CSUN's Jerry Jacobs Taught Broadcasting

An award-winning broadcast journalist and producer, Jacobs joined the CSUN Department of Journalism as adjunct faculty in 1972. He was 83.

[This news release comes from Cal State Northridge.]

Journalism professor emeritus Jerome (Jerry) M. Jacobs passed away June 8. He succumbed to metastatic melanoma in Pacific Grove, CA, near Monterey, where he lived after retiring in 1992 from California State University, Northridge. He was 83. 

An award-winning broadcast journalist and producer, Jacobs joined the CSUN Department of Journalism as adjunct faculty in 1972. Later, in 1978, he was appointed to a temporary full-time lecturer position before he was hired as an assistant professor on the tenure-track in fall 1979. He also taught broadcast courses at UCLA for several years. During his years at CSUN, he met and married Nancy Baker, who also taught part time in the journalism department where she advised Scene magazine and taught article/magazine writing.

“The hundreds of students who learned basic radio-and TV-reporting skills from Jerry held him in the highest esteem, at least partly because he held them to the highest standards,” said Cynthia Rawitch, CSUN’s vice provost and a journalism department colleague. “Many of them sought him out for advice years after they graduated and he retired.”

Jacobs came to teaching from acclaimed news, public relations and entertainment careers. He was born Dec. 29, 1928, in New Brunswick, NJ. He edited his high school newspaper, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Rutgers University, worked at several New Jersey newspapers and served in the U.S. Army as a combat correspondent during the Korean War.

After the war, in 1954, Jacobs joined the NBC Network News Department in New York. During his 13 years there, he worked as a radio reporter, television field producer and writer, covering every major story of that historic time period—from space flight and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

Jacobs moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to work as a documentary writer/producer/director for Wolper Productions. He later returned to news, joining KABC-TV as an assistant news director in 1974 and then in 1976 as executive producer at KNXT, a CBS-owned and operated news station later renamed KCBS. As Jacobs’ teaching career gained steam, he spent a year as a freelance writer/consultant/producer on several corporate public relations campaigns.

“Jerry was one of the pioneers of television journalism,” said Rick Marks, another colleague in the CSUN broadcast program. “He covered the great stories at the birth of TV news: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and so many others. He was a great friend and mentor to me, insightful, funny and always helpful.”

Marks, an associate professor of broadcast journalism, noted that Jacobs helped develop the CSUN broadcast news curriculum.

Jacobs was the primary instructor and faculty adviser for KCSN-FM’s news operation and, in 1988, launched “Valley View,” the weekly TV newscast still produced today for public access cable viewers in the San Fernando Valley. The Los Angeles Times reported on the premiere of the student-produced show, citing Jacobs’ recent six-month Gannett Foundation-funded tour of television stations in the United States, Japan and Europe. Jacobs wanted to “cover our own backyard,” he told the Times, citing the shift by local stations to national and international news thanks to the then-new technology—satellite news transmission.

His book, Changing Channels: Issues and Realities in Television News, was published in 1990.

“Jerry was a brilliant, dedicated journalist and educator. Above all, he was a kind and loyal friend. I will miss him,” said Marks.

Aside from dozens of military and professional honors and awards, Jacobs also was recognized for his academic contributions and projects. He garnered several grants to pioneer programs and projects to advance the CSUN journalism department’s radio and television broadcast program.

Jacobs’ death was reported last week in the Monterey Herald. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Baker Jacobs, two daughters, a stepson, four granddaughters and four great-grandchildren. A brother and sister also survive him.

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