California State University Long Beach (CSULB) Journalism and Mass Communication’s professor Gary Metzker was recently selected Journalism Educator of the Year in the four-year university division by the California Journalism Education Coalition.
Metzker, who joined CSULB in 2008 after a 25-year career designing the front page of the sports section, the Metro section and the front page of the Los Angeles Times, was caught off guard by the selection.
“It caught me totally by surprise,” he said. “I didn’t even know there was such an award, let alone that there was a California Journalism Education Coalition. When I heard the announcement of an award during our Journalism Day ceremonies, I thought at first it was for our department chair. It wasn’t until I heard the honoree worked with high school students on newspaper design that it began to dawn on me who was the winner. I was stunned. I had no idea. I even felt a tear roll down my face.”
The California Journalism Education Coalition is a non-profit organization committed to serving scholastic journalism educators and their students.
He thinks one reason for his distinction is his commitment to area journalism programs as chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication Department’s Outreach Committee.
“I make a point of interacting as closely as I can with the Southern California Journalism Education Association, the group that deals with high school journalism programs from San Diego to Santa Barbara,” Metzker said. “As chair of the Outreach Committee, I visit high schools across Southern California and talk to their newspaper staffs about design. I try to explain to the students if they want their peers to read their product, their papers have to have impact.”
Metzker notes that one big challenge a lot of high school and community college journalism students have is recognizing that a center of visual impact will help to make people want to pick up their paper.
“Where is the nice, large visual image on the page?” he asked. “Whether you are working online or still working with a print product, you have 2-3 seconds to attract somebody to your story or your page. It has got to have impact. It’s got to be big. It’s got to stand out. Otherwise, the readers will move on.”
Metzker sees himself as a hands-on educator when he teaches his Journalism 305 media design class.
“By the third meeting, the students are working with designing a basic news story,” he said. “There’s no getting around it, you’ve got to jump in. You’ve got to learn how to build containers for stories. These future designers learn from the get-go they must develop a thick skin. If I see a design I don’t like, they’re going to know about it. I walk around the class constantly and students know right away whether I like something or not.”
His outreach commitment extends to attending the Annenberg USC community college and high school journalism days where he holds workshops and critiques student newspapers.
“I visit the College Media Association conventions in New York every March where I will sit down sometimes for seven or eight hours and critique school newspapers,” he said. “I try to put the name of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at CSULB out there. I want people to know that we have just as strong a journalism program as USC, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge.”
Metzker is a lecturer; editor of Beach Byline, the department’s online alumni magazine, Daily 49er adviser and Dig magazine adviser who recently received his master’s degree in communication. He has been in the newspaper business more than 40 years, having started by delivering the Sunday Philadelphia Bulletin. A University of Missouri graduate, Metzker has worked at newspapers in Delaware, Missouri, Florida and California. For almost 25 years, he worked at the Los Angeles Times in positions ranging from sports news editor, metro news editor, A1 editor and Senior Editor. During that time, he was part of four Pulitzer Prize-winning staff awards for breaking and spot news and was the designer for stories that earned a photographer the Pulitzer for photography and a writer the Pulitzer for best feature. Metzker has also won two Los Angeles Press Club awards and two Medals of Excellence from the Society for News Design. Metzker has presented seminars and workshops for the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, College Media Association, National High School Journalism Association and the Associated Collegiate Press.
Metzker is thrilled to be a part of this department’s faculty and is impressed with the enthusiasm he sees in the students he has met at CSULB. “This is a sharing and collaborative department and the students are fantastic,” he said. “It is a wonderful department where everyone works well together.”