Legacies: Lessons learned by former editors in chief


In 100 years of production, the Daily Trojan has seen numerous notable editors in chief, from Olympic athletes to Los Angeles Times editors to the former chairman of the Times Mirror Co.

While some editors, such as Jeff Tylicki, covered the Olympics, others competed in the Games.

Charles Paddock served as the Daily Trojan’s eighth editor in chief in 1920-21, but he had already achieved fame as a track and field athlete at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. He won gold medals in the 100-meter race and 4 x 100-meter relay as well as silver in the 200-meter race.

“[He] was not only the fastest runner at USC but he was known as ‘The Fastest Human in the World’ after winning a gold medal in the 1920 Olympics,” said Frank Sotomayor, adviser to the DT.

Photo courtesy of El Rodeo

Paddock also competed in the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games and was featured in the film “Chariots of Fire.” He served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was killed in an air crash in Alaska in 1943.

Many former editors went on to work at the Los Angeles Times, mixing generations of DT alumni, from 1970 Editor in Chief Roger Smith to 2010 Editor in Chief Kate Mather.

Robert Erburu, who served as editor in chief in 1951-52, became the chairman of the Times Mirror Co. in 1986. At the time, the company owned eight newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.

He remained involved in USC, serving as founding board chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy, but has since retired. In 2005, the university announced the endowed Robert F. Erburu Chair in Ethics, Globalization and Development.

The DT has served as a training ground for hundreds of journalists who have gone on to distinguished careers, such as humor writer Art Buchwald.

Buchwald attended USC in the late 1940s, studying journalism and writing columns for the DT. He dropped out before finishing his journalism degree and moved to Paris, where he was a correspondent for Variety. In 1962, he began writing a political satire column, which earned him the nickname the “Wit of Washington” and gained him fame as it appeared in more than 500 newspapers nationwide.

In the 1980s, he established the Art Buchwald Scholarship, which is awarded for humor writing to a student on April Fool’s Day.

In 1993, USC awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Many former editors who went on to careers beyond journalism, from business to law to education, said their time at the DT taught them invaluable lessons about writing, reporting and decision-making that they still use today:

“The Daily Trojan was exactly like the professional newspapers surrounding the campus. It was like working in the real world of journalism. In Southern California, most of the people working on newspapers either had not gone to school or had gone to USC School of Journalism. It was one grand family.”

Joe Saltzman served as editor in chief during the 1960-61 academic year. He is now the director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture and a professor of journalism at Annenberg.

“I practically lived in that building, in the newsroom, for months, weeks on end. … Among other things, it was just a heck of a lot of fun. Aside from seriously having a chance to learn the craft, it was also just a tremendously fulfilling experience because you’re working with these energetic and often terribly funny people.”

Steve Padilla served as editor in chief in spring 1982. He is now an assistant national editor at the Los Angeles Times.  

“The most important thing I learned was that ultimately, the big decisions lay with me and I had to trust myself on them. Obviously there was always pushback from certain student groups who felt they were being covered unfairly, but even I had professors trying to get me fired or expelled for covering them. But I tried to just tell myself and my staff that if we were being fair and working hard, we would land on our feet, and we did.”

Sara Libby served as editor in chief in fall 2005. She is now transitioning from being an associate editor at Talking Points Memo to managing editor at Voice of San Diego.

“You can be an editor at a lot of college papers, but when you work at the Daily Trojan, the chance for you to cover truly high-profile things and compete with high-profile outlets is something that is completely unique to working for the student newspaper at USC. Personally, my favorite part is my best friends were the people I met through the paper. You combine this atmosphere of learning and thinking on your feet and you get to do it every single day with people that are life-long friends.”

Kate Mather served as editor in chief in fall 2010. She is now a writer for the Los Angeles Times

“I learned a lot about how big of an impact a newspaper can have in a community and that can never be taken lightly, that you’re sort of the mirror for the community, and it’s important to treat that with respect and care.”

Jennifer Mir, then Jennifer Hamm, was editor in chief in fall 1997. She is now the director of practice and development at Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

“Very rarely, especially as a young reporter, do you ever get to witness the entire production of a newspaper.”

Joanna Lin served as editor in chief in fall 2007. She is now a reporter for the California Watch.

“It’s really valuable to learn to write on real deadlines. When you don’t turn in a story in your journalism class, you might get an F. If you don’t turn in a [Daily Trojan] story, there is a big gaping hole in the paper, and that is not acceptable.”

Elisa Ung served as editor in chief in fall 1998. She now reviews restaurants for the Record in New Jersey.

“One of the hardest things [about working for USC Student Publications] is really learning to resist the temptation to get too involved. One of our big goals here in our office is to leave the Daily Trojan as open and student-operated as possible and let the students learn from the experience as I learned from that experience.”

Scott Smith served as editor in chief in spring 2001. He is now the associate director of USC Student Publications.

“I think about the Daily Trojan probably on a daily basis, planning that [journalism] class. I think a lot about Mona and how she operated as an adviser. I think about her, and I think about the DT every day and in every plan. I have all the newspapers from when I was editor in a three-ring binder.”

Brian Reed served as editor in chief in fall 2004. He now teaches English and journalism at Animo Pat Brown High School in Los Angeles.

“One of the biggest things when I think of the Daily Trojan was all the prep we did for the ’84 Olympic Games. … We had reporters that had the Olympic Committee on speed dial; they knew us by our first names.”

Jeff Tylicki was editor in chief in fall 1985. He is now the advertising manager for USC Student Publications. 

“The daily grind, being a part of it, being in the mix every day, sort of prepared me for the real world when I started doing this. Basically, the real-life experience you got from working in a real newsroom, an independent newsroom with similarly minded colleagues who wanted to ferret out the truth and write the good stories and cover their university as best they could — it was a great experience.”

Nick Divito served as editor in chief in spring 1996. He now freelances and works part time for Courthouse News Service in Las Vegas.