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Center provides health journalism training, grants to 20 California journalists

Center provides health journalism training, grants to 20 California journalists

Picture of Michelle Levander
Headshots of men and women reporters.

The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism has selected 20 talented journalists to participate in its annual California Fellowship investigating and exploring health challenges across the Golden State.

I am delighted to welcome this exceptional class of California journalists. Here at the Center for Health Journalism, we’re looking forward to the powerful reporting they will produce to illuminate health issues in their communities, spur new community conversations and spark change.

The Fellowship class is a diverse and talented group of print, digital and radio journalists from all corners of the state, ranging from outlets such as CalMatters and Scientific American to Black Voice News, public radio affiliates across the state, two outlets geared to Latinx audiences and inewsource, an investigative news outlet.

The competitive program includes a five-day training that introduces journalists to insights about how health is shaped by community conditions, systemic racism and access to health care. Through reporting stipends and five months of expert mentoring, the Center for Health Journalism nurtures its Fellows as they produce investigative and explanatory projects on the most urgent health challenges facing Californians. Each project will receive a reporting grant of up to $2,000, and  five fellows will receive community engagement mentoring and engagement grants.

This year’s California Fellows will produce ambitious projects, including a multimedia series on intergenerational trauma in California’s Cambodian refugee communities; a podcast series on the unaddressed environmental harm caused by the lead battery plant Exide on surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods; COVID-19’s impact on the increase of maternal mortality rates among Black women during the pandemic; and the mental health crisis among Los Angeles’ iconic street food vendors as a result of increased city crackdowns.

The program is made possible thanks to the generous support of The California Endowment and the Blue Shield of California Foundation.

 “California Fellows represent and shine an important light on diverse communities across our state,” said Debbie I. Chang, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. “We look forward to another year of excellent storytelling that not only points out the obstacles to health equity, but also the solutions that communities are crafting. Their efforts can lead to systems changes that improve the lives of many Californians and make lasting impact,” she added.

“Investigative health reporting that focuses on racial inequities and health disparities can have a profound impact on systems and policies that are racially unjust to communities of color and disadvantaged communities, who often bear the burden of health iniquities,” said Sarah Reyes, Managing Director, Communications, The California Endowment. “Reporters who can tell the stories of community injustices can change the narrative of the importance of a racially just health system and health care access in California.”

The Fellowship training will explore how neighborhood life, social inequities, race, education and the environment influence health, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated race- and ethnicity-based health disparities. Speakers include Dr. Anthony Iton, the senior vice president of The California Endowment; Manuel Pastor, director of the Equity Research Institute at USC; Usha Lee McFarling, national science correspondent at STAT News and Jacey Cooper, the California state Medicaid director.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott will deliver the keynote address, sharing the story behind her book, “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City.”

We are pleased to announce our 2022 California Fellows:

Noah Abrams, Northern California Public Media

Sarah Bohannon, North State Public Radio

Jennifer Bowman, inewsource

Mariah Castaneda, LA TACO

Troy Farah, Scientific American

Cassandra Garibay, Fresnoland and The Fresno Bee

Merdies Hayes, Our Weekly Los Angeles

Soreath Hok, KVPR Valley Public Radio

Annika Hom, Mission Local

Kristen Hwang, CalMatters

Marisa Kendall, Bay Area News Group

Caleb Lunetta, Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Malea Martin, New Times San Luis Obispo

Breanna Reeves, Black Voice News

Javier Rojas, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Jack Ross, Capital & Main

Maria Sestito, The Desert Sun

Rachel Showalter, KCBX Public Radio

Blanca Torres, KQED

Janette Villafana, LA TACO



The Center for Health Journalism’s two-day symposium on domestic violence will provide reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The first day will take place on the USC campus on Friday, March 17. The Center has a limited number of $300 travel stipends for California journalists coming from outside Southern California and a limited number of $500 travel stipends for those coming from out of state. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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