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USC Annenberg awards fellowships, health data reporting grants to 18 journalists

USC Annenberg awards fellowships, health data reporting grants to 18 journalists

Picture of Michelle Levander
(File photo)

As the Center for Health Journalism’s Data Fellowship enters its fourth year, we are delighted to welcome a talented group of journalists who are proposing fellowship projects that promise to make a difference for their communities.

Eighteen journalists from around the nation will be at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism this week to take part in the Center’s 2019 Data Fellowship.

The highly selective program, which runs from Oct. 23-26, helps reporters gain investigative data skills through an intensive four-day series of workshops. It also provides six months of one-on-one mentoring by some of the best data journalists in the country and grants of $2,000 to help underwrite reporting and data acquisition.

The Data Fellowship is designed for reporters who want to learn how to harness and analyze data to produce journalism that can shape decision-making, policy and legislation on health policy, community health and child and family well-being. Each fellow and his or her newsroom commit to a major investigative or explanatory project that is completed with help from the Center’s data journalism mentors.

Topics fellows will explore in their projects include water quality issues in the burn zone of the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California; the link between air pollution and health problems in California and Tennessee; the effectiveness of San Francisco’s safety net health program; missed opportunities to prevent the deaths of homeless people in Los Angeles; reasons for low vaccination rates in the Mountain West; the deaths of children with previous abuse histories in Arkansas and California; and how gaps in services hurt the health of newborn babies in Texas’ border counties.

The Data Fellowship is funded by generous grants from three of California’s leading health foundations, The California Endowment, the center’s founding funder and the New York-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, as well as the California Health Care Foundation, which helped found the program.

Program speakers include Ellen Gabler, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, whose reporting on health care quality at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital and across the nation prompted an immediate call for action and needed reforms; Sarah Cohen, the Knight Chair in Digital Journalism at Arizona State University and former data editor at The New York Times, on tips for obtaining information from reluctant bureaucracies using Freedom of Information Act requests; and Kathleen McGrory, deputy investigations editor at the Tampa Bay Times, who received the 2019 George Polk award for local reporting for “Heartbroken,” a series of reports on hospital problems that led to the deaths of at least 11 children. Investigative reporter Joe Rubin, meanwhile, will tell the story behind the story of his 2017 Fellowship project, an investigation into poor oversight of worker lead exposure — a series of stories that just led to a new state law.

In addition, fellows will benefit from the expertise of three distinguished data journalists who will lead skills sessions during the training program and serve as mentors tor six months afterwards. They are Meghan Hoyer, data editor at The Associated Press; Paul Overberg, data reporter at The Wall Street Journal; and Cheryl Phillips, Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University. Through the mentoring and reporting process, fellows put lessons learned during workshops into practice to produce a major project that can illuminate important issues for their communities.

Several Data Fellows also will receive engagement grants to help them connect with their audiences and communities in more intimate, meaningful and impactful ways as part of our ongoing commitment to advance and support “engaged journalism.”

Since 2005, the Center for Health Journalism has educated more than 900 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism, with an emphasis on the relationship between health and place. Past Fellowship projects can be found here

Here are the 2019 Data Fellows:

2019 California Data Fellows

Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle

Larry Buhl, Capital & Main

Meredith Cooper, Chico News & Review

Cynthia Dizikes, San Francisco Chronicle

Lindsey Holden, San Luis Obispo Tribune

Peter Johnson, New Times

Jason Kandel and Lolita Lopez, NBC4 Los Angeles

Ida Mojadad, SF Weekly

Teri Sforza, Orange County Register

Matt Tinoco, Southern California Public Radio


National Data Fellows

Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

Sarah Macaraeg, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune

Ginny Monk, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Erica Morrison, Oregon Public Broadcasting

Terrell Ross, Georgia Public Broadcasting

Marina Starleaf Riker, San Antonio Express-News 

We look forward to partnering with them and their news outlets!

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COVID-19 has made every journalist a health reporter, whether their usual beat is crime, education or county government.  Our 2021 California Fellowship will make anyone who attends a better health reporter -- and give you a reporting grant of $2,000-$10,000 and five months of mentoring while you work on an ambitious project. Deadline to apply: March 1.

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