USC Annenberg's NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Theater launches "pop-up" newsroom

LOS ANGELES -- A "pop-up" newsroom called Engine28, designed to give extensive and thorough coverage of theater in Los Angeles, goes live online today A reporting staff from 28 media outlets across America will produce reviews, analysis, forums, podcasts and videos. Material will include coverage of several coinciding theater festivals and conferences: the RADAR L.A. Festival, the 2011 Theatre Communications Group (TCG) National Conference and the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

The period of "pop-up" operation will run from June 15 to June 20 as part of USC Annenberg's seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater.

"Rather than simply talk about new models for arts journalism at this year's NEA Arts Journalism Institute, we decided to create some," said Douglas McLennan, digital editor and chief architect for "Engine28 is an exercise in 'what if' arts journalism. What if you could throw a large group of journalists at a subject and invent creative ways of covering it? Engine28 will be a real-time laboratory for journalism about the arts."


Annenberg logo


Engine28 logo


Engine28 reporters and critics are the 21 NEA Arts Journalism Institute Fellows who will work closely alongside a select staff of top editors to cover the theater scene in Los Angeles. They are affiliated with The New York Times, NPR, Chicago Tribune,New York MagazineLos Angeles Times, KCRW, The Salt Lake Tribune, LA Weekly,St. Louis Beacon, PRI and WNYC, among other publications and public radio stations (see complete list below). 

"Think all-star team. That is Engine28. We figured that with two exciting theater festivals and two conferences  happening in town, we could respond to them best by doing what journalists do, which is reporting," said Sasha Anawalt, director of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute. "Although Engine28 will be public, we are still about arts journalism training. And to this end, we will still see many shows together and have joint sessions, but our main emphasis will be on individual attention given to the Fellows by our editorial staff, sitting shoulder to shoulder with them in the newsroom and working on stories together."
Engine28's editor-in-chief is Jeff Weinstein, former arts editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice. The editorial staff includes Susan Brenneman of the Los Angeles TimesRebecca Haithcoat of LA Weekly, Edward Lifson, formerly of NPR, Steven Leigh Morris, critic-at-large for the LA Weekly,Laurie Ochoa, co-founder of SlakeDominic Papatola, lead theater critic for St. Paul Pioneer PressMichael Phillips, film critic for the Chicago TribuneHoward Shapiro, theater critic and editor for the Philadelphia InquirerSuzi Steffen of Stage Directions and, and independent PBS producer/directorJennifer Maytorena Taylor.

Engine28 reporters and critics include: Christopher Arnott with The New Haven Advocate and New Mass Media, Inc., Martin Brady with Nashville SceneAnthony Byrnes with KCRW, Linda Fowler with and Advance Publications Inc.,Nancy Fowler with St. Louis BeaconBen Fulton with The Salt Lake Tribune,Rachel Lee Harris with The New York Times, Lou Harry with Indianapolis Business JournalGerry Christopher Johnson with Philadelphia Weekly and Philadelphia Tribune, Maura Judkis with TBD.comJenny Lawton with PRI and WNYC, Kerry Lengel with The Arizona RepublicRebecca Milzoff with New York Magazine, Jesse North with Stage RushKathryn Osenlund with, Julie Potter withSan Francisco Bay Guardian and In Dance, Walter Ryce with Monterey County WeeklyLaura Spencer with NPR and KCUR, Grace Suh with The Pitch and The FlickcastDavid Timberline with Style WeeklyBenjamin Waterhouse withWillamette Week.

The period of "pop-up" operation (June 15-20) coincides with the RADAR L.A. Festival, an international festival of contemporary theater produced by REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) in collaboration with Center Theatre Group and The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival (New York), the 2011 Theatre Communications Group (TCG) National Conference, hosted by the LA STAGE Alliance, as well as the first days of the second annual Hollywood Fringe Festival

For more information about the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater, visit

About the NEA Arts Journalism Institutes

The Theater and Musical Theater Institute at USC Annenberg is one of three NEA Arts Journalism Institutes, along with the Institute in Classical Music and Opera at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York and theInstitute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. In 2009, an International Institute in the Visual Arts at American University in Washington, D.C., also was created. Funded by a multimillion-dollar NEA initiative, these institutes offer intensive training for arts reporters and their editors. The four Institutes also partnered in October 2009 to produce the first-ever National Summit on Arts Journalism held at USC Annenberg. The summit explored new ideas for arts coverage and journalism business models in front of a live and virtual audience of nearly 20,000 people. For more information, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts 

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism ( is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, master's and bachelor's degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school's comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.


Victoria Hutter