The Lead Podcast Publishes 100th Episode

The Lead Podcast Publishes 100th Episode

September 09, 2023
A graphic that reads, "Congratulations on publishing 100 episodes! Here's to the next 100!" Smaller text on the bottom of the image reads, "PodBean. Starting your own podcast has never been easier." The Lead logo is to the left of the main text. It says "The Lead" in black text on a white background.
The Lead podcast released its 100th episode. (Graphic/PodBean)

The Lead podcast, a show about how to get ahead in the news industry as told by the people who did, released its 100th episode on Sept. 6, 2023. The show has featured seven student hosts engaged in conversations with industry leaders about their careers and advice they have for aspiring journalists.

The Lead is sponsored by the University of Georgia’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership. The show launched in 2016 with its first host Daniel Funke, who produced the show under the direction of Keith Herndon, a journalism professor.

Funke said the first few episodes were a learning process as he figured out the best way to record and produce them.

“At the time, it seemed like each episode was almost like its own project. So now to think that there are 100 of them … I’m really proud of that,” Funke said. “It’s easy to think that the project would have died with me or changed dramatically or fallen off the radar for the Cox Institute, but it’s been heartening to see that it’s still going strong.”

Photo depicting two men sitting at a round table in front of microphones.
Daniel Funke interviews Grady dean Charles Davis for The Lead podcast in December 2016.

Herndon, who is now the Cox Institute’s executive director, said the podcast has endured because of the student hosts’ excellent work.

“All of our student hosts have committed to making each episode the best it can be,” Herndon said. “When you add that up over time, we have created a repository of amazing student work filled with insights from a wide range of industry professionals including those who hold Peabody Awards and Pulitzer Prizes.”

Each season of The Lead lasts one semester. Funke hosted the show for its first two seasons, after which Nate Bramel and Noelle Lashley took over as co-hosts for seasons three and four. Charlotte Norsworthy Varnum hosted for four seasons. During her tenure as host, The Lead won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence awards. She also produced a digital anthology based on several episodes that won two gold medals in an ebook competition. Varnum is now the executive producer of The Lead.

“It has been so rewarding to grow with The Lead podcast. Working on the podcast and subsequent book as a student and now as an executive producer has been a highlight of my professional timeline thus far,” Varnum said. “Cheers to all of the student hosts and media pros who have taken this show to new heights.”

Caroline Odom and Kyra Posey followed Varnum as hosts, each for two seasons. In 2022, Posey won the Innovator Award from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters for her work on The Lead and in other audio journalism projects.

Jacqueline GaNun, a graduate assistant in the Cox Institute, is entering her third season as host of The Lead. The last two seasons featured conversations with journalists focused on environmental journalism, business reporting, photojournalism and more.

“It has truly been an honor to host the show for the past year,” GaNun said. “I love producing each episode, and I’ve learned so much from the professionals who have been on The Lead. I hope other aspiring journalists are getting as much from it as I have.”