Communication Leadership Blog

Fellows say political polarization is increasing

By CCLP Staff | March 23, 2015 0

Political polarization is growing in this country, said CCLP senior fellows Matthew Dowd and Narda Zacchino at a Communication Leadership Roundtable at the new Wallis Annenberg Hall on March 23. The data, Dowd said, shows that "we're at the most polarized state that we've ever been in."

BridgingDivide1 (1).jpgLeft to right: Narda Zacchino, Matthew Dowd, Geoffrey Cowan, and Geoffrey Baum

Dowd and Zacchino were joined by CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan and CCLP advisory board members and senior fellows who were in town for a board meeting prior to the event, as well as staff and students from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

"Some of it is a natural human tendency of confirmation bias, which means we seek out information that confirms what we already believe and ignore information that makes us uncomfortable," said Dowd. "And because of our access to information now it's much more than it used to be. It's easier now for Democrats or progressives or liberals to access information that confirms their beliefs, and for conservatives or Republicans to access information that confirms their beliefs, and then what that does is increase the conflict."

Zacchino said that media has also played a large role in the widening of this divide.

"News has become less a vehicle for educating people than it is a way to advance and enhance a particular point of view," said Zacchino. "I think that's a terrible thing for democracy."


Dowd, a former political strategist who has worked for President George W. Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Senator Barack Obama, said he is now "vehemently independent." He made the case that individuals can still make a difference in the national political discourse. Ultimately, Dowd told the audience of about 50 people, it is up to individuals to enact the changes in their own lives that they want to see throughout the country.

"Even though we think this is a massive country and massive society and what can we do, the power of individuals still has an unbelievable weight in this country," said Dowd. "Even if you don't agree with someone like Edward Snowden, the power of an individual to do something is incredible. I encourage everybody, especially students, to get involved in politics if you do not like the direction of what's happening in Washington or California. The only way it's going to change is if you do it differently in in a manner with which you want leadership exercised. If you advocate it won't ever change; if you want it to change, you have to do it."


Zacchino, an award-winning former political editor for the LA Times, has a new book coming out about how California coming back from the brink of being a failed state.

Dowd, a political analyst for ABC News and the founder of Paradox Capital, is co-author of the New York Times bestseller Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Reeves exposes ugly truth of Japanese internment camps in new book

By CCLP Staff | March 9, 2015 0

CCLP senior fellow Richard Reeves examines the key causes and dire consequences of the Japanese-American internment in relocation camps during World War II in his new book, concentrating on a shortsighted military strategy and anti-Japanese sentiment following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

"A day that will live in infamy," President Franklin D. Roosevelt said of the attack in asking Congress for a Declaration of War, after which the president himself signed an executive order that moved more than 120,000 Japanese, most of them American citizens, "behind barbed-wire and machine gun towers, into concentration camps spread across the most barren and hostile deserts and swamps of the country," said Reeves. "Their only crime: looking like the enemy."


Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II provides an authoritative account of the incarceration of these American citizens and Japanese immigrants during the war. Men we usually consider heroes - FDR, Earl Warren, Edward R. Murrow - were in this case villains, but we also learn of many Americans who took great risks to defend the rights of the internees.

Reeves wrote the book because he doesn't want that to happen again "if the nation becomes hysterical about real or imagined threats to national security," he said. "Without knowing too much about it, I always wanted to study the incarceration of innocent Japanese-Americans in desert concentration camps during World War II. I found that what happened was far worse than I imagined. Fear, racism and raw greed drove Americans to crush thousands of lives, breaking up families and stealing property under the leadership of men as historically revered as President Roosevelt and California's attorney general, Earl Warren. Shamed, the victims of the camps refused to talk about it for decades, even as their sons served in the most decorated American combat unit in history. They do now. It happened here and it could happen again, to Muslims, to Latin Americans. I want to let people who love America and love the Constitution know that that "piece of paper," as described by Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, was shredded in a wave of national hysteria."

Called "an engaging and comprehensive depiction of an essential, but sometimes overlooked, era of U.S. history" by Kirkus Reviews, the book tells the story of this appalling chapter in American history more powerfully than ever before.


"Reeves liberally quotes politicians, reporters and citizens, rehashing the argument that 'a Jap is a Jap' and therefore all Japanese aliens and even citizens on the West Coast needed to be removed," writes Kirkus Reviews. "Reeves includes firsthand and secondhand accounts of life inside the camps. Though Reeves' subject is an essentially bleak picture of hysterical racism...the author does a solid job of balancing the dreary passages with occasional shots of humor, humanity or both. Reeves unearths and makes public a painful national memory, but he does so while maintaining the dignity of those held behind barbed wire and unmasking the callous racism and disregard of the people who put them there."

Tom Brokaw calls the book "a detailed account of a painful and shameful period in modern American history. Infamy combines Reeves's journalist's training with his historian's eye to give us a page-turner on how hysteria at the highest levels can shatter our most fundamental rights. Brace yourself and read this very important book."

Racism, greed, xenophobia, and a thirst for revenge: a dark strand in the American character underlies this story of one of the most shameful episodes in our history. But by recovering the past, Infamy has given voice to those who ultimately helped the nation better understand the true meaning of patriotism. The book is scheduled for publication on Tuesday, April 21, by Holt, Henry & Company.

Reeves, a former New York Times and Frontline journalist, a senior lecturer at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, a syndicated columnist and an award-winning documentary filmmaker, is embarking on a national speaking tour to promote his new book, including participating on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books at the Hancock Foundation at USC at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. The panel will be moderated by Jon Wiener and look at American milestones in history. Joining Reeves on the panel will be Ed Larson and Scott Martelle. Reeves is also the biography judge for the LA Times Book Prize.

Reeves is featured in a film called "Searching for Camelot" premiering at the Garden State Film Festival on March 21. The film is about people who were living in Greenwich Village when John F. Kennedy became president. Reeves was interviewed in the film about what it was like to be in the Village in the 60s, what it was like living next door to Bob Dylan, and what it all meant (he doesn't remember).

Reeves will be giving a series of lectures at the New York Historical Society in April on the Japanese internment. C-SPAN has filmed one of his classes on long-form journalism which they will broadcast later this spring.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

LA Theatre Works to honor Geoffrey Cowan

By CCLP Staff | March 9, 2015 0

Well-known as a best-selling author, public interest lawyer, academic administrator, government official, distinguished professor, and Emmy Award-winning producer, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan is also a notable playwright who will be honored by LA Theatre Works to celebrate their decades-long collaboration.

LATWlogo.pngCowan has worked with LA Theatre Works for 25 years on his award-winning play Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, which originally premiered as a radio play in 1991 in front of a live audience for national broadcast on NPR and later toured the country in 2007-8, had a five week run in New York City in 2010, and played to audiences throughout China in 2011 and 2013. The play celebrates the importance of the press, the First Amendment, and an independent judiciary. In New York and China CCLP presented "Top Secret Talks," a series of panel discussions with leading journalists, scholars and policymakers about the contemporary lessons of the Pentagon Papers story.

"Geoffrey Cowan has been a significant person in the life of LA Theatre Works since 1991, when I called him to ask a question about a constitutional issue which he answered and then let me know that he had written a play," said Susan Loewenberg, producing director for LA Theatre Works. "That casual remark turned into almost a quarter of a century of fruitful collaboration between Geoff and LATW. Geoff is truly a Renaissance man and we are honored to be honoring him."


LA Theatre Works is a non-profit media arts organization based in Los Angeles whose mission for over 25 years has been to present, preserve and disseminate classic and contemporary plays.

Co-written by Cowan and pioneering journalist and teacher Leroy Aarons, Top Secret is an inside look at the Washington Post's decision to publish a top-secret study documenting the United States' involvement in Vietnam. The subsequent trial tested the parameters of the First Amendment, pitting the public's right to know against the government's claim of secrecy. The epic legal battle between the government and the press went to the nation's highest court and is perhaps the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom of the press.

In its review, the Associated Press called Top Secret "an engaging, well-acted, historical drama by Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons. With cloak-and-dagger intrigue, government suppression, courtroom drama and an unusual theatrical format, the play will please theater enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The 'write what you know' maxim couldn't be more apropos in this case, evidenced by Cowan and Aarons' clear presentation of the facts and splendidly nuanced dialogue, which consistently rings true."

"It has been a terrific partnership on this play," said Cowan. "I'm proud to have worked with LA Theatre Works all these years, and thrilled to celebrate the intersection of education, culture, and these important issues of free speech, free press, and independent judiciary."

In 2011, LA Theatre Works partnered with Ping Pong Productions to take the production on a 3-week tour of China. The group played to sold-out crowds in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing. In June 2013 Top Secret returned to China for a second tour that the the New York Times called a "spare, fast-paced docudrama," and the New Yorker called "thrilling."

Cowan with his wife Aileen Adams at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center

Cowan said the play started in a classroom with a course he taught on media law at UCLA, then wound up in a theatre, using the stage as a classroom. LA Theatre Works uses Top Secret and other plays to provide lessons for thousands of students in all 50 states.

The March 25 gala will include a presentation of the pivotal "Freedom of the Press" scene from the play, featuring the full cast. Ed Asner, Ed Begley, Jr., Jane Fonda, and other respected artists of stage and screen will perform excerpts from Top Secret and other plays. Visit for tickets and more information.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Cowan joins effort to increase university partnerships between California and Mexico

By CCLP Staff | March 6, 2015 0

Education leaders from Mexico and California convened last week as part of an initiative to identify key areas of research collaboration in an ongoing partnership to build sustained, strategic and equal relationships between educational institutions on both sides of the border.

University of California president Janet Napolitano and National Autonomous University of Mexico provost Eduardo Bárzana García chaired the inaugural meeting of the UC-Mexico Initiative Advisory Board. The two-day meeting was held in Ensenada, Mexico, on February 26 and 27, 2015.

Janet Cowan and Barzana.jpg
Janet Napolitano, Geoffrey Cowan, and Eduardo Bárzana García

During the meeting, scholars and experts met in breakout sessions to discuss education, energy, environment, arts and culture, and public health.

Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, a USC University Professor and director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, participated in the historic meeting as a member of the advisory board. He said the goal was to identify important scholarly collaborations on which Mexico and the University of California can work together.

"California is interdependent in so many ways with Mexico," said Cowan. "Our economies are heavily interdependent, our environment, our coastline, public health, education. These are all common issues we have, so if we can work together we can build both economies and both societies in a more dynamic way. We're going forward with major research collaborations between these countries in areas of mutual interest."

One of Sunnylands' areas of focus is the Pacific Rim with an emphasis on U.S.-Mexico relations. This effort continues work began in 2012 when Sunnylands, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, convened a retreat and released a report aimed at strengthening U.S.-Mexico relations. In the report, entitled A Stronger Future: Policy Recommendations for U.S.-Mexico Relations, preeminent bipartisan political, business, academic, and media leaders from the United States and Mexico concluded that the tone of the bilateral relationship should change and focus not just on a few issues, such as security and migration or trade and the economy, but instead be wide-ranging and cover a variety of mutual interests. The report presented innovative recommendations for enhancing regional competitiveness, new strategies to strengthen security, judicial reform, and furthering educational exchanges between the two nations, among other issues.

The UC-Mexico Initiative was launched in January 2014 by Napolitano and is led by UC Riverside.


Other participants in the Ensenada meeting included Monica Lozano, UC regent; Kim Wilcox, UC Riverside chancellor; Dorothy Leland, UC Merced chancellor; Gene Block, UCLA chancellor; Hunter Rawlings, president of the American Association of Universities; Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation; José Narro Robles, president of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Juan Manuel Ocegueda, president of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California; Enrique Cabrero, director general of Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology; Salvador Alva, president of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Antonio Lopez de Silanes, president of the Group for Birth Studies and chairman of the board of the pharmaceutical company Grupo Silanes; Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, president of Mexico's National Council for Culture and Arts; and Jaime Valls Esponda, secretary general of ANUIES, which represents 180 higher education institutions throughout Mexico.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

California and China, a model for collaboration on climate change

By CCLP Staff | March 4, 2015 0

International leaders should build on the success of the partnership between Chinese provinces and the state of California in combating climate change, according to a new report co-authored by CCLP senior fellow Orville Schell, the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, and the Asia Society.

"The latest agreement in November 2014 between the United States and China to reduce carbon emissions will help set a new course in the effort for greater international cooperation on climate change, but states, provinces, and municipalities also have a vital role to play," reads the report, titled A Vital Partnership: California and China Collaborating on Clean Energy and Combating Climate Change.

The report was released by Schell and Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, on March 4 at an Asia Society event in San Francisco. Gov. Jerry Brown and Nobel laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also participated in the discussion.

"In the end if the U.S. and China do come together in a meaningful way to deal with climate change, it is not going to exclusively be between Washington and Beijing," said Schell. "In fact that may be the least important link. Where the rubber will really meet the road is with states and municipalities dealing directly, so that the solution ends up being more of a patchwork, kind of a mosaic, rather than some big grand design where the presidents wave a wand in Washington and Beijing and bring about a solution. I don't think it'll happen that way. But it can happen piece by piece by piece."

CCLP senior fellow Orville Schell discusses 'A Vital Partnership,' A New Asia Society Report from Center on US-China Relations on Vimeo.

The authors of the report hope that the "unique interaction between California and China will help inspire new forms of constructive subnational efforts to address our critical transnational problems." The report summarizes the ongoing efforts between California and China that are part of a significant effort to jointly address the challenge of global climate change at the subnational level.

"Both California and China are reaping benefits from their collaborations," said Cowan. "Not only are these partnerships uncovering solutions to protect the air, water, and ecosystems within each country, but they are also catalyzing increased trade and investment in clean technology in both countries."

This report was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Adam Powell

U.S. international broadcasters work to achieve credibility, and understanding, in the Middle East

By Adam Powell | March 3, 2015 0

WASHINGTON -- "Oh are you working for the CIA now?"

That is how Samir Nader, State Department correspondent for Radio Sawa described his friends' reaction when he joined the U.S. radio network beamed to the Middle East.

But the key to their acceptance, and their large audiences, is that they are the only full-time correspondents covering the White House, Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department in Arabic language broadcasting. So people in Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries can see and hear that they are getting the news direct from Washington. And they can see that Americans disagree -- and that U.S. society may not always be accurately reflected by Washington politicians.


Left to right: Zaid Benjamin, Washington Correspondent for Radio Sawa; Rana Abtar, Alhurra Congressional Correspondent; Samir Nader, Radio Sawa State Department Correspondent; and Scott Stearns, Voice of America's State Department correspondent

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Isolation from technology and social networks increases risk of labor trafficking, USC study finds

By CCLP Staff | February 25, 2015 0

Migrant workers who are isolated from technology and social networks are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation. These and other findings are detailed in a powerful new report, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, released today by the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. This project was made possible by a grant from Humanity United, a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom.

The report includes the story of a young woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia after being misled by a deceptive labor recruiter. Despite having a mobile phone she did not want to call her family and make them worry. While being transported to an unknown destination by her brokers, she was apprehended by police. Interrogated and imprisoned, she hid her phone and called a friend for help. After a month the Philippine government finally intervened. As it turned out, the woman's phone served to connect and disconnect her with unscrupulous recruiters, as well as support.

Researchers also found that the confiscation of cell phones, restriction of Internet use, and deception in online recruiting can be indicators of labor trafficking - a form of modern day slavery. As one of the survivors of labor trafficking interviewed for the report revealed: "The [employment] agencies are very strict on mobile phones. When you reach the the country destination overseas, they will get your phone."

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Bush campaign strategist named senior fellow

By CCLP Staff | February 19, 2015 0

USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy is pleased to announce a new senior fellow, Matthew Dowd. Dowd, 53, served as the chief strategist for George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and currently serves as a political analyst for ABC News.

As a CCLP senior fellow, Dowd will focus on "examining what we can do to bridge the political divides today in America involving campaigns, communication, and governing." He will also focus on "creating momentum in the social impact entrepreneur space with emphasis on linking capitalism and social consciousness."

Thumbnail image for MatthewDowd.JPG

During the past 30 years, Matthew Dowd has helped shape strategies and campaigns for CEOs, corporations, foundations, governments, candidates and presidents. He most recently founded Paradox Capital, a social impact venture fund which is focused on for-profit social good companies. His experience in business and politics will help bridge the paradox between capitalism and social consciousness.

Over the last 25 years, Dowd has been an active entrepreneur in Austin, Texas, founding three highly successful companies, including Vianovo and Public Strategies.

Dowd has worked both sides of the political aisle, but now considers himself an Independent. Dowd's political work includes serving as the chief strategist on two winning re-election efforts - for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and for President George W. Bush in 2004. His innovative approach on the 2004 and 2000 campaigns led the bi-partisan American Association of Political Consultants to name him Strategist of the Year.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he advised a wide variety of political clients including helping former Democratic Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock win election and re-election. He began his career as a member of Democrat U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen's staff, and has worked on the staffs of two Democratic Congressmen, including Dick Gephardt.

Dowd currently serves as a special correspondent and analyst for ABC News where he appears on "This Week," "Good Morning America," and "Nightline," and writes a regular column for various publications. Dowd covers not only politics but cultural, economic and spiritual trends as well. He has served on the boards of various non-profit entities including Seton Family of Hospitals, a Catholic nonprofit health system in Texas. He was adviser to Bono at the One Campaign, and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has taught seminars at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Dowd is the co-author of Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, a New York Times bestseller published by Simon & Schuster.


This post was written by Justin Chapman, CCLP project fellow

Kantor calls for end to ports showdown

By CCLP Staff | February 19, 2015 0

Michael "Mickey" Kantor, co-chair of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy advisory board, penned an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, "End the storm at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports."


In his February 16 op-ed, Kantor described the "frustrating and costly slowdown of operations at West Coast port facilities," caused by a deterioration in contract negotiations between management and labor.

"Now the latest deterioration in the contract talks -- which resulted in an almost complete shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports over the holiday weekend, with 33 ships lined up waiting to be unloaded Monday -- has the potential to turn the slowdown into a full-scale crisis," Kantor wrote. "If the West Coast's 29 ports are not returned to full operation soon, it will create a shock wave that reverberates across the economy, derailing a promising economic recovery that is creating jobs and restoring a sense of economic security for the nation."

The effects of the slowdown and shutdown of the ports have reverberated across the country, Kantor said, with high-value goods manufacturers and agricultural producers particularly feeling the hit. And if the situation devolves into a strike or lockout, Los Angeles and the rest of the country will experience lasting consequences.

"Some of these losses, while painful enough in the short term, could become permanent if foreign customers ultimately find the products they need elsewhere," he wrote. "Our competitors around the globe, be they in manufacturing or agriculture, are all too willing to poach future business from the U.S. Such a hit to the economy is almost impossible to measure, but it will continue to have real-world consequences going forward."

Kantor stressed that this crisis is preventable, and called on President Obama to step in and "use his bully pulpit -- and all other means at his disposal -- to ensure that our nation remains open for business."


Kantor is a partner at Mayer Brown in the Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles offices. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, he served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from 1996-1997 and as United States Trade Representative from 1993-1996. While in office, he led the negotiations that created the World Trade Organization, North American Fair Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and was involved in the initial steps towards the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He is a consultant with the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

This post was written by Justin Chapman, CCLP project fellow

Adam Powell

New US student exchange aims to double college-level exchange students to, from Latin America

By Adam Powell | February 12, 2015 0

WASHINGTON - The newest U.S. educational exchange initiative was the focus of this month's CCLP Communications Leadership Forum here. Called "100,000 Strong in the Americas", the public-private partnership will try to nearly double the number of college students going between U.S. and Latin American colleges and universities.


Citing what he termed "an East-West bias," Daniel Restrepo, former Special Assistant to President Obama for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said it seems that U.S. study abroad programs focus almost exclusively on Europe.

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