The new director of the master’s degree in specialized journalism (arts) favors culture

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Oscar Garza is a seasoned journalist who has worked for television, print, radio and digital platforms and has spent most of his career in cultural journalism. (Photo by: Areon Mobasher)

Updated on September 7, 2022 at 4:24 p.m.

As Oscar Garza begins his role as director of the master’s degree in specialized journalism (the arts) this fall, her goal is to teach students how to interact with the diverse cultures of Los Angeles and beyond.

After attending the University of Texas at Austin, Garza began his career hoping to become a documentary filmmaker. He worked at PBS stations in Sacramento and San Antonio, Texas, but was introduced to print journalism as an alternate storytelling medium and changed direction. Garza worked for the Los Angeles Times for nearly 15 years before becoming editor of “Tu Ciudad”, a monthly magazine for Latinos in Los Angeles that covered entertainment, lifestyle and current affairs. More recently he was senior producer of the daily arts and entertainment program, The Frame, and editor of the Southern California public radio station, KPCC, overseeing coverage of homelessness, health and emerging communities.

“Nearly my entire career in journalism has been in the sphere of cultural journalism and I hope to expose students to the intersection of arts, food, and social issues of living in Southern California,” Garza said.

After a strong career outside of higher education, what prompted you to pursue this principal opportunity at USC?

I have known Sasha Anawalt, the co-founder of the SJA program, for a long time. I was invited to lecture in some of her classes and she brought students to KPCC every year. I even hired graduates from USC Annenberg, so I knew the program. When she decided to retire, she encouraged me to apply. Similar to how a theater or music producer puts things together to create the final piece, I wanted to be able to use my skills to connect people and expose students to new opportunities and people who are pursuing their careers in ways that are not traditional because I understand that not everyone in the program enters with the intention of working solely in journalism. My new role as Principal gives me the opportunity to create an academic setting where students can learn more about how they can turn their passions into careers. I’m thrilled at the potential impact this can have on others.

What are your priorities for the program?

The Specialized Journalism (Arts) program isn’t just about food, art, and music – it’s about understanding culture. When new communities settle in new regions, what roots them there is the culture. Usually, restaurants, music, and art are where it all comes from and why this degree program is so necessary to study as communicators and journalists. When we know the communities around us, we learn the issues that are most important to them. My priority is to create more connections for students so they can learn to approach and experience new cultures and become storytellers and advocates in whatever they do after graduation.

The country is going to continue to be more diverse and it should also be the mission of this program to reflect that and contribute to the conversations from a cultural perspective. It is important to me that not only are the faculty and guest lecturers representative of the melting pot we live in, but I want to make sure that students from all walks of life feel at home and know of the opportunities this program can offer them. This involves placing more emphasis on what culture is outside of food and the arts and possibly expanding courses that examine the culture of politics and sports.

In your opinion, what are the challenges for future journalists specializing in the arts?

Well, if people are pursuing or wanting to follow a traditional path in journalism, there aren’t many jobs in newspapers anymore. There aren’t many magazine jobs either, but the digital space continues to grow and become more sophisticated and part of the landscape. So, there are careers that can be made and there is room for creatives to find their way and chart a new course. We can help students develop their future and help them meet these challenges.

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