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2021 California Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Monday, April 12, 2021 - 8:00am to Friday, April 16, 2021 - 3:00pm
Program Description: 

The Center for Health Journalism helps reporters advance their skills in "impact reporting," which combines powerful narratives, unassailable data and engagement to maximize the potential for impact. The Center embraces an expansive definition of health journalism based on the core idea that our health is shaped by conditions in homes, schools and communities  as well as in health care settings.

The 2021 California Fellowship program will be hosted online via Zoom because of the pandemic. Taught by prize-winning journalists, community health leaders, policy analysts and health care experts, the program will focus on five broad themes during a weeklong program:

  • How neighborhood, school and environmental conditions, social and racial inequities, access to a quality education, jobs and transportation  or the social determinants of health and health disparities  can influence health and life outcomes
  • Barriers to access to affordable and quality health care
  • The role of trauma and toxic stress on health outcomes
  • Reporting on COVID-19 and its disproportionate toll on disadvantaged populations and communities of color 
  • Domestic violence as a public health issue  

The Center will give each Fellow a $2,000 reporting stipend to defray costs associated with substantive investigative or explanatory reporting projects that focus on the topics above. Larger grants of $2,500 to $10,000 will be awarded for exceptionally ambitious reporting proposals, including those that involve newsroomwide, multi-newsroom or mainstream-ethnic media collaborations. In addition, five California Fellows will be chosen to receive specialized mentoring over six months and supplemental grants of $1,000 to $2,000 for community engagement. [Click here to learn more about our community engagement initiative, and click here for a FAQ on the engagement grants.]

Each applicant must propose a substantive reporting project that can be completed in the five months following the Fellowship week, with guidance from one of our Senior Fellows (journalists who serve as mentors). Fellows are required to attend a one-hour monthly meeting via Zoom with a Senior Fellow and other Fellows in their group. 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 discipline policies; access to healthy food, transportation or affordable and safe housing; and the role of racial, ethnic, economic or geographic disparities on health and well-being
  • Investigate the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic problems on essential workers and their families; people of color; or specific disadvantaged populations like prisoners, foster youth, farmworkers or homeless people
  • Explore how systemic racism impacts health, health care or community safety and well-being
  • Illuminate promising innovations in preventive health and equitable health care delivery, including community-led efforts 
  • Explore the root causes of domestic violence and a public health approach to preventing it. 

For an idea of the kinds of projects we're interested in supporting, click here for a list of the 2020 California Fellows and links to their profiles and reporting projects.




Who Can Apply: 

Our annual California Fellowship is open to professional journalists, including freelancers, from print, broadcast and online media outlets throughout California and for national correspondents with a California-focused project. Applicants can be health beat reporters or have a demonstrated reporting background in health, education, social welfare, environmental justice 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 to apply. They need to have a confirmed assignment and earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Why Apply?

Knowledge and Skills: During seminars and interactive workshops, participants learn from top investigative journalists and leaders in community health, health policy and social services. Workshops provide practical reporting tips, expert sources, community engagement strategies and informed policy perspectives on the circumstances that shape health or ill health in communities across California. Participants also gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities through our "impact reporting" model. 

Financial Support and Mentoring:  California Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $2,000 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism.  Reporting grants of $2,500 to $10,000 will be made for exceptionally ambitious reporting proposals, including those that involve newsroom-wide, multi-newsroom or mainstream-ethnic media collaborations.  Fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.

How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply for our 2021 California Fellowship. Recruitment will begin in January 2021, with the Fellowship to be held via ZOOM  from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 12-16.  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.


Join us for a webinar on the crisis for women, the disproportionate burdens on women of color, and the short-and long-term consequences of the mass exodus of women from workforce. Sign-up here!

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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