The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in collaboration with MediaShift — a virtual media company and online magazine that covers how traditional media is changing due to technologies like podcasting, blogs and social media — organized a women’s hackathon over the weekend in Wallis Annenberg Hall to provide opportunities and spaces for women to turn their ideas into viable businesses.The winner of the hackathon was the team with the idea for Habitat, an environmental news startup that uses virtual reality storytelling. Honorable mention was given to LikelyMedia, which would use virtual reality and real data to make projections about the future and VRacity Media, which would provide virtual reality journalism content via a subscription service and supported by sponsored content.“It’s really important for journalists to explore this area because it’s growing so rapidly; it’s a very powerful form of storytelling,” said Amara Aguilar, assistant professor of professional practice in digital journalism at USC Annenberg and one of the judges of the hackathon. “It’s especially important for women to be involved in this industry because women are greatly underrepresented in these industries, and we really need that diversity to lead and to tell powerful stories.”Publisher and founder of MediaShift Mark Glaser said Hack the Gender Gap came from West Virginia Reed College of Media, one of the sponsors of the event. Glaser worked with school to host a similar hackathon in October 2014. Glaser said he visited USC last January and discussed the possibility of hosting a hackathon at USC with Willow Bay, director of the school of journalism.“The idea is how can we give women and students a chance and space that they might not get and feel empowered to be in teams, creating things on their own, and having great support network,” he said. “The goal has always been [to] get women to do what they might not be able to do under circumstances and [to] give them a unique experience they wouldn’t get otherwise especially in schools where they don’t have things like this.”The hackathon, attended by 75 students and participants and 15 mentors from the fields of technology, marketing and media who served as facilitators, started Friday night with a panel discussion.The talk hosted female technology and business leaders that focused on how women in technology and media are achieving success, breaking down barriers and making a difference.The panel included Sara Christenson from the investment company Raptor Group; Alex Schaffert, managing director of digital strategy and innovation at KPCC: Carrie Southworth, cofounder of Twigtale, a platform for personalized children’s books; Potsie Rivera, former UI UX designer for dating app Grindr; and Jennifer de la Fuente, web designer and Annenberg adjunct professor.Bay, the moderator of the panel asked the panelists, “Is tech a boys’ club?” Schaffert answered.“The world is a boys’ club. But change is around the corner. There are free coding classes in libraries in Los Angeles. Girls are already going to the libraries,” she said. “We just have to make sure that these skills are available [and accessible] in public spaces.”Bay added that women are heavy users of social media and the key audience in that marketplace, yet companies are not hiring the majority of their user base.“That’s what our research has shown as well — the majority of users of social media are women,” said Jean Truelson, Annenberg alumna, CEO and founder of the San Francisco-based company Dogpatch and a mentor for the hackathon. “For me as founder, I want to be able to build enough of that space and support in social media. I know the majority of my potential users are women. I’m here to support them because I want to be able to hire them later, or support their company and future startups that are going to get out of this group.”Truelson said the best advice for women interested in entrepreneurship is to get started.“Don’t get too stuck in just doing research, or ‘I need more education,’” she said. “You can go and get an MBA if you want to work for a major company but if you want to learn how to start a company. Start a company. That’s when you really learn everything you need to do and make all the mistakes — it’s truly a good job training. If you have an idea, and you’re truly passionate about it, go and do it.”Students who attended this hackathon echoed this enthusiasm and interest. After the opening panel, the students formed teams to come up with startup ideas utilizing immersive journalism and virtual reality.“I like the opportunity to collaborate, and it’s an interesting environment where folks from across the country, with different skill sets, different years as well as experience, just to be able to work together and collaborate on a project is a really interesting proposition,” Monica Castillo, a graduate student in journalism said. “I don’t know much about [virtual reality], and I learned a lot already so far, whatever its limitations, whatever we can make [out of] it. This is kinda like a classroom.”Jordyn Holman, a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and a columnist for the Daily Trojan, said the hackathon challenged her team to think outside of the box because virtual reality is so different from traditional print and digital journalism.“Technology is the future,” she said. “You need to get these technical skills, but conferences like this shows you exactly what skills you need and exactly how they can be used for reporting specifically [with] virtual reality — which takes people right there — that’s kinda the whole point of journalism, to make people understand. Virtual reality is the biggest gift in making people understand what’s happening.”
While DWP board members said the settlement was a fair compromise to get crucial water infrastructure upgrades moving, some community members were troubled that the utility will continue to use pricey DWP crews. “If these differentials are this substantial, it is absolutely idiotic to contract in-house,” said Jack Humpreville, who testified at the hearing. “Outside house, if properly monitored, makes much more financial sense to ratepayers and taxpayers of Los Angeles.” Under the settlement, DWP will add a third, 20-person crew to help build trunk lines. IBEW agreed to not challenge the hiring of outside contractors for 13 major water system construction projects. DWP officials have estimated the upcoming trunk line projects will cost $737 million over the next decade, but could have cost as much as $1.3 billion if all were completed by in-house crews. Neighborhood council activist Brady Westwater said the agreement was passed with little public notice, no community input and no disclosure of how much it will cost ratepayers. Despite concerns that DWP crews nearly double the cost of major pipeline construction projects, the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a deal to expand the number of in-house crews. The deal, approved without discussion, marked a compromise with the DWP union to allow the Department of Water and Power to contract out more pipeline work without union challenge. The settlement ends a stalemate with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which had sought to limit the use of outside construction contractors to build trunk lines, the massive pipes that carry water to smaller lines. DWP managers wanted to use private contractors for the work after comparisons showed in-house crews roughly doubled both the cost and time of trunk line projects. “How can you say there is no fiscal impact when there is one?” Westwater said. “We don’t know what they’re doing. When they hide something like this, it’s real hard to know what they’re doing.” But DWP Board President David Nahai said the settlement was a compromise that will add staff but also allow the utility to save money with outside contractors. “To add a third crew, which gives the department a certain amount of in-house capability, and to contract all of the rest of the work, should not be something that raises eyebrows,” Nahai said. “We’re trying to make sure we act in a way that’s wise, fiscally.” But Councilman Greig Smith said city leaders know DWP employees are among the highest paid in the city at the same time they have refused to challenge IBEW over issues of pay and efficiency. “Any time we do anything over there with their personnel, it is going to cost more. There are too many people over there and over here that are afraid to stand up to that union,” he said. Also Tuesday, the DWP board agreed to pay $2.1 million a year to the Joint Training Institute, a facility in Sun Valley run by the IBEW and co-managed by the DWP. The institute was created by the union and DWP in 2002 to provide employee training and education. The DWP contributed $6 million through 2004, and the new agreement will provide continued funding. firstname.lastname@example.org (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!