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2018 National Fellowship

Program Description: 


Each year we bring 20 or more competitively-selected professional journalists from leading print, broadcast, ethnic and online media outlets to the University of Southern California campus for an all-expenses-paid journalism institute. Each Fellow returns home with a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000, and for up to six months afterwards, senior journalists guide them as they complete ambitious explanatory or investigative Fellowship projects that impact policy and spur new community discussions. Click here to read the hundreds of stories that our Fellows have produced over the years, spurring new policies and laws and winning journalism awards along the way.

Click here  for a list of the 2018 National Fellows and descriptions of their reporting projects.

At a time of dramatic change in the media landscape, our National Fellowship offers journalists a chance to step away from the newsroom to learn new ways of thinking about what shapes the health and well-being of vulnerable children and benefit from critical resources that can elevate their journalism to a new level.  In workshops, field trips and discussions, Fellows learn from nationally renowned health experts, policy analysts and community health leaders, from top journalists in the field and from each other. Participants "graduate" with a multitude of story ideas and sources, plus a thorough understanding of the root causes of ill health, including trauma during childhood, barriers to health care access, the built environment, parental unemployment, lack of education, exposure to community or domestic violence and lack of access to healthy food. The program is practical and inspiring, focusing on content as well as craft.  We emphasize solutions journalism, journalism with impact and community engagement approaches that help journalists to make a difference.

The 2018 National Fellowship was designed for journalists who want to do groundbreaking reporting on vulnerable children and families and the community conditions that contribute to their well-being. Fellows gained insights into the latest research on how a child’s  development over a lifetime is affected by early experiences of trauma, including abuse, neglect, parental stress and community violence. Other workshops and discussions – with distinguished journalists, researchers, clinicians and community case workers --  delved into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity. And we examined the possible impacts on children's health and well-being of changes to the Affordable Care Act and reduced federal funding for social supports.

We also explored the connections between health and place, or how neighborhood, work and home environments impact health, well-being and life expectancy. Fellows learned about innovative prevention and clinical programs that suggest ways to address chronic ills. And they received advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. We challenges them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlets serve. 

The 2018 National Fellowship was underwritten by generous grants from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The California Endowment

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting and a third fund that underwrites community engagement efforts:

  • The Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism is a competitive grants program that supports substantive reporting on community health issues in underserved communities. Each Hunt grantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship’s $2,000 stipend, to support reporting on a community health topic. The Hunt Fund supports investigative and explanatory projects that will broaden the public's understanding of community health – examining how poverty, race, ethnicity, pollution, crime, and land-use and urban planning decisions influence the quality of life of residents as well as innovative ways to address these disparities. Past grantees have explored themes including environmental health; chronic disease and its disproportionate toll on certain communities; access to care for diverse communities; health reform innovations and challenges; and transportation challenges that interfere with prospects for good health.  The Hunt Fund is supported by donations from The California Endowment and relatives and friends of the late Dennis Hunt, who co-founded the Center for Health Journalism.
  • The Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and First 5 LA, underwrites substantive reporting on vulnerable children and families. Each grantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship stipend, to support investigative or explanatory reporting on the impact of poverty and childhood trauma. Reporters may also choose to examine the performance of the institutions and government and private programs that serve these families. We’re interested in proposals for projects that look at child welfare and child health and well-being, including, but not limited to, the impact of toxic stress; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; the role of policy in improving prospects for children, including those in juvenile detention; and innovative approaches to the challenges that children in underserved communities face.
  • The Community Engagement Fund provides supplemental grants of $2,000 to underwrite innovative community engagement strategies. Click here to read more about how we define community engagement and what we're looking for in community engagement proposals.  




Journalists attending the 2018 National Fellowship took part in discussions about:

  • How conditions outside of the doctor’s office contribute to health and insights on the emerging science on fetal programming
  • How social and health policy under Trump affects children and families
  • How trauma in infancy and early childhood affects health, prospects and life expectancy and contributes to the development of chronic disease in middle age
  • Leading clinical interventions to address childhood trauma
  • How to report ethically on communities in crisis – with four veteran reporters
  • How to engage with communities and involve them in the storytelling, led by engagement specialists from ProPublica
  • How to manage big projects – with master storyteller Jacqui Banaszynski, editor of Nieman Storyboard  
  • The National Fellows also took a field visit to an innovative county program that seeks to address the unmet social needs of patients. Chronic problems – such as homelessness, hunger or domestic violence – can be the underlying causes of the symptoms that bring patients into county clinics.


Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States? The USC Center for Health Journalism seeks an enterprising and experienced journalism leader for our new position of “Manager of Projects.” 



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