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2020 California Fellowship

Program Description: 

Each year, we offer an all-expenses-paid Fellowship for California-based journalists and journalists based elsewhere who contribute primarily to California news outlets. The 2020 California Fellowship was  held March 16-19, 2020 via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This Fellowship focused on safety net health issues and also took an in-depth look at how community conditions influence individuals' prospects for health. Each Fellow will receive a $1,000 grant to assist with the costs of reporting an ambitious Fellowship project on a California health issue, as well as six months of mentoring by a Senior Fellow.The California Fellowship is supported by The California Endowment, the Blue Shield of California Foundation and First 5 LA.

Taught by prize-winning journalists, community health leaders, policy analysts and healthcare experts, the 2020 California Fellowship focused on three broad themes:

  • How neighborhood life, social inequities, race, education and the environment influence health, and
  • Changes in the health care landscape. Fellows learned about the potentially enormous implications for California of the effort by President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans to weaken the health and social welfare safety nets
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable populations

During four days of workshops and seminars, Fellows learned about new data sources, heard about effective community engagement strategies and gained new perspectives on pressing health issues.The Fellowship includes a $1,000 reporting stipend to participating journalists to defray costs associated with ambitious reporting projects that focus on health disparities, the social determinants of health, barriers to health care access for the safety net population, domestic and/or community violence as public health problems, community conditions (e.g. environmental toxins or slum housing) that contribute to health problems and the promise of healthcare innovation.  In addition, five California Fellows will receive Community Engagement Grants of $1,000 to $2,000, as well as six months of specialized mentoring. Fellows  will receive six months of one-on-one mentoring from veteran journalists who guide them through work on major Fellowship projects.

Click here for a list of the 2020 California Fellows.

Who Can Apply: 

Our annual California Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast and online media outlets throughout California, including freelancers. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health, social welfare or child and family issues, broadly defined to include the health of communities (see more below). 

We prefer that applicants have a minimum of three years of professional experience; many have decades. Journalists writing for ethnic media are strongly encouraged to apply. Proposals for collaborative projects between mainstream and ethnic news outlets receive preference, as do projects produced for co-publication or co-broadcast in both mainstream and ethnic news outlets. Freelancers are welcome, but need to have a confirmed assignment and should earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Each applicant must propose a substantive report project that can be completed in the six months following the Fellowship session.  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.
  • Investigate the possible consequences of rollbacks of health care reform and social supports for low-income people
  • Examine innovative solutions to health care challenges (e.g. distance, income, shortages of physicians and other health-care practitioners, multiple health conditions, homelessness, incarceration, immigration status and so on)
  • Explore domestic violence as a public health problem

How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply for our 2020 California Fellowship.  Before applying, we strongly encourage you to talk with us about your idea for a Fellowship project. Please contact Martha Shirk at to arrange.  Click on this link to apply for a supplemental community engagement grant.


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