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2012 National Health Journalism Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Program Description: 

This program will be especially valuable for journalists interested in topics related to “Health and Place,” or how neighborhood and work environments impact health and life expectancy. As part of that exploration, our Fellows will see firsthand how race, ethnicity, and class influence health with trips out in the field from our conference home base, Los Angeles, an international city that has been called a "proving ground" for a multicultural society. California has the largest numbers of Asian and Latino residents in the nation, and many of the health challenges and opportunities that accompany changing demographics have been debated and legislated here.

Reporters and editors also will gain insights on how to cover health reform at a time when dramatic change seems inevitable. This spring, the political calculus in presidential campaigns and state policy circles will be altered irrevocably by an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of President Obama’s national health reform plan.

During field trips and seminars, fellows hear from respected investigative journalists and leaders in community health, health policy, and medicine. They go home with a deeper understanding of current public health and health policy initiatives and gain insight into the larger picture of colliding interests and political battles over health policy. Participants also explore ways to document — through data, interactive maps, and innovative storytelling techniques — the health inequities in their local communities. Hands-on workshops also provide fellows with new sources, practical reporting tips, and multimedia strategies to reach a broader digital audience.

For more information, contact Martha Shirk at


The National Health Journalism Fellowships program offers journalists an opportunity to explore the intersection between community health, health policy, and the nation's growing diversity. Reporting projects are supported with a $2,000 grant to each Fellowship recipient. The program pays all travel and hotel costs.

Here are the 2012 Grantees and their projects:

Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism Grantees

Heather Boerner, a Bay Area-based freelance health journalist and editor, will receive $4,500 to report for National Nurse, a union magazine, on the impacts of immigration status on health, including health disparities, workplace health hazards and access to health care.

Taunya English, the senior writer on the health and science desk for WHYY public radio in eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, will receive $2,550 to undertake a multimedia and mapping exploration of efforts to improve health by overhauling the places where people work, play and live.

Burt Hubbard, editorial director of I-News, a Denver-based online news site, will receive $5,700 to examine the demographics behind the increase in Colorado’s childhood obesity rate and the implications for the state, as well as how school districts are dealing with it.

Steve Wilmsen, enterprise editor of The Boston Globe, will receive $8,000 to help underwrite a yearlong effort by a team of reporters to understand the roots of violence in an inner city Boston neighborhood, despite decades of effort to curb it.

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health Journalism Fund

Elaine Korry, a Bay Area-based freelance reporter, will receive $4,000 to report for The California Report, a show produced by KQED, onthe package of essential health benefits that will determine children’s health care coverage in California under the Affordable Care Act.

David Danelski, a reporter for The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, will receive $3,000 to probe how Inland Southern California's increasing truck and train traffic affects children's health and the ongoing costs of air pollution-related harm to children.

National Health Journalism Fellows

(each receives $2,000)

Ana Elena Azpurua, a multimedia reporter with Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper published by The Dallas Morning News, will report on three stories of particular interest to Latinos in North Texas: the impact of Mexico’s war on drugs on the mental health of Mexican Americans; the relationship between teen motherhood and child maltreatment and neglect; and challenges faced by Latino families with autistic children.

Cara DeGette, managing editor of Colorado Public News, will report on the health impacts of pollution on low-income populations.

Andrew Doughman, a reporter for the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina, will report on a citywide effort to improve one of the blighted neighborhoods in Spartanburg, a mid-sized, Southern city saddled with generational poverty.

Sergio Flores, a reporter and backup anchor for Univision 19 in Sacramento, will look into the risks faced by farm workers and their families from exposure to pesticides.

Anna Gorman, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, will report on community health centers and their role in the healthcare overhaul.

Amy Jeter, a health reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, will investigate why one urban city in her readership area has some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the state.

Valerie Lego, the health reporter for WZZM (ABC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will look at the impact of the nation’s worst agricultural disaster on health.

Katy Murphy, an education reporter for the Oakland Tribune and Bay Area News Group, will share a grant with Allison Yin, a freelance photographer, to examine the disproportionate impact of asthma on low-income, African-American children, and the strain it places on families and schools.

Carlos Javier Ortiz, a freelance photographer in Chicago,will document the impact of violence on young people in Chicago for The Chicago Reporter and a website,

Erica Peterson, the environment reporter for WFPL, the public radio affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, will examine the health effects of industrial pollution on residents in two Louisville neighborhoods.

Tammie Smith, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch,will report on the importance of place to health status in Richmond, a city with some of the most dismal health outcomes in Virginia.

Cindy Uken, the health reporter at the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest newspaper, will examine the impact of the dire shortage of psychiatrists in Montana, which is mostly rural.

Laura Ungar, the health reporter for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, will explore barriers to treatment in Kentucky for prescription drug addicts.

David Wahlberg, the health reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal, will analyze Wisconsin’s system for disciplining doctors.

Tom Wilemon, a health reporter for The Tennessean in Nashville, will explore diabetes and hypertension issues.

Stephanie Woodard, a freelance reporter, will examine a children’s health issue in two Northern Plains communities and one Alaskan village for Indian Country Today and

Alison Yin, a freelance photographer and multimedia journalist in Oakland, will share a grant with Katy Murphy, a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, to explore the disproportionate impact of asthma on low-income, African-American children, and the strain it places on families and schools.



Who Can Apply: 

The application period for the 2012 Fellowship has closed.  Fellows will be notified June 25 of their acceptance. This all-expenses-paid Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast, and online media around the country, including freelancers. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health issues, broadly defined to include the health of communities (see more below). Applications from ethnic media journalists are strongly encouraged. Applicants proposing collaborative projects between mainstream and ethnic news outlets are given preference. Applicants must be based in the United States. Journalism students are ineligible. Please contact us at if you have questions about your eligibility.

Click here to learn more about our 2012 National Health Journalism Fellows.

Click here to read highlights of our July Fellowship and to hear from the fellows themselves about their planned projects.


Here are some highlights of the National Health Journalism Fellowship, which took place July 22-26, 2012, in Los Angeles.

  •  In the keynote address on July 22, Gregory Warner, until recently a senior reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace show, will share some of the storytelling innovations that have made him one of the most creative reporters on the health beat, including the use of video cartoons.
  • Policy analysts, journalists, and doctors on the front line will explain what the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will mean for the future of health care reform.  The first panel will feature Larry Levitt, executive director for the Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance; Sarah Kliff, a health reporter for The Washington Post; and Martha King, health program group director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.  A second panel will feature Mary Agnes Carey, a veteran reporter for Kaiser Health News and Dr. Marcia Sablan, a longtime primary care physician in Fresno County, discussing what challenges health care will face after the dust has settled over the decision.  
  • Los Angeles and Long Beach regularly turn up on lists of the most polluted cities in the United States, and one of the reasons is the air pollution generated by the movement of goods from their huge ports to points inland. Fellows will hear about the health effects of air pollution and efforts to mitigate it from a panel that includes S. David Freeman, former president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners; Edward Avol, deputy director of the Children’s Health Study; Robert Kanter, managing Director of environmental affairs & planning for the Port of Long Beach and Kari Lydersen, a freelance journalist who has written extensively about the issue. Afterwards, fellows will take a harbor tour of the ports and a bus tour of Wilmington, a nearby community that is impacted by port-related traffic.
  • Pioneering reporters and news teams have come up with novel approaches to ensure that an investigative or explanatory project has impact, engaging in outreach activities and collaborations to engage with the community and make sure that policymakers take notice of their work.  2011 National Fellow Kate Long of the Charleston Gazette will share her paper’s strategy of building “sustained outrage” over West Virginia’s high obesity rate, the topic of her 2011 National Fellowship project.  Emily Miller, policy and government affairs coordinator for the Chicago-based Better Government Association, will talk about what she does to make sure that BGA’s investigative journalism results in more effective public policies.
  •  Is sugar the primary culprit behind the nation’s obesity epidemic?  Even as the nation’s obesity and diabetes rates soar, researchers are divided on the cause. But some think that sugar’s empty calories warrant regulatory actions such as New York City’s imminent ban on supersized soft drinks.  Fellows will hear from one of the most outspoken researchers on sugar, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the UCSF School of Medicine; as well as a spokesman for the beverage industry (to be announced). Maureen O’Hagan, a Seattle Times reporter whose 2010 National Fellowship project on efforts to combat obesity recently won a prestigious James Beard Award will round out the panel. 
  • In a second session on the issue, Duff Wilson, an investigative reporter for Reuters, will talk about the influence of lobbyists and campaign contributions on Congress as it weighed various proposals over the last few years to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children, which he and a colleague detailed in a special report earlier this year.



“Racism in medicine is a national emergency.” That’s how journalist Nicholas St. Fleur characterized the crisis facing American health care this spring, as his team at STAT embarked on “Color Code,” an eight-episode series exploring medical mistrust in communities of color across the country. In this webinar, we’ll take inspiration from their work to discuss strategies and examples for telling stories about inequities, disparities and racism in health care systems. Sign-up here!

The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors to serve as thought leaders in one of the most innovative and rewarding arenas in journalism today – “engaged reporting” that puts the community at the center of the reporting process. Learn more about the positions and apply to join our team. 


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