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Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

Fellowship Story Showcase

Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

This article was written by Noozhawk Business Writer Alex Kacik as part of Day 12 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.


Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

In addition to Noozhawk's prescription drug series, projects include Monterey County nutrition and Los Angeles County transportation
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thanks to this year’s California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, professional hyperlocal news outlets have added new insights and perspectives to their reporting on health issues.

USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and The California Endowment, the state’s largest health foundation, trained and funded professional journalists to bring health journalism back into the daily coverage of their local communities.

Noozhawk was selected for one of 10 2011 fellowships in March, and immediately set about researching and reporting on the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. That series of articles, which began Sept. 12, concludes this week.

“It’s a very impressive project that hits every important element of this local and national tragedy of prescription drug abuse,” said Michelle Levander, director of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. “It provides a compelling portrait of the local challenges and solutions, many firsthand stories to put a human face on the problem, national trends, the science of addiction and the practical efforts to curb it.

“Equally impressive were the columns by contributors and the PSAs by students.”

To better incorporate health journalism into daily news coverage, sometimes it just takes asking an extra question that can enrich stories on a host of topics, such as “What are the mental health effects of foreclosures on a family who loses a home?” Levander said.

“Thinking of health as a community story can lead you into many rich directions,” she said.

There’s a shift in journalism under way today,with people expecting interaction with reporters and editors, and this year’s fellowships explored different ways to establish that channel, said Jon Funabiki, executive director of San Francisco State University’s Renaissance Journalism Center, which partnered with the Annenberg School in the Health Journalism Fellowships program.

“People are no longer content to have news broadcast to them on their doorstep through one-way traffic,” he said. “They want a two-way conversation.”

Noozhawk provided a good example of how to engage with the public and incorporate the business aspect into its project, Funabiki said.

“Bill saw that all the community engagement activity was also a way of building the business through finding sponsors, advertisers and raising public awareness to develop a partnership with the local TV station,” he said.

Levander was also impressed with the projects produced by the Santa Cruz Wire and

In Santa Cruz, co-founders and editorsMaria Gaura and Tara Leonard analyzed Monterey County foodbanks and their efforts to confront malnutrition and transform food aid for the poor. Click here for the Santa Cruz Wire series.

In Los Angeles, LA.StreetsBlog founder and editor Damien Newton examined transportation and the progress of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Policies for Livable, Active, Communities and Environments (PLACE) ProgramClick here for the LA.StreetsBlog series.

“We’re the car culture capital of the world and we’re trying to put the brakes on that,” said Newton, whose reporting suggested transportation alternatives and improvements that promote more active lifestyles.

There are seven other independent news sites in Annenberg’s Class of 2011.

» The Homeless in Santa Barbara blog, published by founder and editor Isabelle Walker, is writing about what happens to homeless people after they are discharged from a hospital or emergency room.

» Led by founder and editor Elizabeth Larson, Lakeport’s Lake County News is producing a series on Lake County’s vehicle crash statistics dating back to 2006, and contributing factors.

“The Annenberg project has provided Lake County News with many wonderful opportunities,” Larson said. “We’ve learned about new reporting resources relating to heath, been afforded the chance to closely study an important community health and safety issue, and also had great fun getting to work and learn alongside of many amazing online publishing colleagues.”

» Leimert Park Beat founder and publisher Eddie North-Hager is writing about the ties between safe places in a community and emotional and physical health. The project will produce reasons for the lack of parks and open spaces in South Los Angeles, the consequences for residents’ health and efforts to increase recreational options.

» Brandy Tuzon Boyd, founder and editor of, is examining efforts to promote walking and biking in suburban Sacramento.

» San Francisco’s SF Public Press, led by founder and editor Michael Stoll, is looking at the track record of a city-sponsored health care program called Healthy San Francisco.

» Way Out West, led by co-editor and founding partner Victoria Schlesinger, is analyzing how the Bay Area is affected by the implementation of California’s pioneering 2007 Green Chemistry Initiative to regulate the chemicals in consumer and commercial products.

» Pascale Fusshoeller, co-founder and editor of in Nevada City, analyzed the health effects of ozone and particulate matter pollution in the Sierra Nevada, with an emphasis on wildfire.

— Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk,@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.