The power of journalism: Scandal at USC
Undergraduates at the University of South California got an in-depth crash course on investigative journalism this summer. Students had to research, write and report events regarding a scandalous event at their own campus.
Since the past few years, Dr. Dennis Kelly, a gynecologist at the University of South California was accused of sexually harassing students. This investigative initiation was taken by the university’s three faculty members: Mark Schoofs, a visiting professor and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, Christina Bellantoni, head of the Media Center and Gary Cohn, another Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist.
The project was termed the “U.S.C. Beacon Project” and was initially initiated when reports regarding the university taking in only children of “high-class” parents surfaced the net. Also, this was the time when many prominent media platforms, like The Los Angeles Times, also took up this issue and reported it.
Sasha Urban, a 20-year old student who had come to U.S.C. as a drama major soon became a part of this project. During his research, he uncovered many other cases against Dr. Kelly (some of which had already been reported to the university’s administration). However, during the process, Urban stated that Dr. Kelly denied all accusations against him and would give no further comments regarding the matter.
Although some of Urban’s work was termed “misleading” by the university, the administration did acknowledge the fact that these real-life exercises lead students to learn skills that otherwise were not possible to learn in a classroom. Also, it gave students hands-on experience regarding journalism and its power.
As one student said, “We’re not reporting to bring down the school; we’re doing it because we care and want to make it better.”