Annenberg Foundation gift aims to drive diversity at USC journalism school

New initiative will provide scholarships for students and fellowships for working journalists

November 30, 2015 USC Annenberg staff

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The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has launched a long-term initiative aimed at increasing access to journalism education and professional development for people from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Funded by a $5 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, the Annenberg Leadership Initiative will support journalism students and young professionals from communities that are underrepresented in the news industry.

“This generous gift speaks to the Annenberg Foundation’s unshakable and admirable commitment to diversity in journalism,” USC President C. L. “Max” Nikias said. “With newsrooms being reimagined for the digital age, and the breadth and shape of the news ever changing, it is critical that young reporters and editors of different backgrounds be a part of the process. Such diversity encourages critical thinking, and critical thinking leads to more insightful journalism.”

These young professionals will enrich newsrooms with new voices and perspectives.

Willow Bay

Willow Bay, director of the School of Journalism, added: “We are building a new generation of technologically and journalistically skilled communicators who will lead the complex digital newsrooms of the future. These young professionals will enrich newsrooms with new voices and perspectives, which will be a driving force in informing a broader audience.”

The Annenberg Leadership Scholarships will provide annual tuition for three master of science graduate students from socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in journalism and communication.

The yearly Annenberg Leadership Fellowships will support three working journalists who will teach at the Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center at Wallis Annenberg Hall.

“The future of news will be ever more diverse, and we are helping build that future here at Annenberg,” said Dean Ernest J. Wilson III.

Empathy and adaptability

The initiative reflects USC Annenberg’s dedication to developing the core skills outlined by Wilson’s Third Space initiative — 360-degree thinking, cultural competency, intellectual curiosity, empathy and adaptability — skills that are practiced at all levels of the school.

The Annenberg Leadership Initiative will also fund an expanded Community Reporting Initiative focusing on meeting the needs of underserved communities. Working with USC Annenberg faculty and professional journalists, students will develop digital fluency by using emerging technology to reach new audiences and cover stories in more effective, compelling and accessible ways.

“If we want a news industry that truly understands and covers all of America, then our news industry has to embody all of America,” said Wallis Annenberg, chairman of the board, president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “We have to attract the best and brightest of every race and ethnicity and economic background — we have to equip them with the most cutting-edge tools and skills so our news coverage can be just as inclusive and forward-looking.”

The Annenberg Foundation’s gift supports the Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort that seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world. Four years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $4.6 billion.