Spielberg receives ASU award for communication excellence

June 19, 2008

Steven Spielberg, a three-time Academy Award winner, is the 2008 recipient of Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence. His latest film, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” starring Harrison Ford, opened in theaters worldwide late last month.

“This year’s award honors a master storyteller,” noted H.L. “Bud” Goodall Jr., director of ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. The award winner was announced June 19. Download Full Image

Spielberg, a founding partner of DreamWorks Studios, has written, directed or produced some of the top-grossing films of all time, including “Jurassic Park” and “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”

Among his film honors are two Oscars for best director and best picture for “Schindler’s List” and a third Oscar for best director for “Saving Private Ryan.” Those movies also earned Spielberg Golden Globe Awards.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) presented Spielberg with its Lifetime Achievement Award, as did the American Film Institute. Spielberg has earned three DGA Awards and 10 DGA nominations – more than any other director in history.

In crafting the award narrative for the ASU honor, respected broadcast journalist Hugh Downs noted that Spielberg is “a man who has demonstrated the power of narratives to inform, persuade and entertain, all the while reminding us of how important it is to be able to respect the past in order to imagine a better future.

“In an age defined by new global communication and shaped by our use of new communication technologies, it is only right and fitting to honor an individual who has used film – and the innovations we associate with his films – to change how we think about our worlds, both real and imagined,” Downs wrote.

“The stories that are the soul of Steven’s films, and the technological advancements that have been created to touch the heart and appeal to our capacity for wonder, deserve to be recognized not only as achievements in the filmic arts, but moreover as superlative achievements of human storytelling and inspiration,” said Downs.

In accepting the award, Spielberg said: “It is a great honor for me to receive this award, for many reasons. First, it comes from Hugh Downs whose work as a communicator I have long admired and respected.

“Second, because the award recognized the significance of human communication, which is something we need more than ever in today’s world. And third, because the root of this award springs from Arizona, which has meant so much in my own early life. So thanks Hugh, and thanks Arizona State University,” Spielberg said.

As a teenager, Spielberg lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. He attended Arcadia High School in Phoenix for several years, before moving to California. While at Arcadia, Spielberg wrote and directed a science fiction movie, “Firelight.”

In addition to filmmaking, Spielberg has devoted his time and resources to several philanthropic causes. According to biographical notes on the DreamWorks Web site, “the impact of his experience making ‘Schindler’s List,’ led him to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation using all his profits from the film. He also founded Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has recorded more than 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies. In 2005, the Foundation’s repository of testimonies were transferred to the University of Southern California. The new USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education will be dedicated to research and scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.

Spielberg is the second recipient of the Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence. Last year, the honor went to Larry King, host of CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

The idea behind the award came from school alumna Jeanne Lind Herberger who wanted to honor the school’s namesake by establishing an annual award to commemorate Downs’ legacy.

Downs has experience as a television host, producer and author. He is a living legend among American communicators, according to Goodall.

Downs served as anchor of “20/20,” host of “The Today Show,” announcer for “The Tonight Show with Jack Paar” and co-host of the PBS talk show “Not for Women Only.”

The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences exists to advance the understanding of message-related human behavior for the purpose of improving communicative interactions.

“Through the study and critique of human communication, we generate knowledge, creativity and understanding to facilitate healthy relationships and workplaces, civil and secure communities; and constructive intercultural interactions,” Goodall said. “We teach more than 16,000 students per year and we’re proud of our top-tier doctoral program.”

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Future journalists hone skills at 2 ASU institutes

June 19, 2008

For two weeks, 36 high school students from across Arizona and the nation will meet with local media professionals to learn about the craft – and challenges – of producing news. It’s all part of ASU’s inaugural Summer Journalism Institute and the Summer Broadcast Institute, both outreach programs from the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The students will work in two groups. Twenty of the students will be working with the State Press to design and publish a newspaper, while the remaining 16 will produce two broadcast projects with the help of Eight/KAET-TV staff and ASU’s journalism faculty. Download Full Image

Students will receive hands-on training in the workshops, which are complemented with presentations by local professionals and faculty addressing industry issues, including ethics, opinion writing and business management.

“We hope the students take back their experience to their own high school journalism and media programs to help improve and also inspire fellow students,” says Anita Luera, director of the High School Journalism Institute. “We also hope they will consider attending the Cronkite school after they graduate from high school.”

Most of the 36 students participating in the two institutes are still juniors and seniors in high school, but many already have their sights on coming to ASU.

One of those students is Erica Rodriguez, 18, who graduated from Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria this summer and has been accepted into the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She will begin coursework this August in the school’s new building at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

“Learning every day about journalism has really showed me that this is my passion, and that I really want to do this for the rest of my life,” she says. “The experience of the institute has motivated me to be ready and put everything forward to achieve this goal.”

Rodriguez wants to pursue a career in print journalism and hopes one day to become a columnist for Newsweek, Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair.

The Summer Broadcast Institute receives funding from the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Southwest Regional Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Cronkite School.

The Summer Journalism Institute receives financial support from the Arizona Newspapers Association, the Chauncey Foundation and the Cronkite School.