New York Times’ Andy Rosenthal joins CCLP advisory board

LOS ANGELES, November 24, 2015 — Journalist and Editorial Page Editor of The New York TimesAndrew Rosenthal, 59, has been named a member of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy’s Advisory Board, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan announced today.

“I am delighted to join this group dedicated to advancing, modernizing and promoting the craft of journalism, which is one of the indispensible pillars of our democracy, and is at a critically important juncture,” said Rosenthal. “It was a great honor and pleasure to be asked.”

As a member of the advisory board, Rosenthal will provide direction, support, counsel, ideas, and guidance to CCLP’s senior fellows and research staff. With this appointment, Rosenthal joins the distinguished board co-chaired by former U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor and Time Inc.’s Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Norman Pearlstine. Other members include public policy leaders Ina Coleman, Cloey Hewlett, Wendy Luers and Robert Tuttle, media and industry leaders John Cooke, David Fisher, Gary Pruitt, Callie Schweitzer and Alden Stoner, along with USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III; among others.

“Andy Rosenthal is one of the most thoughtful journalists in the country and will help set the agenda for our work,” said Cowan. “We are thrilled he has agreed to join the board.”

Born in New Delhi, India, Rosenthal graduated from the University of Denver in 1978. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Rosenthal is the son of former New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal and former Carnegie Hall calendar editor Ann Marie Burke Rosenthal. He oversees the editorial board, the Letters and Op-Ed departments, as well as the Editorial and Op-Ed sections of Under his direction, the members of the board prepare the paper’s editorials. The editorials are written by individual board members in consultation with their colleagues, and are edited by Mr. Rosenthal and Deputy Editorial Page Editor Terry Tang.

He previously served as deputy editorial page editor, assistant managing editor for news, foreign editor, national editor, and Washington editor. He supervised coverage of the 2000 presidential election and post-election day recount, and reported on the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections, the first Bush administration, and the Persian Gulf War. Before joining the Times in 1987, Rosenthal served as Moscow bureau chief for the Associated Press.

About the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is a policy center that conducts academic research and organizes programs to develop ways in which communication leadership, policy, technology, and mobile innovation can contribute to a more informed electorate and a better world. For more information, visit

 Project on Presidential Primaries: Roadmap to Nomination 2016

CCLP has launched Project on Presidential Primaries: Roadmap to Nomination 2016, a crowd-sourced Google Doc detailing the delegate selection rules for the 2016 primaries and caucuses by state, party, type, voter participation, election dates, and more.

Most Americans — even candidates and party insiders — have little knowledge about how delegates are chosen in presidential caucuses and primaries. The rules vary dramatically by state and party and change from election to election.

The Project on Presidential Primaries is a crowd-sourced resource to help illuminate the system of presidential primaries in the United States. It is an initiative of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, which is directed by Geoffrey Cowan.

CCLP senior fellow Nicco Mele announced the launch of this project in his article on about the likelihood of Donald Trump winning in New Hampshire and Iowa. Mele writes, “There are some interesting questions about the way that the primary/caucus calendar  —  originally engineered to offer an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush a clear path to victory in a crowded field  —  might benefit Trump. My colleagues at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy have painstakingly mapped the primary/caucus landscape in this Google Doc. There are still some unanswered questions and quite a few wrinkles to be ironed out, but it’s up-to-date and completed to the best of our knowledge and ability at this point. Crowd-sourcing it is probably the best way to fill in the gaps and get our questions answered  —  tweet suggestions to me or Ev Boyle.”

This project is inspired by Cowan who, as a young Yale Law student in 1968, asked what ABC news anchor Howard K. Smith called a “novel question”: “How are the delegates for the Democratic National Convention chosen?” Watch the video here.

Contact with questions.

Nicco Mele (Senior Fellow, USC Annenberg CCLP)

Research Team:
Ev Boyle (Director of Special Projects, USC Annenberg CCLP)
Soledad Altrudi (Graduate Research Fellow, USC Annenberg CCLP)

This is a crowd-sourced resource. While CCLP will do its best to monitor and maintain the spreadsheet, we do not guarantee it is accurate or up-to-date. For regularly updated and vetted delegate information, visit The Green Papers, which is maintained by Richard E. Berg-Andersson, and Frontloading HQ, which is maintained by Josh Putnam.

 Sports can encourage dialogue between antagonistic countries, says USC public diplomacy professor

“Sport can bring people together,” said Cull, speaking before CCLP senior fellow Derek Shearer’s diplomacy class at Occidental College on Oct. 1, 2015. However, “each conflict is new and we have to communicate and find a shared relevance of mutual interest afresh for each different situation.”

Soccer may be a way to reach certain countries, but not, for example, the Islamic State. Cull used one unique example in Cuba Skate, a non-profit started in Washington, D.C., by one of his students that aims to support and grow the Cuban skateboarding community by providing access to skateboarding equipment that is otherwise unavailable on the island.

In an informative and often humorous lecture, Cull examined the history of sport’s role in international relations, from archaic society to present day. Sports began with war play games and funeral games and evolved into the Olympics in ancient Greece, said Cull. In Medieval Europe an early version of soccer (in which residents kicked a ball through town) was used as a “safety valve” – by having the disorder of sporting events, there could be order elsewhere in society.

In England, the emphasis on sports was fair play and sportsmanship, not competition and excellence. Sports were participation- and rule-based, not winning-based.

“The emphasis was not on excellence, not just on being able to be the best you can be, the fastest you can be,” said Cull. “This is contrasting with the dominant American approach to sports. British children were not taught to win in sports; rather, they were taught to lose and like it and to applaud the skills of the other team.”

Cull said he sees America’s obsession with excellence in sports as a problem. “It’s nice to win,” he said, but it’s not everything. In particular, he cited the language of conquest in sports (“We’re going to destroy the other team!”) as leading to “some really weird interpersonal politics” with negative gender implications.

Cull also said that there is “no reason why our national identity should be the most powerful identification we have. Many of us have relationships or affiliations that are stronger than our national identities that might cross international lines. For a lot of people it’s around sports.”

Cull dramatically recited Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem “Vitai Lampada,” ending with the famously uplifting, “Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

“The poem is teaching young men to sacrifice themselves and saying sport is a rehearsal for war, and in war you must observe the rules of sport and even when there’s no hope, you still keep going.”

Sports and the values embedded within them spread with the British Empire, as well as later by Christian missionaries. Sports have been used as a nation-building mechanism both domestically and internationally. The Olympics, Cull said, are a good example of “sport as utopia,” in which national governments use the opportunity to promote their ideologies and values on the global stage.

Once you do that, Cull said, it becomes “available for other people to tie other messages to it. The [Olympic] competition itself has become a target for terrorists,” including the bloody demonstrations in Mexico in 1968, the attack in Munich in 1972, the boycott of South Africa (including countries that supported South Africa, such as New Zealand), and the Cold War boycotts between the U.S. and Russia.

That said, Cull pointed out that sport can serve as a diplomatic sphere as well. In 1951 the Globetrotters exercised goodwill diplomacy in Berlin. In April 1971, China invited the U.S. ping pong team to play in what became an historic meeting. In 1998 President Bill Clinton used sports to open communication with North Korea. The Para and Special Olympics are successful examples of sports changing countries and cultures to rethink how they treat differently-abled people. Recently, Cull said, sports have also positively changed views of women.

Cull also talked about how commercial sports have become globally.

“Sport is a major business,” said Cull. “As global media has become larger and markets have become broader, you need content to go onto those channels. Global media has been quite happy to have sport as an easily transmitted, easily understood form of content.”

This creates global brands out of sports stars who are “consumable” and “likable” and help sell products. “In some ways, sports personalities are used to sweeten globalization, so that you forgive or don’t even notice the economic consequence; how, in fact, the money is flowing to certain geographical locations based on the power of sports. So it’s becoming a symbol of globalization.”

Cull said sports and media do not exist in two completely separate realms, with media companies owning sports teams or rich people and companies owning both sports and media; “one hand feeding the other,” as Cull put it.

Cull said he’s concerned about the cultural practices that might be being exported along with sports. With the emphasis on excellence in sports, “once you find you can’t compete, you’re encouraged to just sit on the couch and watch and eat potato chips and drink beer. Which is fine, but do we really want to teach the world that sport is only about excellence and competing at the highest level and not about having a good time and participating at whatever level? We have to be careful that sport doesn’t become a thing where the tiny group of super athletes gets to run around and burn calories and everybody else gets to sit down watch them and participate by buying stuff endorsed by those people or watching the commercials that run in between those people performing and drinking beer and eating chips.”

Nick Cull is Professor of Public Diplomacy and is the founding director of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC. His research and teaching interests are inter-disciplinary, and focus on public diplomacy and — more broadly — the role of media, culture and propaganda in international history. He is the author of two volumes on the history of US public diplomacy: The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (Cambridge 2008), named by Choice Magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Texts of 2009 and The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American Public Diplomacy, 1989-2001 (Palgrave, New York, 2012). His first book, Selling War, published by OUP New York in 1995, was a study of British information work in the United States before Pearl Harbor. He is editor of the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, President of the International Association for Media and History, and a member of the Public Diplomacy Council.

Derek Shearer is the Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He also serves as Director of Global Affairs, handling the college’s international relations and directing the expansion of its International Affairs programs. He served in the Clinton administration as an Economics official in the Commerce Department, and then as ambassador to Finland (1994-97). He was a fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute and at the Woodrow Wilson Scholars Center in Washington, D.C. He was a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign and to Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2007-08 presidential primary contests.

 Immigration activist and filmmaker urges USC students to talk to those they don’t agree with

“Too often when we talk about immigration we talk with people who already agree with us,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration activist, and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas, who has traveled around the country on a speaking tour in promotion of his films Documented and White People. “I talked to many young white students who seemed to not know where they’re from. How can you ask me where I come from if you don’t know where you’re from? ‘White’ is not a country.”

Vargas spoke before an audience of 200 students in Professor Robert Scheer’s communications classroom on Sept. 29 for the first forum in a new series entitled Media and Social Change. The series is presented by the Institute for Development and Empowerment (IDEA) and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP). The goal of the program is to expose students to the complex issues surrounding diversity and to challenge students to think outside the norm by having experts discuss their experience and expertise in the matters at hand.

The event began with a screening of Documented, the 2013 documentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas, who “outed” himself as such in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Scheer and consisting of Vargas, filmmaker and producer Janet Yang (DocumentedThe Joy Luck Club), and USC professor and CCLP faculty fellow Roberto Suro.

Suro pointed out that the conversation immediately became racial.

“I want to step back from this conversation for a second, and note the racialization of the issue,” said Suro. “This conversation went immediately to race. What happens when you look at immigrants as non-white or as members of a racial group? What happens to the dialogue about immigration? You’ve really bought into the frame that is used as the basis of restriction.”

Vargas noted that he and his films are not the only ones to conflate race and immigration. He pointed out that many people use “illegal” and “Mexican” interchangeably.

Scheer cited a new Pew Research Center study that projects immigrants will account for 88 percent of the U.S. population increase, or 103 million people, between 2015 and 2065, as the nation grows to 441 million. The study also predicts that Asians will make up a much larger share of the immigrant population by 2065. Suro said that it’s important to keep in mind that these are just projections, which could be wildly inaccurate. He said the number of immigrants in the U.S. (11 million people) has remained fairly static since 2007.

Vargas pointed out the contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to America, such as paying state and local taxes and the $100 billion they contribute to the Social Security fund.

One student in attendance said that no matter what facts one has, some people will continue to hold onto their previously held views.

“Politics is not a fact-based activity,” Suro responded. “Politics in this country are not driven by majority views. Right now they’re being driven by a fairly small rump of the Republican Party. The American public is not intrinsically opposed to immigration reform. You distort the picture if you focus only on the small, loud factions.”

Yang said the narrative can and should change, and that it starts with the media and the entertainment industry. In reference to diversity among actors in films and television shows, she said economic realities are driving casting choices. However, she said, “I’m cautiously optimistic” as things begin to change.

When asked what is coming next in terms of immigration reform, Suro said the country is currently in uncharted territory. “There is a lot of uncertainty right now. A significant minority in the right places can stir a reaction.” He pointed out that the legal challenge to President Obama’s executive order on immigration could go to the Supreme Court. That order, issued last November, would allow some immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal resident children to apply for work permits and deportation reprieves.

Suro also pointed out that comprehensive immigration reform would have been passed in 2013 if there had been an up-or-down vote in Congress, but that the minority blocked it. That said, he noted, “the status quo is incredibly generous in terms of immigration flows.”

“As it should be,” said Vargas.

One student asked why immigration authorities did not pursue or deport Vargas after he announced that he’s an undocumented immigrant. In Documented, Vargas expressed surprise at the lack of response.

“There are published policies and a known track record of the circumstances under which people encounter immigration authorities,” said Suro. “You’re an intelligent guy; you know exactly why people get removed. There’s no mystery about it. So why were you surprised?”

“At that point, especially with ICE, we weren’t sure,” Vargas said. “People thought maybe because of all the fraud, they would go after me in that way.” Vargas used fake documents to obtain jobs at several major newspapers around the country, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. “Frankly I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Vargas co-founded Define American, a media and culture organization using the power of stories to transcend politics and shift the conversation around immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America. He also launched #EmergingUS, a digital magazine.

The Media and Social Change series continued on Tuesday, Oct. 20 with a panel addressing the issue: “Is higher education failing blacks and Latinos: How a college degree did not protect black and Hispanic wealth through the recent financial turbulence.”

USC Marshall’s Jerry Giaquinta named CCLP faculty fellow

Marketing consultant, corporate executive, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Management Communication at the USC Marshall School of Business, Gerald Giaquinta, has been named a faculty fellow of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan announced today.

“This is a great opportunity to further the collaboration between Marshall and Annenberg,” said Giaquinta. “USC’s interdisciplinary approach creates exciting opportunities for faculty research and teaching. I am honored to be named a faculty fellow of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.”

As a faculty fellow, Giaquinta will focus on leadership communication in the new economy and the role and impact of public diplomacy on business. With this appointment, Giaquinta joins distinguished USC faculty members such as Sasha AnawaltThomas HollihanMichael ParksPatricia RileyPhilip SeibRoberto SuroStacy Smith, among others.

Giaquinta is an expert in strategic communication, marketing, and operational analysis. He has over 25 years of executive-level corporate and agency experience and has advised Fortune 100 and start-up companies. His recent work has been in public-private partnerships. He is the founder of The Giaquinta Group, a strategic communications and marketing consulting firm whose clients have included Visa, Netflix, MGM, Lexus, Daimler, Sony, World Expo, and Grocery Manufacturers Association, among others.

“Through his leadership at the USA Pavilion at Expo Milan, Jerry played a critical role with CCLP to present impactful programming before a global audience,” said CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan. “We are delighted he will join our roster of faculty fellows to pursue important research and programs for students and industry professionals.”

Giaquinta’s professional career began when he was finishing his MPA at the University of Southern California and began working for Eli Lilly & Co., the pharmaceutical giant. Hired in sales, he then became a spokesperson for product and corporate issues. While working, he continued his studies at USC for a PhD in Public Policy and Administration.

Giaquinta worked at Toyota USA for 10 years where he held progressively responsible management positions in public relations, government relations, strategic planning and advertising. While at Toyota, Giaquinta attended Loyola Law School and earned a JD. He was a key member of the Lexus launch team.

Mercedes-Benz recruited Giaquinta as head of North American communications and then as vice president of West Coast operations responsible for sales, marketing, and distribution. He then transitioned from the corporate world to the agency side and became president and CEO of Chiat/Day Communications. Strengthening ties with clients such as Nissan and McDonald’s, he integrated the agency’s communications activities with Chiat/Day Advertising.

Giaquinta later joined Sony Pictures Entertainment. As executive vice president and corporate officer, he worked in all aspects of Sony’s corporate marketing and communications efforts and was the liaison and integrator with Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Playstation, and Sony Corporation in Tokyo. From motion pictures to television to digital entertainment, he coordinated company-wide communications and strategies.

About the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is a policy center that conducts academic research and organizes programs to develop ways in which communication leadership, policy, technology and mobile innovation can contribute to a more informed electorate and a better world. For more information, visit

Social media pioneer Nicco Mele joins CCLP as senior fellow

Author, social media pioneer and digital strategist Nicco Mele has been named a senior fellow of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan announced today.

At CCLP, Mele will focus on emerging business models for digital journalism and the challenges traditional media models face online. Mele, 37, joins a distinguished group of senior fellows that includes journalists and media executives such as Jessica YellinMatthew DowdCinny KennardAdam Clayton Powell III, and Narda Zacchino; authors and policymakers such as Dan GlickmanRichard ReevesOrville SchellKirk Johnson, and Morley Winograd; among others.

“The project of media revitalization and reinvention remains one of the great challenges of our era, and is essential to a healthy democracy. I am delighted to join the distinguished team at CCLP,” says Mele.

“Nicco Mele is a brilliant strategist who has been at the forefront of the intersection of media, politics and technological innovation for more than a decade,” says Cowan, who also holds the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership at USC and is president of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. “His invaluable experience will extend CCLP’s important work charting new models for news and examining the role of media in our democracy. We are extremely fortunate to have him join the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.”

For the past year Mele served as senior vice president and deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where he was responsible for product, content, revenue, and audience development for all of the Los Angeles Times Media Group’s brands, including growing existing digital products and services, identifying possible acquisitions, developing new business opportunities and launching new products.

Mele’s 2013 book, The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath, explores the consequences of living in a socially-connected society, drawing upon his experience as an innovator in politics and technology. Before moving to Southern California, Mele served on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught graduate-level classes on the Internet and politics. In the spring of 2009, Mele was the Visiting Edward R. Murrow Lecturer at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and in the fall of 2008 he was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. Prior to joining the Harvard Kennedy School, Mele taught at the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Communication.

Mele is an active angel investor in technology startups, including Plympton (a publishing startup), UMS (mobile), Cignify (data analytics), and iDiet (health care). He is the co-founder of Echo & Co., a digital consulting firm with global clients and offices in Boston and Washington, DC. The firm aids clients facing overwhelming technological and social change, and has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies and other institutions on Internet strategy.

As webmaster for Governor Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Mele and the campaign team popularized the use of technology and social media that revolutionized political fundraising and reshaped American politics. The campaign was “the first high-profile political contest to use the Internet to connect supporters through early forms of social media and to raise significant donations from small donors,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Mele also ran Internet strategy for Barack Obama’s successful 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate.

Born in Ghana to Foreign Service Officer parents, he spent his early years in Asia before graduating from the College of William and Mary in Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in government.

He was named by Esquire as one of the “Best and Brightest” in America and serves on a number of private and non-profit boards, including the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Mele is also co-founder of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Mele is married to Morra Aarons-Mele and together they have three children. He recently moved from Boston to Los Angeles.

About the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy
Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is a policy center that conducts academic research and organizes programs to develop ways in which communication leadership, policy, technology and mobile innovation can contribute to a more informed electorate and a better world. For more information, visit

Muslim reformer named CCLP senior fellow

On the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is pleased to announce its new senior fellow for the 2015-16 year, the international bestselling author and Muslim reformer, Irshad Manji.

The New York Times called Ms. Manji “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.” A faithful Muslim who openly advocates equality for women and minorities, she practices “moral courage – doing the right thing in the face of one’s fears.” After publishing two seminal books about why and how to achieve liberal reform within Islam, Ms. Manji founded the Moral Courage Project at New York University. She will now build the West Coast presence of Moral Courage at USC Annenberg.

In particular, Ms. Manji will work with the CCLP team to engage audiences about her next book as well as a groundbreaking TV series that she is currently filming with the Los Angeles producer Entertainment One. “In the show,” she says, “we’re deploying the message of moral courage to de-radicalize sympathizers of ISIS and similar violent ideologies. Since their message is global, ours has to be, too. I can’t imagine a more cutting-edge place than USC Annenberg from which to develop savvy digital strategy for the greater good.”

“We are thrilled that the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy will serve as a home for Irshad Manji’s work,” said CCLP Director and University Professor Geoffrey Cowan. “She continues to produce books and films of international importance, and her Moral Courage Project will be a terrific learning lab for USC Annenberg students.”

Social change media is Ms. Manji’s passion and pedigree. In 1998, as a host at Toronto’s most popular broadcaster, Citytv, she launched QueerTelevision, the world’s first program on commercial airwaves to explore LGBT cultures. also streamed it, making QueerTelevision among the first Web shows in history. Ms. Manji’s latest media venture is Moral Courage TV, the YouTube channel that features individuals who are risking personal and professional backlash so they can improve their societies. Last year, Moral Courage TV won the Ron Kovic Peace Prize, in honor of the Vietnam vet who became an anti-war activist and inspired the Oliver Stone movie, Born on the Fourth of July.

In-between these media initiatives, Ms. Manji created the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, Faith Without Fear. It chronicles her journey to convince fellow Muslims that questioning religious authorities is necessary – and possible. She has scaled this effort through her charitable foundation, “Project Ijtihad” (pronounced ij-tee-had), named for Islam’s own tradition of independent thinking, dissent, debate and re-interpretation. Its main initiative, the Guidance Team, is an online network of advisors who mentor young people to speak their truths out loud. Being digital, the Guidance Team has international reach, empowering vulnerable youth in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Irshad Manji came to the digital world through the printed word. Her books are banned in some countries and are bestsellers in more. She has written The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (St. Martin’s Press, 2004) and Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom (Simon & Schuster, 2011). They are translated into a total of 34 languages. Her next book will guide readers of every religion (and none) to become “gutsy global citizens,” equipping them with the moral courage to turn conflict into opportunities for honest conversation and diversity of thought. She believes that “diversity of thought is the key to becoming truly innovative, yet it’s the hardest thing to accomplish in an era of hyper-polarization. That’s because the human ego is afraid to be wrong – or, more accurately, to be judged wrong. Developing moral courage in ourselves is the way forward.”

An educator at heart, Ms. Manji teaches moral courage at New York University, Human Condition Labs and other arenas worldwide. She also brings her message of moral courage to the airwaves, frequently appearing on networks such as Al Jazeera, CNN, MSNBC and HBO. When not formally teaching, mentoring, writing, or filming, she is speaking with audiences as varied as Amnesty International and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

African by birth, Canadian by citizenship and American by immersion, Ms. Manji recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to be with her fiancée. “I’m still figuring out how to have a personal and social life,” she notes of her schedule. “But now I have a powerful incentive: the bliss of living in beautiful Southern California with the love of my life.”

Ms. Manji confesses to being on a mission – one that lives up to the public recognition she has already earned. Oprah Winfrey gave her the first annual Chutzpah Award for “audacity, nerve, boldness and conviction.” The World Economic Forum has selected her a Young Global Leader. And later this year, she will visit Capitol Hill to accept the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize, named for the late U.S. Congressman who worked tirelessly to raise genocide awareness. As Irshad Manji writes in Allah, Liberty and Love, “When my family stepped onto the precious soil of Canada, we were gifted freedom. I’m obliged to use this gift for the dignity of those who don’t yet enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, or expression.”

 Empowering the Public Through Open Data: Findings & Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County

Over the past year the Civic Tech USC research team here at the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) has been investigating what cities in Los Angeles County are doing to make their government data easily accessible to the public. Cities already collect vast troves of information, such as crime stats, budgets/financial expenditures, code violations, transportation stats, property information, campaign contributions, and more. Open data is a movement that has grown over the past few years to make all that information freely accessible in digital, machine-readable formats so that it can be used, modified, reused, and shared by anyone for any purpose. This, in turn, has the potential to increase transparency, encourage citizen participation, attract new business, and improve government efficiency.
We are pleased to present our comprehensive new report, Empowering the Public Through Open Data: Findings & Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County. The report contains findings and recommendations for city leaders and other open data advocates based on survey responses from 51 of the county’s 88 cities; in-depth interviews with officials from 10 local jurisdictions; a review of existing research about open data from academic, public, and private sectors; and criteria from the U.S. City Open Data Census.


By interviewing officials from 10 local jurisdictions and surveying 51 cities in LA County, we found that the Los Angeles area has quickly become a national leader in open data. Thirteen cities have already launched an open data initiative in some form, and new open data portals are constantly being launched. A majority of the cities they surveyed reported that open data was at least a moderate priority – if not a top priority – going forward. The City of Los Angeles ranks second (as of August 10, 2015) on the U.S. City Open Data Census, which ranks cities across 19 categories based on nine criteria such as whether they are available digitally, in bulk, and free of cost. Five other cities in LA County rank in the top 50. The City of Los Angeles also received platinum status for its open data from the World Council on City Data (WCCD), the certification body responsible for implementing the first international open data standards for cities (known as ISO 37120).

However, while significant progress has been made, cities can do more to expand the scope and usefulness their open data initiatives. For example, meaningful datasets related to important areas like criminal justice, health, and education have been mostly absent from discussions of open data. Police and court records that include demographic data could illuminate how certain groups are targeted with tougher enforcement and sentencing, and ultimately lead to policy changes that promote a fairer justice system. Cities like Ferguson and Baltimore (and Los Angeles) could greatly benefit from more transparency and accountability in this area.

Our report also found that city officials cite public trust and transparency as key motivators for creating open data initiatives, but cite the lack of funding as the biggest barrier to establishing or expanding their initiatives. Our report recommends that cities should pursue outside grants and other opportunities for funding, or get started with open data for minimal cost. Our report cites a number of examples and suggestions, such as Bloomberg grants and open source software.

City officials also reported that they do see benefits to open data initiatives, but in most cases there is still no clear measure of return on investment (ROI). Our report therefore recommends that cities should track and highlight open data success stories on the homepages of their open data portals in order to engage citizens to use the data. New York City’s portal features 20 different uses of the city’s portal to solve problems, but no LA area open data portals or city websites highlight apps that have been built, problems that have been solved, or other positive outcomes that have resulted from open data in those cities. Open data can increase transparency and improve accountability, but cities should also focus their open data initiatives on how data can be used to solve entrenched problems.

One of the biggest concerns about releasing government data is the privacy of individuals. City officials should treat the privacy of citizens as a top priority from the beginning of any open data initiative, and personal information should be removed from most city datasets before being released. The report tells the story of Chris Whong, a data analyst and civic hacker who in 2013 legally obtained a large dataset of every cab ride in New York City–over 173 million individual trips–through a request under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Whong made a series of engaging and interactive maps using the data, and released the raw data so that other technologists and academics could use it to make their own visualizations and tools. The problem came because personal information had not been properly anonymized by the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission before they released the dataset, which led to other users finding ways to reveal not only who the driver was for each trip, but also who the passenger was, how long their ride lasted, how much they paid, and where they were picked up and dropped off. The story resulted in criticism and negative press for New York City, and the lesson for cities is that they should ensure they are following best practices to effectively anonymize datasets before they are released.

Finally, our report recommends that a network of city officials across LA County who are advocates for open data in their cities and across the county should be established in order to share best practices and connect city officials, technologists, and civic hackers who have expertise in open data with those who are interested in launching an open data initiative but do not know where to start.

While open data initiatives are not a solution to all of the issues that impact modern cities, opening up government data can provide meaningful benefits to both city governments and the residents they serve. New apps and websites powered by open data continue to improve governments and the lives of citizens. Open data portals and initiatives help foster a culture of transparency and trust, and can provide new avenues to improve government efficiency, generate revenue, and create new jobs in the private sector.

Our report finds that cities across Los Angeles County are making progress on their open data efforts, and even those who haven’t made progress express substantial interest in pursuing open data initiatives. At the same time, city officials say that there are significant barriers to launching or expanding their open data efforts, including funding, expertise, and getting buy-in from city departments. By listening to their constituents and following the recommendations in our report, city officials and other open data advocates have the potential to overcome these challenges and create open data initiatives that make a difference in their communities.

In the coming months we hope to organize a summit for city officials from across the county to share best practices related to open data, and launch new investigations into areas like criminal justice to explore how such data might be collected and shared in more useful and impactful ways.