Monday, September 01, 2008

ed guthman, 89

I went to USC for the film school, but once I got there, I became interested in the university's highly regarded journalism program as well. As luck would have it, the school started offering a minor program in my sophomore year, and I enrolled immediately. Ed Guthman, who died Sunday at the age of 89, was my first journalism teacher.

I couldn't have asked for a better introduction into that world: He was a smart man who believed in ethics above all else. He would have quizzes about current events at the beginning of every class, which got me into the habit of reading the newspaper on a daily basis -- a habit that stayed with me. I was in his class when the O.J. verdict was read. He was an advisor to Coppola on The Godfather II in that film's sequence at the U.S. Senate, which he happily told me all about once I found out that fact. And he made a comment about a piece I wrote in that introductory class on newswriting that I have never forgotten: I referred to someone in their 50s or 60s as "old" and he politely pointed out that such labels were dangerously arbitrary, since he himself was already well into his 70s by that point.

The man taught me to be thorough and respectful in my journalism. He also introduced me to Norman Corwin, another professor at USC's journalism school, who changed my life forever. I thank him for all that.

In the AP's obituary, a USC student was quoted: "He exemplifies the ultimate journalist. I'm successful because of what (he) taught me." That's exactly right.