Photo by: John Davis

USC Annenberg establishes Luminary Fellowship program

With more than half of Americans listening to podcasts and an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue expected by 2021, USC Annenberg and the Sacks Family Foundation are investing in the future of podcasting. Leveraging this explosive growth, the Luminary Fellowship program hopes to infuse the podcast industry with fresh voices and perspectives. 

The program seeks to address the gap between public broadcast internships, which are typically unpaid, and a historic lack of diversity among news and editorial staff by providing one of the school’s diverse and talented recent graduates with funding for a six-month professional fellowship.

“Our students are eager to produce compelling and impactful journalism whether by broadcast or podcast,” said Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg. “With the foundation’s support, we have an extraordinary opportunity to create a vibrant new pipeline of talent and ideas that will shape the future of the medium.”

Recent alumni of USC Annenberg’s undergraduate and graduate programs, who identify with communities that are underrepresented in public radio newsrooms, may apply for the fellowship beginning in Spring 2020. USC Annenberg’s Office of Career Development will recommend top candidates and one student will be selected annually by KCRW, a Los Angeles-based National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate. At KCRW, Luminary fellows will build upon their USC Annenberg coursework with professional experience in researching, writing and producing podcast journalism in a real-world setting. 

Michael J. Sacks, chairman of the Sacks Family Foundation and Luminary, a podcast content and technology company for which the fellowship is named, emphasized that supporting journalism students pursuing the vocation has never been more important.

“We are honored to support a world-class institution like USC Annenberg and students who are passionate about public broadcasting and podcasting in particular — a unique medium where long-form and investigative journalism thrives, uncovering important stories and bringing them to life for listeners around the world,” he said.

Additional funding from the foundation will also support podcast-focused curricula and programming at USC Annenberg, including academic and professional development offerings for students, seed funding for faculty members to launch new podcast classes, and a Luminary Podcaster-in-Residence program.

USC Annenberg joins Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute in offering the fellowship over the next three years.