NBCUniversal News Group wants to broaden the range of faces viewers see behind the anchor desk when they tune in for the latest information about the world.
The NBCU unit, which encompasses NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, is launching NBCU Academy, a journalism training and development program for four-year university and college students that utilizes hands-on experiences with the company’s journalists, as well as funding. NBCU is teaming up with 17 different academic institutions, including those that tend to serve Black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, indigenous and tribal students.
“Our hope is that this is a pipeline for the entire industry,” says Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, in an interview. “We started the NBCU Academy to help bring more people into the industry from communities that may have been overlooked in the past.”
The executive, who took the reins of NBCU’s news operations in May of last year, has set an ambitious goal, pledging to make NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC more representative of the consumers they serve and inform. He has called for the units’ employee base to be 50% female and 50% people of color over an undefined period of time.
“We want to make sure that we give broader people exposure to the impact that journalists can have,” says Conde. “We want to address any challenges, any barriers, whether they be economic, geographical, or in some cases, have to do with access to opportunity and education. This is an industry that is so fast-changing that it is very competitive, not only to get into, but to stay relevant in.”
Among the academic institutions NBCU Academy will partner with are Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC; Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA; El Camino College in Torrance, CA; Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM; City College of New York in New York, NY; University of North Texas in Denton, TX; and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA
NBCU Academy will invest a total of $6.5 million in the effort, including scholarships worth $3.5 million over the next two years, and provide equipment and work with professors to develop seminar courses. NBCU journalists, executives and management from teams across NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo News will participate as guest lecturers. NBCU Academy will also create educational content for early-career professionals and seasoned journalists who want to remain up-to-date on changes in the business.
NBC News launched a similar effort, NBC University, about a decade ago. Under its aegis, the company offered a training program through journalism conferences and conventions.
Since Conde’s arrival, NBCU’s news operations formed a unit devoted to coverage of race, equality and justice and hired Tracey Eyers, an editor for that initiative. The company also hired Nina Sen, a new member of its standards team, to focus on diversity and inclusion.