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2021 National Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Monday, July 19, 2021 - 9:00am to Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:00am
Program Description: 
 
National Fellows gathered on the USC campus
The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism's 2021 National Fellowship will help journalists and their newsrooms report deeply and authoritatively on the health, welfare and well-being of children, youth, families and communities, as viewed through the lenses of COVID-19 and systemic racism.
 
At a time of continuing collective national trauma, the 2021 National Fellowship  provided journalists a chance to step back from breaking news and take a deeper look at how the coronavirus pandemic laid bare pervasive social and economic inequities in the United States and the lasting health effects of systemic racism and exclusion. Fellows learned from nationally renowned health experts, policy analysts and community health leaders, from top journalists in the field and from each other. Participants "graduated" with a multitude of story ideas and sources and a thorough understanding of the root causes of ill health and disparities in outcomes and why the pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on people and communities of color.
 
Now in its 14th year, the National Fellowship annually offers five days of informative and stimulating discussions, plus reporting grants of $2,000-$10,000, engagement grants of up to $2,000 and six months of expert mentoring as Fellows work on ambitious explanatory or investigative projects.   In all its training institutes, the Center emphasizes impact journalism, solutions journalism and community engagement approaches that help journalists to make a difference.
 
For our 2021 National Fellowship, the Center solicitied project proposals to investigate and to explore the racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities that are emerging each day for vulnerable children, youth and families as the pandemic proceeds; unequal access to economic relief and recovery opportunities; the performance of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit organizations during the crisis; how communities of color are faring differently; what risks “essential workers” continue to face; and policy options to address the longstanding weaknesses in our social safety net that have been thrown into sharp relief by this crisis and that create uneven outcomes and opportunities for our nation’s families. 
 
Click here for a list of the 2021 National Fellows and links to their profiles and project descriptions.
 
Click here to read the hundreds of impactful stories that our Fellows have produced over the years, spurring community conversations, influencing policy and winning journalism awards along the way.

Generous grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and The California Endowment supported the 2021 National Fellowship.

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting on domestic health and social welfare issues 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 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 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, including youth as they transition into adulthood. 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.  
Who Can Apply: 

The annual National Fellowship is open to professional journalists who work for or contribute to print, broadcast and online media outlets throughout the United States, 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 preferential consideration, 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 reporting project that can be completed in the five months following the Fellowship session. For the 2021 National Fellowship, we solicited proposals for projects that:

  • Investigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and associated economic problems on disadvantaged populations, essential workers and communities of color
  • Expose critical community health issues or explore the influence of social, economic and environmental factors on health, including social class; exposure to crime and violence; urban development, transportation or city planning; barriers to health care resources; exposure to toxins; and racial, ethnic, economic or geographic disparities.
  • Explore child welfare, juvenile justice and child health and well-being issues, including, but not limited to, the impact of chronic stress and childhood trauma on child development; inequities in the juvenile justice system; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; childhood obesity; the role of policy in improving prospects for children; and innovative solutions to the challenges facing children in underserved communities
  • Investigate threats to the health and social welfare safety nets or illuminate health care innovations and reforms that benefit disadvantaged populations.

 Why Apply?

Knowledge and Skills: Participants hear from respected investigative journalists and leaders in community health, health policy and medicine.

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 America, with a focus on children. Participants also gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities through innovative storytelling and data visualization techniques.

Financial Support and Mentoring:  National  Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $2,000 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism or grants of $2,500 to $10,000 from our two topic-focused journalism funds. The grants are payable either directly to the Fellow or his or her media outlet. Journalism fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.

How to Apply

We will begin recruiting for the 2022 National Fellowship in February 2022.  Click here  for details about what's required in an application. Please contact Martha Shirk at CAHealth@usc.edu if you have questions about your eligibility or what we're looking for in a project proposal. We strongly encourage a conversation in advance of applying.

Highlights: 

 Here are highlights of the 2022 program, which focused on the extra burden on people of color of COVID-19, as well as its effects on children, youth and families already coping with poverty, lack of educational opportunity, housing and food insecurity and trauma.

  • Linda Villarosa, a contributing writer to the New York Times magazine and journalism program director at City College of New York, shared her reporting methods for the narratives she frequently produces about health disparities.
  • Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child, discussed the growing body of research findings on child development that demonstrate that trauma during the early years can cause changes in the brain's architeture and physiology. 
  • In a session moderated by Center Director Michelle Levander, 2020 National Fellow Neil Bedi of Pro Public and 2016 National Fellow Kathleen McGrory of Tampa Bay Times shared their strategies for ensuring that their reporting has impact. Their 2020 project, "Targeted," published by the Tampa Bay Times, led to a federal investigation of a controversial algorithm-based policing technique and earned them the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Local Journalism.
  • Native Americans living on reservations comprise the ethnic group most impacted by COVID-19. A panel of two Native Americans health care providers and two journalists who cover Indian Country talked about the reasons why and what tribes are doing to prevent more cases. Among them was Dr. Michelle Tom, a family physician at the Winslow Indian Health Center, whose patients include many Navajos from the nearby reservation.il
  • After spending months gathering information, many reporters choke up when facing the challenge of organizing the material in their notebooks into a compelling project.  2016 National Fellow Kathleen McGrory of Tampa Bay Times provided advice about how to manage a big project. Kat is adept at producing big, high-impact projects. 
  • Furthering our emphasis on engaged journalism, we brought in Ashley Alvarado, vice president of Southern California Public Radio (KPCC), to share tips about how to produce journalism that engages and gives back.  Ashley will serve as an engagement mentor for six months for five National Fellows who received supplemental engagement grants.
  • And much more!

 

Announcements

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?  Apply now for one of our positions. 

The best journalism these days wraps compelling narratives around scrupulous data analysis. Apply now for our 2021 Data Fellowship to learn the skills necessary to use big data to inform your reporting on health and social welfare issues. Learn more in this webinar on Aug. 3.

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