Mas Branscomb
Max Branscomb with a copy of the Southwestern Sun.

Max Branscomb, a former newspaper reporter, was running his own public relations agency in 1996, when he found himself at Southwestern College serving as a judge for a writing contest.

“The college’s public information officer asked me if I would be interested in teaching a journalism class for students,” said Max. “I told her, ‘No way, I could never talk in front of people, I’m too shy.’ But, she was persistent. So, I agreed to teach for only one semester. After one semester, my plan was to leave the school and return to focus on my PR clients.”

That was 26 years ago and Branscomb is still at Southwestern in Chula Vista as a journalism professor and adviser for The Sun, arguably one of the top student-run newspapers in the nation. He also oversees production of Southwestern’s El Sol, a student-produced, four-color glossy magazine.

Earlier this month, the Associated College Press, a 570-member professional group of collegiate-journalism advisers founded in 1921, announced its top 100 student publications during the past 100 years in honor of ACP’s centennial celebration launch. The Sun was included on the list.

“I was flabbergasted when I got the news from ACP,” said Branscomb. “This recognition is similar to a list of baseball’s greatest players ever. I would expect Ivy League schools to be included on the list, along with major universities such as USC, UCLA, Missouri and others. But, we’re just a dinky little community college along the border. It’s a real testament to the hard work by our students over the years. I’ve been fortunate to have so many outstanding students, too many to count.”

To qualify for the Top 100 list, a college or university student-operated publication needed to be a previous recipient of an ACP Pacemaker award, which is equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for college student journalism. Over the past 16 years, The Sun has earned 13 Pacemaker awards. In addition, The Sun was inducted into ACP’s Hall of Fame in 2019.

The top 100 recipients will be recognized at the ACP Fall National College Media Convention in October in New Orleans.

Another accolade for Branscomb’s students was received earlier this year. The Western Publishing Association named the newspaper the nation’s Best Publication in the student publication category for the 2019-2020 academic year. That was the same timeframe when COVID-19 closed campuses and students were forced to produce editions by working at home. El Sol was named a runner-up in the same awards program.

“It was very challenging to publish a student newspaper during the COVID year,” said Branscomb. “It required a lot of improvising. We had to figure out how to do things that had never been done before.

“The Western Publishing Association recognition was especially gratifying because the category included magazines, websites and newspapers. El Sol won the award a few years ago, but I believe this was the first time for a newspaper.”

Branscomb, 63, is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed in summer 2018 with a tumor in his jaw. The diagnosis was followed by four surgeries in October and November that same year, seven weeks of daily radiation treatments and five weeks of chemotherapy.

“I had oral cancer and yet I had never smoked a cigarette in my life,” he said. “I lost about half of my jaw, a quarter of my teeth, all the lymph nodes in my neck and 50 pounds. I did several months of physical and speech therapy to learn how to speak again, but resumed teaching full time in the fall 2019. My doctors, nurses and therapists were amazing.”

Branscomb says he plans to continue teaching until age 70. “It’s so inspiring to come to work every day and have the opportunity to light a fire in the hearts of students,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see them fall in love with journalism just as much as I love it.”

KPBS Appeals to Younger Audiences by Dropping NPR Shows

KPBS 89.5-FM is dropping three popular National Public Radio shows from its broadcast schedule in a move to appeal to younger and more diverse audiences. In their place will be three other shows, including two new ones to debut in August, the station said.

Gone are “Radiolab” and “On the Media,” produced by WNYC, as well as the award-winning “Fresh Air,” hosted by Terry Gross since 1975, which airs on more than 500 stations and reaches an estimated five million listeners, according to NPR.

“Fresh Air,” “Radiolab” and “On The Media” will be available on demand as podcasts, KPBS said.

A statement from KPBS said the schedule changes “reflect the station’s priority to invest in programming to appeal to a younger, more diverse audience and meet listeners on the platforms they use.”

John Decker, interim associate general manager of content, said in a statement, “KPBS is extremely grateful for the many years Terry Gross and the team at WHYY put into producing ‘Fresh Air’ for our audiences. We recognize the show is a public radio institution, and served our audience well for many, many years, and we’ll always appreciate and acknowledge that contribution. ‘Fresh Air’ is one of the top downloaded podcasts, so we are confident our listeners will still be able to easily find and listen to the show, even though it’s no longer going to be on our on-air signal.”

Debuting on KPBS’ schedule in mid-August will be “Code Switch,” hosted by journalists of color who will explore how race impacts society, and “Life Kit,” featuring an hour of practical advice from experts.

A third new show, “Throughline” was added to KPBS’ lineup earlier in the year and has been a favorite with listeners, the station said. The NPR show hosted by Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei started as a history podcast and connects the events of the past with the present day. It airs at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

“The pandemic upended radio on-air listening,” Decker said. “The habit of listening in your car as you drove to and from work disappeared. We, like so many radio stations, saw a reduction in audience but digital content consumption increased exponentially. We anticipate this to continue and want to meet our audience where they are. These programming schedule changes are an effort to redistribute some of our programming funds and time slots in support of our needs in the podcast and digital content area. For the fans that are disappointed, I hope they still listen to the podcasts of these great programs.”

According to Insider Radio, an industry trade publication, KPBS tied as San Diego’s top-rated station in March with a 6.3 share. However, by May, KPBS had slipped to fifth place with a 5.3 share based on Nielsen ratings.

Carl Jackson Takes Over Show as Larry Elder Runs for Governor

Carl Jackson

Salem Media Network, along with its San Diego radio affiliate, KCBQ 1170-AM and 96.1-FM The Answer, has replaced conservative talk show host Larry Elder with Carl Jackson while Elder, a Republican, runs for California governor as part of the state’s upcoming gubernatorial recall election.

Jackson, a Black conservative who grew up near Compton, currently hosts a talk show on Salem-owned WORL 950-AM in Orlando, Fla. He also has served as a regular substitute host for Los Angeles-based Dennis Prager on Salem stations.

On July 12, the day when Elder relinquished his radio show to run for political office, KCBQ began airing “The Carl Jackson Show from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays.

“When I was trying to find my way out of the poor life choices I had made, I read two of Larry’s books. Now, it is such an honor to sit in his chair for a time during Larry’s run for governor,” Jackson said as reported by Insider Radio, an industry trade publication.

Salem said the move may be temporary as Elder will return to the network lineup if he is unsuccessful in his bid for governor. Elder’s syndicated talk show also is broadcast daily in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and several smaller California cities. He’s heard in all 50 states in 200 markets, with a national audience of about 1.5 million. He also has 2.5 million followers on social media.

“I know it’s a long shot,” Elder told the Associated Press, referring to his gubernatorial campaign. “I have common sense. I have good judgment. I’m born and raised here. I think I understand the state.”

Elder, a regular guest on Fox News and radio talk show host since 1993, is dubbed as “the sage from South Central,” a reference to the area of Los Angles where he grew up. The 69-year-old attorney told AP he decided to enter the race to oust first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom after witnessing California’s out-of-control homeless crisis, spiking crime rates, looming water and power shortages and coronavirus lockdowns.

If elected, Elder would be California’s first Black governor.

Elder’s entry crowds a GOP field that includes: former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; businessman John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in 2018; state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley; reality TV personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner; and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose.

TV’s Katy Temple Explains How to Give Effective Presentations

The National University Alumni Association’s speaker series will present a free online presentation on the fundamentals of an effective, excellent and authentic presentation with executive media coach and TV broadcaster Katy Temple from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 21. The public is invited to attend.

Katy Temple

Temple will discuss how to overcome nerves, build confidence, find your voice and present the best of yourself using effective preparation tools for either in person or virtual presentations. Her presentation is titled “Maximize Your Professional Persona: Guidance from a Media Expert.”

Temple is an Emmy Award-winning TV broadcaster who has covered sports for Fox Sports South, NFL Network and the Olympic Broadcasting Channel in Vancouver. She currently delivers sportscasts on KFMB-TV CBS8 and CW San Diego on a fill-in basis. She also currently coaches and trains sales teams, executives and professional athletes to make their voice camera ready. She also is a TEDxSan Diego speaker coach.

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.