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2010-2011 California Health Journalism Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Program Description: 

In Session 1, Fellows hone their craft, gain new perspectives on health issues and come away with great sources and strategies to deal with complex health data and research reports. Presentations on how to create multimedia reports also broaden Fellows' reporting skills, helping them to reach a wider digital audience.

Session 2 provides an in-depth exposure to the latest thinking about a compelling health issue.  For our 2010 program, the topic will be "Healthy Communities" — how neighborhood life, work conditions, social inequities, race and education influence health.  

  • New fellows are expected to attend Session 1 and Session 2.
  • Returning alumni fellows are only required to attend Session 2 (Session 1 is optional).
  • Assigning editors and producers for fellows are strongly encouraged to attend our special Fellowship project discussion during Session 2, at our expense.

During the Fellowship sessions, Fellows get plenty of time to discuss with experts, and with each other, strategies for covering health news with authority and sophistication. Between the two sessions and for three months after the second session, Fellows are given the opportunity to confer by phone and e-mail with veteran journalists who guide them through work on major Fellowship projects.

Taught by prize-winning journalists, community health leaders, policy analysts and health care experts, this Fellowship program features two intensive sessions, held three months apart. Fellows participate in field trips, workshops and seminars highlighting some of the top health challenges facing California. Both sessions begin with a keynote dinner on Thursday evening and end midday on the following Sunday.

Session Two Program Highlights: Jan 20-Jan. 22:

Program Highlights:

The emerging field of epigenetics provides tantalizing clues to how environmental conditions can trigger the gene expression that can lead to chronic disease, and we have brought two of the nation's top experts to speak to our current fellows.

Randy Jirtle, Ph.D., director of the Epigenetics and Imprinting Laboratory at Duke University, will speak about his groundbreaking research, which explores how genes and environment interact to contribute to chronic disease. His pioneering work was featured in a NOVA documentary.

 James M. Swanson, Ph.D., director of the Child Development Center at UC Irvine's School of Medicine,  will discuss his work on the National Children's Study, which will track every aspect of development for 100,000 children nationwide, from their environment in utero into adulthood, to understand the effects of environmental and genetic influences on health.

 A Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Charles Ornstein, of ProPublica, will give a hands-on workshop on "Mastering California's Health Data Goldmine." The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development is in a league of its own when it comes to collecting health data, he says. You can turn to it if you want to know how much charity care a hospital provides, how many C-sections it performs, whether it is profitable, if it is safe, and if its buildings can withstand earthquakes. This session will show participants how to master OSHPD's website and provide fellows with several stories they can write right away.

Stephen K. Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and an award-winning expert in computer-assisted and data-driven reporting, will show fellows how to plumb the data riches of the U.S. Census Bureau to write stories on community health.

Tracy Weber, also a Pulitzer Prize winning Investigative Journalist at ProPublica, will provide tips on how to get "Great Writing Out of Dry Data." Snagging critical reports or mastering mountains of damning data can only get journalists so far, she says. Turning that reporting into compelling, relevant, and jargon-free tales can be the toughest part. This session will explore reporting and storytelling techniques that will keep readers riveted.

 Laura McClure, new media editor of Mother Jones, will give a talk on using social media and crowd sourcing for reporting projects in a talk called "The Seven Social Media Habits of Highly Effective Health Reporters." In this intensive hour-long workshop, she will show participants how to apply what Mother Jones has learned to their own reporting, no matter what their newsroom situations happen to be today. They will learn how to cultivate sources and find trends on Twitter and LinkedIn, gather viable story ideas from Facebook, and engage an influential audience on Twitter over time-all in 15 minutes a day. (Those with 30 minutes a day to devote to sourcing stories through social media will come away with options for how to use Foursquare, Tumblr, Posterous, YouTube, and the HuffPo comment community effectively.)

Field Trip: Our journalism fellows also will head out in the field to examine the health effects of substandard housing. In partnership with Roberto Bustillo, an organizer at SAJE, we will visit an "unhealthy" apartment complex in one of Los Angeles' poorer neighborhoods speak with tenants who suffer from asthma and other conditions while living in a pest and pesticide-laden environment. We will also visit with Jim Mangia and Rishi Manchanda, M.D., of the St. John's Well Child and Family Center, who have come up with some innovative ways to improve the health of patients living in these circumstances.

Check our Fellowships Blog starting Jan. 20 for live blogging on the seminars!

The application period for the 2010 California Health Journalism Fellowship is closed. Check back for details about the 2011/2012 program. Click here for detailed application instructions and an online application.

The 2010-2011 California Fellows are:

Sarah Anthony, Freelancer, Frontline

Yesenia Amaro, Health Care Reporter, Merced Sun-Star

Kelley Atherton, Reporter, The Daily Triplicate

Pauline Bartolone, Freelancer, Latino USA

Nicole Brambila, Reporter, The Desert Sun

Erika Cebreros, Freelancer, El Mensajero

Christina Elston, Managing Editor, L.A. Parent

Jan Gurley, M.D., Blogger,

Roseann Keegan, Community Editor, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Shelley Levitt, Freelancer, Family Circle

Hillary S. Meeks, Reporter, Visalia Times-Delta

Beatrice Motamedi, Freelancer, The Oakland Tribune

Tena Rubio, Executive Producer/Host, National Radio Project

John Sepulvado, Health Care Reporter, Capital Public Radio

Sunita Sohrabji, Reporter, India-West

Kimber Solana, Reporter, The Salinas

Kevin Thompson, Editor, Cal-OSHA Reporter

Astrid Viciano, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Correspondent, Stern

Tracy Wood, Senior Writer,

Ryan ZumMallen, Executive Editor,

Who Can Apply: 
The Fellowships are open to professional journalists from print, broadcast or online media in California, including freelancers, who have a passion for health news. We encourage participation from journalists working for the general circulation publications, specialty health care and ethnic media, as well as small and major market broadcast outlets.

Part 1 of the 2010/2011 California Health Journalism Fellowship includes:

Life and Death Decisions - The Real Impact of Health Care Reform in California, with panelists Mary Agnes Carey, Kaiser Health News reporter and former Congressional Quarterly Capitol Hill Bureau Chief; Victoria Colliver, health reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle; and veteran health policy consultant, Peter Harbage.

Investigate local hospitals and their workers in a hands-on research workshop with Charles Ornstein,  ProPublica senior reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner, and former Los Angeles Times reporter. 

Harness the power of your cell phone for cutting edge storytelling in the seminar, "Participatory Data Gathering Using Mobile Phones." Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science and founding director of the NSF-funded Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA explains how common smart phone applications can be used to capture data and enrich journalism projects. Described as "participatory sensing," this new research technique provides interactive ways to involve the community in describing their own circumstances.

Never be stumped by statistics again. "Getting a Grip on Statistics: What’s Right & Wrong with Numbers in the News" is a primer with Erika Franklin Fowler, Wesleyan University professor and former Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. Fowler helps journalists report on medical studies authoritatively. Her research tracks the errors health and medical reporters make when they misunderstand the numbers.

Learn how to avoid the unhealthy influence of spin masters in an interactive workshop led by Dr. Robert Davis, author of “The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting Through the Hype about Your Health.” His presentation, “Reporting Health News with Context & Balance” is a road map to getting it right, with a presenter who has more than 20 years of experience as a health and medical journalist.


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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