Emerson professor, students, community leaders collaborate to rebuild Rosarito

By Nathan Homan
Published: Friday, September 17, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 17:07

Rosarito, Mexico was once a bustling tourist destination in the Baja Peninsula, less than 30 miles south of San Diego. But within the last three years, the extreme violence between the Drug Cartels and the Mexican Government combined with negative media attention have driven tourists away, depleting the community's economy. While the frontline of the war on drugs is considered to be Juarez, some 835 miles east of Rosarito, the impact of the horrific war images has driven people away from Rosarito.

Dr. J. Gregory Payne of Emerson College's communication studies department at first visited Rosarito as a student at the University of Illinois. Since then, Rosarito has become "like a second home" to him. Payne became the head of the Rediscovering Rosarito Project, a public affairs campaign aimed at public diplomacy and communication as the means to combat the crisis that Rosarito has experienced. He and 28 graduate students at Emerson began their grassroots campaign with elected officials, news sources, active citizens, community leaders and American expatriates in Rosarito in February 2008.

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September 11, 2011
Dr. Payne hosts 10th Annual Candlelight Vigil in rememberance of 9/11 anniversary

Dr. Payne once again coordinates, along with Sonia "Tita" Puopolo, the nations longest running memorial to the victims of 9/11.  In it's tenth year, the vigil focuses on bridging cultural barriers and opening up global communication and peacemaking.This year's event features Emerson President, Lee Pelton, Boston Public School students, Tita Puopolo, and others as the Emerson community commemorates the 9/11 attacks.
Dowload press release here:
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August 28, 2011
Dr. Payne initiates the Chile Global Diplomacy Project

Dr. Payne led a group of two Emerson students and one alumnus on a public diplomacy trip to Chile.  The group visited the cities of Concepción, Viña Del Mar, and Santiago, and met with students and professors at the DuocUC campuses in those cities to kick off the Chile Global Diplomacy Project. 

For more information about this grassroots public diplomacy initiative, please visit:

Click here to view a video of Dr. Payne's visit.

November 17, 2010
Kent State: A Requiem to be performed at Columbus State Community College

Theatre Columbus State will be performing Dr. Payne's play, Kent State: A Requiem on November 17-20. Admission to the event is free.  For more information, please visit the Theatre Columbus State website.

November 8, 2010
Dr. Payne to participate in United Nations 1015 Millenium Campaign

Dr. Payne was an invited guest lecturer and leader for United Nations 1015 Millennium Campaign and Advocacy Workshop in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 10 - 12.  The U.N Millennium Campaign was launched in 2002 to support civil society's efforts to hold political leaders accountable for the promises they made at the UN in 2000, to create a world without extreme poverty, where all citizens have access to education and healthcare - a sustainable world.  These commitments were translated in specific targets: the Millennium Development Goals, that must be in place before 2015. This is the second year Dr. Payne was invited to lead the advocacy workshop.

May 4, 2010

In remembrance of the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, Dr. Payne was asked to appear on NPR's All Things Considered  to talk about the tragedy.  The transcript and recording from the program can be viewed here.

September 28, 2009
Payne to present at NCA Chicago October 2009

Dr. Payne's proposal for a research-in-progress round table was accepted for discussion at the 2009 NCA Convention in Chicago.

September 14, 2009

Rosarito Public Diplomacy Updates

1. Rosarito Baseball Baja trip to the Padres game 
Event covered by Veritix Marketing:

The San Diego Padres are supporting “Rediscover Rosarito,” a public affairs project designed to restore the image of Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, as a “safe, secure, convenient location for tourism, retirement, and investment.” As part of the goal of forging a connection between the Padres and the Rosarito community, the team recently hosted eight young residents (13-18 years old) at their ballpark for a day of baseball. “We very much look forward to continuing to develop interest in both the Padres and in our beachside community, which is only 30 miles away from San Diego,” says Hugo Torres, the mayor of Playas de Rosarito. The Rediscover Rosarito project ( was started in 2008 and is led by a graduate student class at Emerson College in Boston. “I was personally excited to have helped build a much-needed bridge between the municipality and the Padres,” says Emerson student Jeffrey Werner. (RS)

2. Students honored at Foxloration film premier.

September 11, 2009

Dr. Payne once again coordinates, along with Sonia Tita-Puopolo, the nations longest running memorial to the victims of 9/11.  The event has since turned into a highly publicized event focusing on bridging cultural barriers and opening up global communication and peacemaking.  Full details in the following release:

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August 21, 2009
Payne spearheads second Rosarito Student Film Fest

Exclusive Behind the Scenes Video!

Official press release from Rosarito:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 AUGUST 20, 2009 
Rosarito Project Teaches 10 Students Filmmaking And Promotes City Image 

   ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO---Starting Sunday 10 local students will take a six-day filmmaking class led by an Emerson College professor who heads a project dedicated to conveying an accurate picture of the city in the United States.

   Public affairs professor Gregory Payne will lead the class with the assistance of Michael McManus, an independent television and film producer. Emerson college students and alumni also participate

   Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival, is supplying Panasonic HD cameras, Apple laptops, and other equipment for the local and high school and college students. The LA Program, a private international student exchange, also assists.

   Payne and others donate their time for the class and there is no cost to students or to Rosarito. The hotel donates facilities, lodging and food.

   During the intensive six-day class students will stay and study at the hosting Rosarito Beach Hotel while completing short films about Rosarito. Those will be shown Sunday evening Aug. 30 at Baja Studios, where Titanic and Master & Commander were filmed.

   This is the second year of the project, held in conjunction with Payne’s ongoing class project RediscoveRosarito (website:

   “Last year we had a great group of Rosarito students who produced some fine short films conveying the image of the city they know well,” Payne said. “I am excited to be doing it again.”

   Rosarito Beach Mayor Hugo Torres is a strong supporter of the projects.

   “Dr. Payne through the RediscoveRosarito project and the film project has been a great friend and supporter of Rosarito,” Torres said. “The city is very appreciative of the ongoing efforts of the professor, his colleagues and students.”

   Payne, whose family has a vacation home in Rosarito and who has visited the city for years, said he started the RediscoveRosartio project because much of the media coverage he was seeing in the U.S. was not giving an accurate picture of life in area.

   He said that much of the coverage of the Mexican government’s crackdown on drug cartels has created the misperception that Rosarito is unsafe for residents and visitors, and has had a devastating effect on the region’s economy.

   "Some of the coverage I was seeing in the U.S. was responsible and balanced, especially from media who knew the area best,” he said.

   “But a number of stories, including some from large national media outlets, perpetuated an image of the area that simply was not accurate. Sensationalism and simplification too often were the main elements in the reporting."

   The RediscoveRosarito website contains a media watch component among other elements.

   The project’s mission statement is “to sustain a grassroots, international coalition between students from Emerson College in Boston, local leaders of Rosarito Beach, and others dedicated to restoring the image of Rosarito Beach as a safe, secure, prime location for tourism, retirement and real estate investment.”

   “To put it as simply as possible, the overwhelming perception that has been created of Rosarito in the United States is not an accurate one.” Payne said.

   “Through the project, we want to bring the perception in line with the reality. Like places everywhere, Rosarito is neither perfect not without problems. But it is an outstanding city and a welcoming one to its many visitors and expatriate residents.”

   He added: “Mayor Torres has put some excellent services in place for visitors and foreign residents that you will not find even in major tourist destinations in the United States.”

   Payne is an associate professor and former chair of Emerson College's Department of Communication Studies. He is Director of the Center for Ethics in Political and Health Communication, which he co-founded in 1996.

   Payne holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is co-author of The Impossible Dream, a biography of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

   Joining Payne as instructor this year is Michael McManus, who has won a best actor from Campus MovieFest and produced a film that was finalist in national competition. He also is an alumnus of Emerson.

   Campus MovieFest, which is supplying equipment, is the only event of its kind to provide Apple laptops, Panasonic HD camcorders, AT&T phones, and training all for free to tens of thousands of students around the globe.

   Campus MovieFest President Dan Costa said he is “proud that Campus MovieFest can be a part of a program that encourages students to make a difference, and tell their story through movie making. That’s what CMF is all about.”

   Students at more than 50 colleges and universities have one week to create their own short movies, with each school hosting red carpet finales to showcase its top movies. 

   MEDIA CONTACT:   Ron Raposa



August 14, 2009

As the summer continues, Dr. Payne has been continuing his efforts in U.S.-Mexican public diplomacy as a part of his Rediscover Rosarito campaign.  Going on its third year, the program is devoted to restoring the image of Baja California as a safe, affordable place for tourism, real estate, and retirement, amidst a mediated reality of violence perpetuated by U.S. news. 

He has also been working once again with the annual L.A. Program, and is a major advocate of Campus Movie Fest.

Originally created by four students, and now the world's largest student film and music festival, Campus MovieFest is the only event of its kind to provide Apple laptops, Panasonic HD camcorders, AT&T phones, and training all for free to tens of thousands of students around the globe. Students at over 50 colleges and universities have one week to create their own short movies, with each school hosting red carpet finales to showcase its top movies. The best of the best move on to their CMF regional grand finales, which determine the top student teams that move onto the CMF International Grand Finale on the lot of Paramount Studios. Over 250,000 students have participated, earning over $1,000,000 in prizing. Thousands of past movies are available for viewing online at, as well as in-flight on Virgin America, on AT&T phones, and at the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival.

Last year, students in Rosarito showcased what the Baja means to them as a part of Campus Movie Fest, and this year Dr. Payne is continuing the program with Rosarito and the L.A. program, bridging cultural gaps between U.S. and Mexican students.