Award-winning educator Saltzman is “the American Dream embodied in a journalism professor”

By Alex Boekelheide

In a speech culminating in a standing ovation from his academic colleagues, USC Annenberg journalism professor Joe Saltzman accepted the Scripps Howard Foundation's award for Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year.

Given to news organizations and educators around the country, Scripps Howard's National Journalism Awards are considered among the most prestigious awards in American journalism. The Teacher of the Year award, which was given during the keynote ceremony opening the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, comes with a cash prize of $10,000.

"Saltzman is the American dream embodied in a journalism professor," the Scripps Howard judges wrote in their citation.

Saltzman, who also directs the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at USC Annenberg, credited his success as a teacher to the support of a teacher of his own: Ted Tajima, who taught English at Alhambra High School.

"Ted made everything I have done possible," Saltzman (pictured at center right, with AEJMC president Jan Slater and Scripps Howard president and CEO Mike Philipps), said in his acceptance speech. "In 1955, I was a junior and he found me standing in the hallway crying my eyes out. He asked me what was the matter. I told him that the high school counselor just told me I wasn't college material and that I should follow in my dad's footsteps and become a window cleaner. My dream of being the first person in my family to go to college was over.

"In all the years I've known Ted, I've never seen him that angry. He told me to wait there for him and went off to see that counselor," Saltzman continued. "When he came back, he told me that together, we would work to get me into the best school of journalism on the West Coast -- the University of Southern California -- and with a scholarship as well. And he made it happen. If it weren't for Ted, I probably would have ended up a window cleaner.

"Ted died in March," Saltzman added, "two weeks before I was told I had won this award. He was 88 years old and I accept this award in his memory."

Through more than 44 years as a faculty member at USC, Saltzman has played a substantial part in shaping journalism education at the university. He established the broadcast journalism curriculum in 1974, and his research into the portrayal of journalists in popular culture has spawned classes at more than two dozen universities.

Saltzman has been recognized for his education work with teaching awards from the USC Associates and the USC division of social sciences and communication, and with alumni awards from USC Annenberg and Columbia University.

As a journalist, Saltzman has earned a Columbia University-duPont broadcast journalism award, four Emmys, four Golden Mikes, two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a Silver Gavel, and one of the first NAACP Image Awards.

Saltzman will donate the $10,000 prize to The Jester & Pharley Phund, a nonprofit dedicated to helping ill children, especially those with cancer.