

“The infrastructure of the school is catching up with the reality on the ground,” said Marc Cooper, associate professor of Annenberg and director of Annenberg Digital News (Neon Tommy). “That new infrastructure is going to be very useful for us and it’s also going to move all of the Annenberg media ahead because it’s going to force us to work more closely with each other, which we have already started to do but this will finalize it.”


Joey Kaufman contributed to this report.