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Leroy Aarons · Sheila Murphy · Laura Castañeda

Visiting Professor Leroy Aarons, Director, SOIN

Leroy Aarons passed away on November 28, 2004. Read more here.

Leroy Aarons was a journalist of 40 years, an author and a playwright.

As executive editor of the Oakland (CA) Tribune, he helped shepherd the paper to a Pulitzer for its 1989 earthquake coverage. Earlier he served for a decade as national correspondent and bureau chief for The Washington Post in New York and Los Angeles.

He was the author of "Prayers for Bobby," a non-fiction account of a family coping with a gay son's suicide, now in development for a television movie.

In 1990 he founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), whose 1,300 members in 23 chapters work with the news industry toward fairer coverage. He was a founding Board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, a prime source of training for multicultural newsrooms.

In 1991 he and Geoffrey Cowan, now the Annenberg School’s dean, wrote the documentary play "Top Secret: the Battle for the Pentagon Papers." The play won a gold medal from the Committee for Public Broadcasting when aired on NPR.

He wrote the libretto for the opera, “Monticello,” about the affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, which premiered in Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001.

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Associate Professor Sheila Murphy

Sheila Murphy (smurphy@usc.edu) is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Department of Psychology at USC. She received her doctorate in social psychology from the University of Michigan in 1990. Her research focuses on how individuals make decisions and the factors that influence them. Some of her most recent research includes:

  • A series of experiments showing that stereotypic and counter-stereotypic media portrayals can influence even unrelated judgments of a member of the stereotyped group, such as guilt or innocence.

  • A project sponsored by the Ford Foundation looking at the portrayal of gays and lesbians in major newspapers around the country and the impact of these portrayals on readers.

  • A series of laboratory studies that demonstrate that emotional information receives preferential processing outside of conscious awareness and that such early positive-negative reactions may significantly influence how subsequent information is incorporated into the decision-making process.

  • A project sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that examined the relationship between the advent of new drug therapies, including protease inhibitors, and a rise in unsafe sex among men who have sex with men.

  • A study looking at how people make sense of newly available genetic information in making decisions regarding genetic testing.

  • A study funded by the National Institute of Health looking at ethnic differences in healthcare decision-making.

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Assistant Professor Laura Castañeda

Laura Castañeda (lcastaneda@aol.com) is an assistant professor of journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication.

She has been a staff writer, editor and columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and The Associated Press. Her freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, BusinessWeek Online, Women's Wire, Hispanic Business, Latina, Latina Style, Latin Girl, Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review magazines.

She is co-author of The Latino Guide to Personal Money Management, which was published by Bloomberg Press in May 1999, and was released in Spanish by Seven Stories Press in 2001.

Ms. Castañeda holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and international relations from USC, and a master's degree in international political economy from Columbia University, where she also was awarded a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in business and economics reporting. She is part of an Annenberg team investigating press coverage of the recent Los Angeles mayoral election.

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