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How to Apply for the 2021 California Fellowship

Dates: April 12-16 via Zoom

Deadline: March 1, 2021

How to Apply: 

All applications must be submitted online at this link. If you encounter technical problems when you're trying to apply, please contact the webmaster at

 The application asks for the following:

  • A personal statement
  • A Fellowship project proposal
  • Three samples of professional work
  • A current resumé
  • A letter of reference
  • An Editor's Checklist signed by a supervising editor and confirming the media outlet's intent to publish or broadcast the Fellowship project

Note: Applicants must join and post a profile and photo.

After the 2021 California Fellows are chosen, we will invite applications from them for one of up to five supplemental community engagement grants of up to $2,000.

Personal Statement (Including Project Proposal) [We recommended that you write this in Word and cut and paste it into the online application]

In no more than 500 words, please describe your health, child welfare or social issues reporting experience. Tell us about the types of  stories you currently cover (or would like to cover) and why you are interested in attending the Fellowship sessions. Include a description of your publication, broadcast outlet or website, including the size, nature and geographic reach of its audience and how it's measured. (For websites, we require Google analytics or an equivalent.)

In 750 to 1,000 words, summarize  a major California-focused health or social welfare reporting project that you propose to pursue as part of the Fellowship. We are looking for project descriptions that are in-depth and indicate that you have already done some preliminary research. Be specific about deliverables (for instance, a three-part series of stories of approximately 1,500 words each; a 20-minute radio documentary; five evening newscast TV segments, and so on).  For the 2021 California Fellowship, we are most interested in projects that:

  • Illuminate or expose critical community health issues. Proposals can focus on a specific health topic or delve into a confluence of circumstances and conditions that impact health in a community, including environment; social class; crime and violence; urban development; access to health resources; school absenteeism; transportation or city planning; and racial, ethnic, economic or geographic disparities
  • Document health disparities linked to race or ethnicity
  • Investigate the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and associated economic problems on essential workers; people of color; or disadvantaged communities, e.g. farmworkers, prisoners, foster youth and so on
  • Explore domestic violence as a public health problem

In your description, summarize likely themes, multimedia components and any social media and audience/community engagement strategies you anticipate, such as community forums, interactive digital features, partnerships with other media outlets or community organizations and so on. Tell us what sources you anticipate consulting, as well as how you would spend the reporting grant. Your proposal should be well researched and should demonstrate that you have done some deep thinking about the relevance of the topic to your community. Preference is given to projects that focus on underserved populations. Journalists at mainstream and ethnic publications who propose a collaborative project will be given priority consideration. If you write or broadcast for a mainstream media outlet and your proposed project deals with health issues that affect an ethnic community, we strongly suggest that you arrange co-publication or co-broadcast in an ethnic media outlet as well. 

Three Samples of Your Work: Submit three samples of your best work. (For work that has only appeared online, please provide working URLs, as well as Word documents or PDFs of the published stories.) Broadcasters should submit links to working URLs of their online stories or CDs/DVDs. If you are an editor, submit work that you supervised and edited, along with an explanation of your role in shaping the content. If you write in a language other than English or Spanish, we prefer to receive translations of your work. If that is not possible, send a comprehensive two-paragraph summary in English of each story. 

Resumé: Please include a current resumé. Note:  Any misrepresentation that is discovered after you are admitted to the Fellowship will result in your dismissal.

Letter of Reference: Please supply a letter of reference from your assigning editor, producer, or news director that discusses your abilities and potential as a journalist in detail and the newsroom's support for your project. If you are a freelancer and will be producing your Fellowship project for an editor with whom you haven't previously worked, submit a letter from an editor for whom you have worked before. We take these letters very seriously. The letter should discuss your strengths and the reason your project is important to the news outlet. If should also confirm:

  • That the news organization expects to publish or air your stories, assuming they meet its standards
  • That your employer will permit you to attend all Fellowship sessions (disregard if you're a freelancer)

Editor/Story Checklist: Download modifiable text documentfill in the description of your project, get your assigning editor's signature on it and either scan it into your computer to submit with your online application, FAX it to us at (877) 413-3873 or email it to CEHJF@usc.eduBoth freelance and employed journalists must submit this signed form as written confirmation of a news organization's commitment to publish or air the work resulting from the Fellowship, assuming it meets its standards.

How We Select Fellows:

When choosing Fellows, we consider each candidate's personal and professional accomplishments and potential, as well as the potential contribution of his or her proposed stories or project on the public's understanding of health issues. We value diversity in both our Fellows and their media outlets. We encourage applications from candidates who serve non-English speaking audiences, although our seminars are conducted in English, so Fellows must be fluent in English. We give priority to applicants who propose a collaboration between a mainstream and ethnic outlet or commit to seeking publication in or broadcast by an outlet that reaches the population being reported on (i.e. if you're proposing a project that focuses on Latinos' health concerns and you report for a mainstream outlet, you should identify a Spanish-language outlet that will agree to co-publish or co-broadcast).

The Fellowship program will only review complete applications submitted by the deadline.

Tips for Maximizing Your Chances of Being Selected

  • Think big journalistically. 
  • Provide lots of details about what we can expect from your project.  Provides specifics, such as likely story count and multimedia components. We want to know what will result from our investment in you.
  • We're looking for impact, so tell us what problem your project will expose and what might happen as a result of increased awareness by the public and policymakers.
  • Tell us how you will engage the community with your project.  It's not sufficient any more to just put something out there.  Tell us how you will involve the public both in helping shape your journalism and responding to it.


Fellowship Terms:

All Fellows are expected to:

  • Attend all required workshops.
  • Participate in a "community of Fellows" during workshop sessions
  • Treat other Fellows' works-in-progress as confidential
  • Join and become active in our online community
  • Take part in a monthly project discussion via Zoom for the six months following the Fellowship
  • Within six months of the Fellowship's final session, complete  a major reporting project on a domestic health issue (or three substantive articles on health issues).    
  • Provide us with digital copies of all components of your project for publication on ReportingonHealth 
  • Disseminate information from the seminars to colleagues
  • Serve as a mentor and resource to our program as we reach out to other journalists
  • Write at least two posts for about your Fellowship project -- an initial blog post introducing your planned project and a "Lessons from the Field" essay after it has been published or broadcast

 For More Information: In advance of your application, we strongly recommend a discussion about your project idea. To arrange to talk to us, please email Martha Shirk at


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