‘The Talk of Troy’: Novel broadcast show heralds new age of sports journalism at Annenberg Media and at large

Annenberg students create a sports commentary show where everyone, regardless of sports knowledge or experience, has a seat at the table.

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“The Talk of Troy” — the first live sports radio program created and produced by students in Annenberg Media — serves as a platform for hosts to engage in roundtable discussions and live commentary while obtaining instant feedback and questions from the audience.

The show is the brainchild of Jonathan Williams, a graduate student in specialized journalism, who desired to found a community where “graduates and undergraduates can work together to collaborate and to create something that will be long here after we’ve gone and graduated.”

During the radio program’s conception, Williams chose a roundtable format that mirrored the Fox Sports and ESPN LA 710 radio broadcasts that he grew up listening to.

“I think there’s something about radio that it’s almost like sensory deprivation in a way,” he said. “Because there’s no visual [imagery], I think it’s more intimate, and I think it’s more human.”

Williams developed the show in partnership with Eric Lambkins II, a graduate student studying specialized journalism. When the duo launched the project anchored in their mutual passion for professional sports and social commentary, Lambkins wanted “the team to be like water, meaning that it could take whatever shape or form that it needs to, and it could just flow in the event that there’s an obstacle or barrier or impediment.”

The live, multicamera program features a panel of co-hosts who spend the 90-minute runtime on discussions that range from esoteric debates on sports to anecdotes about their academics and reflections on popular culture. Though the segments generally remain separated, they sometimes converge into an NFL-style draft pick of fast-food restaurants or diverge into tangents about the hosts’ first times cursing in front of their parents.

On the style of the show, Williams said, “I think the future of sports media [is] a roundtable where people discuss sports and topics. I think that’s where the industry is going and we may be at the forefront of that.”

Despite the ability of the show’s live element to derail the broadcast at any moment, conversation flows naturally from the commentators, whose core group includes specialized journalism graduate students Williams, Jeremy Kole, Chas Messman, Ian Roddy and Austin Stanovich, as well as Nikki Thomas, a Ph.D. candidate in communications.

“The Talk of Troy” initially started airing on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. but has since added another air day on Thursdays to accommodate its popularity. Williams and Lambkins’ fervent support for uplifting the voices and opinions of budding female professionals in the industry has also increased the team’s size from five to eight members on-camera and from one to three behind the scenes.

“The reason why I am very proactive with recruiting women is because I feel that they have a unique take on sports,” Lambkins, the executive producer, said. “I just believe guys have blind spots that we’re unaware of and women truly make us better–and it’s not just women. I want to attract people who are non-binary or have a proliferation of just different mindsets and ideas and perspectives.”

Although the show first aired with five male commentators, it now features two additional female hosts, including J’nai Knox, a junior majoring in journalism.

“I feel very welcomed to be on there,” Knox said. “It’s such a welcoming environment to have, feeling that I have the space to take, not that I have to make my own space.”

Lambkins oversees the show’s streaming and direction in the production booth while manning the soundboard and communicating updates to the hosts. In addition, he coordinates all training behind the scenes in hopes of leaving behind a space for future students interested in broadcast journalism, he said.

If you ask Williams or Lambkins who the real mastermind is behind “The Talk of Troy,” both will humbly respond with the other’s name. Despite their self-effacing demeanors, one thing is crystal clear: By capitalizing on the universal rise of podcast streaming, this sports-loving duo has inaugurated a new chapter of live radio broadcast and sports journalism at Annenberg Media.

“The Talk of Troy” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Twitch and YouTube.