Annenberg teacher receives national award

Joe Saltzman, professor of journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, was recently named the national Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Honored · Joe Saltzman, professor of journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, has taught at USC for 44 years. - Courtesy of Gus Ruelas

Saltzman will be honored at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention in St. Louis in August, where he will receive a $10,000 cash prize. Saltzman will also be recognized at the Scripps Howard Foundation’s National Journalism Awards dinner in Cincinnati on May 3.

“It is a great honor, and one that was totally unexpected,” Saltzman said.

Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism, said she nominated Saltzman, who has worked at USC for the last 44 years, because she thought he fit the requirements of the award perfectly.

“It occurred to me as I was reading the description of the award that it had Joe written all over it,” she said. “It not only recognizes career achievement but also looks at teaching, service and research. I thought Joe had just excelled in every one of those areas, and so I thought, ‘Please, please, if there is justice, this will happen.’”

Saltzman is the director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, a project of the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg.

“When I started researching the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture 25 years ago, no one was much interested in the subject. It wasn’t considered an academic discipline, and few universities offered courses in the subject,” Saltzman said.

Today more than 50 universities are using IJPC materials in their classrooms to study subjects ranging from history to journalism to gender studies. In addition, there are now about 250 IJPC Associates, members who have access to videotapes, CDs, books and other materials in the database and who represent more than 150 academic institutions around the globe.

Many of Saltzman’s previous students attribute their successes in journalism to the knowledge that they’ve gained from him.

Catherine Garcia, who is currently the 4 p.m. weekday news anchor at NBC San Diego, said she still uses what she learned in the classroom with Saltzman today.

“I took Professor Saltzman’s documentary class when I was a senior, and I still use some of the interview techniques and writing tricks that he taught us in my daily work as a journalist,” said Garcia, who graduated from USC in 1995 with a degree in broadcast journalism. “He had a way of turning what seemed like an impossible task, such as writing an entire documentary, into digestible and even enjoyable steps.”

Stephen Randall, the current deputy editor of Playboy and a 1972 graduate of USC, said he even altered his class schedule to ensure having Saltzman as a professor.

“When I was a student at USC, the first thing I learned from the J-school grapevine was that Joe, who then taught a reporting class in the evenings, was the best teacher there,” Randall said. “I actually delayed taking the class to make sure I got him as a teacher, and not some lesser professor. He totally lived up to the hype. I still remember things he taught me and use them.”

Saltzman’s influence has not only reached his students, but has also impacted the development of the Annenberg curriculum both print and broadcast journalism.

“He continues to shape the school powerfully,” Overholser said. “He is heavily involved in curriculum revision and writes syllabi for both his classes and others.”

Saltzman says he plans to donate his $10,000 award to The Jester & Pharley Phund, a non-profit organization that helps children who have cancer and other diseases, as well as creating love for reading among students across the country. The charity is based on the best-selling children’s book The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, which was written and illustrated by Saltzman’s late son, David, who passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1990.

“It will make this Christmas a very happy time for some children, who need laughter at this time in their lives more than ever,” Saltzman said.

To students who are currently in the Annenberg school, Saltzman says that there is no more exciting time to become a journalist.

“I tell all my students to ignore the doom and gloom that they hear about the future of journalism,” Saltzman said. “For the young, journalism is not only alive and well but also waiting for the next great idea that will transform the journalism of the past into the journalism of the future.”