Photo by: John Davis

USC Annenberg and ViacomCBS establish scholarship to advance newsroom diversity

Today’s news media industry — from legacy newsrooms to digital media start-ups — is facing an imperative to deliver coverage that connects and resonates with the diverse communities it serves.

Recognizing that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a critical driver of the talent needed to meet this demand, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and ViacomCBS have created a new scholarship that advances a robust pipeline for Black journalists to both enter and lead in newsrooms. 

Supported by a $1-million endowment, the ViacomCBS HBCU Diversity in Journalism Scholarship, will cover yearly tuition costs for one or more graduates of HBCUs to enroll in one of USC Annenberg’s journalism master’s programs. 

Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, announced the new scholarship at USC Annenberg’s virtual celebration for its Class of 2021 on May 13.

“This new scholarship demonstrates ViacomCBS and USC Annenberg’s commitment to elevating Black excellence in journalism as well as a tremendous investment in supporting the diverse representation we all seek in the industry,” King said.

Despite industry-wide calls for a commitment to equality and inclusion in journalism, progress has been slow. According to the News Leaders Association’s latest Newsroom Diversity Survey, Black journalists represent 7.12% of the overall salaried workforce among newsrooms that responded, a less than 2% increase since the organization’s 1999 survey. The NLA’s study also showed that as of 2019, only 7.7% of newsroom managers are Black. 

“HBCU graduates are critical to advancing our country’s future, including the next generation of journalists,” said Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg. “We are proud to join ViacomCBS in accelerating Black journalists’ paths to success here at USC Annenberg so they can bring their invaluable expertise and perspectives to our nation’s media organizations and truly propel representation forward.” 

Bay added that the ViacomCBS HBCU Diversity in Journalism Scholarship will help remove the tuition cost barrier that may prevent HBCU alumni from pursuing graduate studies in journalism.

“CBS is deeply committed to having our talented newsroom teams reflect our audience and the world we cover,” said George Cheeks, President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS. “We proudly join with USC Annenberg to support HBCU graduates as they become tomorrow’s journalism leaders.”

The new fund demonstrates USC Annenberg’s continued investment in expanding scholarship support for journalism students of color. In 2020,  Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, an Annenberg Foundation vice president and director, GRoW @ Annenberg partnered with USC Annenberg to establish a multi-year scholarship that fully underwrites the cost for graduate studies for Black journalists. The previous year the Iger-Bay Diversity in Journalism Endowed Scholarship was established to support students who hail from communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved in the journalism field.

The ViacomCBS scholarship also builds upon long-standing collaborations between USC Annenberg and HBCUs. Those relationships date back decades and in recent years have been strengthened and amplified with graduate school fairs, visits with HBCU partners, and, most recently, a cross-school documentary produced by USC Annenberg and Prairie View A&M University students.