Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism alumna Jacki Wells Cisneros pledged $500,000 toward naming the assignment desk at Wallis Annenberg Hall last week.
“We started talking about [the donation] over the summer,” said Diana O’Leary, the associate dean of External Relations at Annenberg School of Communication. “The gift was finalized in the fall. We recently reached out to her to ask her if she wouldn’t mind if we could do a press release on it not only to help celebrate and help recognize her generosity, but also to make a statement, too, about the importance of journalism today. To see all the people supporting it really is powerful and has a great impact.”
O’Leary said Wells Cisneros wanted to give back to the journalism community because of her passion for the field. Wells Cisneros also won $266 million in the 2010 MegaMillions jackpot. According to Annenberg’s press release, since then she and her husband have made efforts to give back to their church and alma maters. They also established the Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation. Previously, Wells Cisneros has worked as a broadcast journalist at KCBS and KNBC in Los Angeles.
“Jacki is passionate about a strong press corps, and about the importance of journalism in today’s society and its impact on democracy,” O’Leary said. “She loved working in the newsroom and she worked at the assignment desk. That combination of her passion for journalism and the opportunity to support something so tied to her roots was really magical [for her].”
The assignment desk will be stationed at the Wallis Annenberg Hall, which will finish construction in fall 2014.
“There is going to be an assignment desk, of which she will name the actual desk,” O’Leary said. “So when you or when someone’s running on deadline you will be at the Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros assignment desk and you will report into the Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros assignment desk.”
Serena Cha, professor of professional practice and director of Annenberg TV News, said she is excited about the donation and how it will impact Annenberg and its students. Cha will also begin her tenure as the executive director of the Annenberg Media Center for Wallis Annenberg Hall next fall.
“The [Jacki and Gilbert] Cisneros assignment desk will be the most visible focal point for news gathering and timely interaction in our new Media Center,” Cha said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Wells Cisneros is sharing her passion for strong journalism and, with her husband, supporting future generations by establishing a dynamic hub where students will connect with the world, find great stories and discover new ways to communicate.”
Cha remembered working with Wells Cisneros in local TV news. In an email to the Daily Trojan, Cha recalled answering a call from a news manager and recommending hiring Wells Cisneros immediately.
“Jacki had the proven ability to excel in a newsroom under intense deadline pressure,” Cha said.
O’Leary said she was “absolutely thrilled” when Wells Cisneros first approached her with interest in donating.
“I think it will have a very powerful impact on our school, on our journalism program and the students,” O’Leary said. “Journalism is a field that is discussed in terms of disruption and what’s going to happen to it, and investments like this from our community leaders show that strong journalism is alive and well, and is worthy of their support.”
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