Category Archives: Assignment

The Last Paper Expert in Los Angeles

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On a quiet corner one block west of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, sits McManus & Morgan. Stepping into the art supply store is akin to journeying back to Los Angeles’ art scene’s halcyon days, with its walls lined with exotic parchment sheets and shelves brimming with stationery.

At the counter in the back of the store is where you’re most likely to find Gary Wolin, the proprieter of the establishment and one of the lone paper experts left in Los Angeles. A quiet man with a husky voice and a likeness to Sir Ian McKellan, he’s weathered the highs and lows of running a business in the ever-changing MacArthur Park.

Wolin, a native of Detroit, came to Los Angeles as a teenager in the mid-40s after his uncle called his father to ask if he was interested in owning an art supply shop. His father, who had a background in art, was indeed interested and hopped on the first flight to Los Angeles to purchase the then 20-year-old business.

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Wolin’s father had originally been a traveling salesman, who would only be home for a few days each month, so growing up their relationship was nonexistent. But that changed with the acquisition of McManus & Morgan.

He and his father spent a week driving the family’s possessions from Detroit to Los Angeles. “We moved out here and jumped into it. And in moving to the art neighborhood of Los Angeles, we realized there was going to be a lot to learn,” Wolin said.

The whole family got involved in the business, with Wolin taking a huge interest in the day-to-day operations. Enough so, that he eventually took over the business from this father.

“The thing that my father created, that was of significance, is what you call a multiplex. We created pages on a stand for every single kind of paper here so that you just flip through,” Wolin said. He very proudly shows the multiplex that his father created to customers when they come in looking for a specific type of paper.

There was a point back in the heyday of the business where Wolin could drive around Los Angeles and say ‘That’s a customer. That’s another customer’. But “time has gone by and all the relationships have changed. Business was just phenomenal back in the day,’” Wolin said.

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Business started dropping off in the mid-80s with the onset of technology and the change in the demographics of the neighborhood. “Westlake/MacArthur Park is important to our business and it used to be that a lot of our customers were from the original art neighborhood of Los Angeles, but now it’s very little. People in the neighborhood are not currently art people,” Wolin said.

Although Wolin runs the business single-handedly and there’s no definitive person to pass the store on to, he plans to be there until the very end. “At this moment I’m very positive and the revival of this neighborhood has been a long time coming. I’m glad I stuck it out. There is definitely a future out there,” Wolin said.

Crowdfunding scam victim implores donators to think cautiously

Justin Mitchell thought he was contributing to a worthwhile investment when he made a $160 donation to mPrinter, a portable thermal printer that was campaigning on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. What he received were false promises and a product that was neither completed nor fulfilled its duty to refund his money.

Unwilling to let others fall victim to crowdfunding scams, Mitchell, a web designer and developer, started his own site, kickscammed.com, hoping to expose fraudulent Kickstarter campaigns so that the public becomes more aware of these scams.

“I had gotten to the point where I lost the most money in one sitting on that project, and that was just the last straw. I had to do something,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is representative of thousands of backers on crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter who have been duped out of their money – a total that has exceeded an estimated $27.7 million as of May 2015 – attempting to fund projects that could not deliver or had no intention of delivering their promised products.

Exposure of these scams has come to the forefront in recent years. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission successfully settled a case against a scam perpetrated by Eric Chevelier, showing the governments willingness to crackdown on people preying on the generosity of others.

However, Mitchell feels that there are bigger fish to fry.

“Kickstarter has created a platform and they’ve just backed out completely, and in essence have created a platform for scam artists to thrive,” Mitchell said of Kickstarter’s refund policy. “There’s no process for the creator to go through the refunds, none of the money is held in escrow; there’s just no way from them to do it.”

Another problem that Mitchell points out with Kickstarters is their policy of taking 5 percent of the money donated to successful campaigns – even ones identified as scams.

“Kickstarter made money off of [Chevelier’s project],” Mitchell said. “He’s being sued for failure to deliver, but Kickstarter got to keep all the funds.”

Though Mitchell has made it his goal to expose scams and revealing holes in crowdfunding platforms’ refund enforcement policies, it is not his only aim. He also holds awareness in high regard and does not hesitate to spread a message of caution when contributing to campaigns.

“Looking up the creator’s name, Google search the images, and check the comments before you back a project,” Mitchell says of the steps to take. “Take the time to go through back through those comments and see if there’s people saying, ‘this isn’t real.’”

Mitchell may have been a victim, but his resolve to prevent anyone else from falling into the same trap he did may help the community recover from its latest outbreak of frauds.

Former Street Vendor Builds a Life For Him and His Family

Rene Benitez finishes sweeping the floor, clocks out and grabs his backpack. It’s 10 o’clock in the evening; he’s been working 12 hours straight.

A 12-hour workday is strenuous for most, but for Benitez, it’s a breeze compared to the 18-hour workdays he was used to as a teenager.

“I would be up at 4 in the morning, helping my mom setup for the day,” Benitez said. “Then I would take the bus to school and after school, go straight to my mom’s cart and take over for her until 10, sometimes later.

Benitez grew up in Echo Park, the son of Mexican immigrants. His family had little income, so Benitez had to work and help support his parents, who worked two jobs themselves.

Benitez’s father worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant by day and as a janitor by night. His mother ran a hot dog cart during the day and would babysit in the evening. When Benitez was done with the school for the day, he would go take over the cart for his mother.

“Some of these people you see on the street are crazy,” Benitez said jokingly. “I was nervous at first, but the longer I was out there, the less nervous I got.”

Since money was always an issue, Benitez was unable to attend college, opting to work full-time after graduating high school. He now works as a waiter and a busboy at a small family owned coffee shop in the San Fernando Valley.

The skills Benitez learned as a teen are helping him tremendously now. His ability to sell and interact with people has helped him become an exceptional server.

“I have so many regular customers who always want to sit with me,” Benitez said. “I like to talk to my customers and really get to know them on a personal level.”

Benitez, now in his mid-30s, is married and has two daughters. To him, the most important thing is building a better childhood for his children than the one he had.

“I want my girls to go to school, go to college, not have to worry about money,” Benitez said. “I want them to understand the importance of money, but I’m working my butt off now so they don’t have to in the future.”

Summer Immersion 2015 Group Project Requirements

We anticipate that your group project will bring together some combination of video, audio, stills, webtext, interactive graphics and other digital elements to create a unique story form. Toward that end, a successful project must fulfill these three requirements:

  1. Your group must decide on an anchor element around which the whole multimedia project is structured. Possible focal points for your project may include (but are not limited to):
    • A. A long-form Webtext anchor piece (or series of smaller text pieces) totaling at least 1000 words. You must use the best practices of web by including links, photos, infographics and other digital or visual elements.
    • B. A video anchor piece that may have narration or may be a first-person/natural sound piece. This piece should be at least two minutes.
    • C. An audio anchor piece such as a tracked, stand-alone radio report, a first-person/ambient sound piece, or an audio slide show. This piece should be at least two minutes
    • D. A digital anchor piece such as an infographic, google map, or interactive (like a timeline).
  2. Regardless of what your group chooses as an anchor element for your project, you must also make use of other content, including multimedia, digital, and audio/visual elements. Your project must use three of the four elements listed below:
    • A. Some form of video. If your anchor element is not a video piece then this might include two or three short video interview clips or MOS/voxpop videos
    • B. Some form of audio. If your anchor element is not an audio piece then this might include short audio clips of interviews, an audio Q&A, a voxpop sound piece, or one or more short audio slide shows.
    • C. Some webtext (totaling 600 words). If your anchor element is not a longer text piece then this might be two sidebars related to your larger project, a Q&A with an interview subject, or a short profile of someone connected with your story. These elements must also follow the best practices of webtext and include links and photos (and perhaps small digital elements).
    • D. Some digital elements. If your anchor element is not a digital element then your project must have at least two digital elements – an infographic, an interactive (like a timeline), a data visualization, etc.
  3. Your group member bios (with still photos) must appear as part of your project. These will go on a separate page and do not count toward the text requirements.

Design, placement, and organization of your project elements is totally up to you and the constraints of the template you have been given.

Source profile assignment

Complete a profile of one source connected to your final projects. Due Friday, 8/14, 6 p.m.

Can be a text story or a digital element, including an infographic, an audio slideshow or a scripted video piece.

Keep it relatively short (for text, about 500 words; for audio/video, 1-2 minutes).

To submit, create a WordPress post and then link it in the comments of this post.

A SnapChat survey about food and memory

Click here to view video.

What did you do, and how did it go?

I interviewed people on the USC campus for a survey about food and memory. I asked two simple questions in this vox populi segment. The first question was, “What did you have for dinner last night?” The second question was, “What is your all-time favorite dish your mother made?” I was curious whether people had a more vivid memory about a recent meal or a dish with a deeper nostalgic connection.

What kinds of reporting assignments could you see yourself using something like SnapChat for?

I think the SnapChat format works great for vox populi reports. I could also see myself filming a creative b-roll collage to accompany a more traditional media report.

Is it about breaking news?

My report was not about breaking news but I think SnapChat has proven effective in reporting breaking stories around the world. The combination of mobility and immediacy is powerful.
Regular stories?

My story was more abnormal than regular.

Is it better suited for dramatic events or can it work for mundane things?

SnapChat seems well suited to tell a wide variety of stories. As Vince mentioned in our lecture hall, there are currently a billion SnapChats sent every day. I would imagine most of what of the content generated on SnapChat falls into the “mundane” category but even these clips can mean so much to the creators and recipients. It’s all about knowing your audience.

What did you learn from this assignment?

This was my first time using SnapChat. I mostly learned the dynamic of the interface in this exercise but look forward to experimenting with the service more in depth soon.

Skateboarding: Solace and community on four wheels

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Young skateboarders in Los Angeles. Top row, left to right: Jonny Ordoñez, Boris Chavez and Rene Valle. Bottom row, left to right: Toebin Coleman, Leonardo Elisarraraz, Eze Molina, and Rodmahjai Scutter.

Intro:
Skateboarding is a youth culture staple. For many however it’s still an underground phenomenon. Mark McNeill hits the pavement with young skaters in Los Angeles to find out what motivates them.

Outro:
Messages from a group of skateboarders in Los Angeles who are finding community on four wheels.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy call it quits

INTRO: 

KERMIT THE FROG AND MISS PIGGY OF THE MUPPETS HAVE CALLED IT QUITS AFTER 40 YEARS TOGETHER. THE BREAKUP IS JUST ONE IN WHAT HAS BEEN CALLED THE “SUMMER OF CELEBRITY BREAKUPS.” WE SENT WHITNEY ASHTON OUT ON THE U-S-C CAMPUS TO SEE HOW PEOPLE ARE REACTING TO THE NEWS.

OUTRO:

DESPITE THE SPLIT, KERMIT AND MISS PIGGY ARE STARRING IN A NEW SERIES THIS FALL, CALLED THE MUPPETS ON A-B-C.

Space Jam 2 and Movie Remakes

Intro:

Warner Bros. Studio and LeBron James have agreed on a content creation deal after James’ success in the film “Trainwreck.” Rumor has it James will be featured in a new Space Jam movie, after the first film garnered so much success almost 20 years ago. Dan Lovi polled students on the University of Southern California campus to find out what they thought of the possible sequel with James and remaking movies in general.

Outro:

Looks like most people think James will have a tough time filling Michael Jordan’s shoes, but we will have to wait and see once the movie hits theaters. We heard from Sandra Brujis, George Styliaris, Phina Cabico, Will Benton and Lily Goldberg