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Lessons from the Field

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Hard-earned tips on how to stay nimble when current events supplant your grand reporting plans.
Picture of Anna Claire Vollers
When it came to finding truly surprising patterns or stories within the Alabama data, I hit wall after wall. Here's what I learned along the way.
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"You can’t just waltz into a community of people who are marginalized and under threat, stick a microphone in their faces and start asking them questions," writes reporter Judith Mernit, a 2018 Impact Fund recipient.
Picture of Mabinty Quarshie
"One of the first lessons we learned was the need for patience with survivors. We were often asking people to relive their trauma when we interviewed them and that carried a high emotional cost for families."
Picture of Jayne O'Donnell
How a reporting team overcame countless hurdles to tell a new story of how children are affected by the family violence they experience, from the time they are in utero through childhood and after.
Picture of Claudia Boyd-Barrett
One consistent memory I have from reporting on California’s mental health system for low-income children is repeatedly asking myself, “Why is this so hard?”
Picture of Katharine Gammon
Ruben Castaneda of U.S. News and Cristina Londoño of Telemundo reported very different series on immigrant health. But both reporters had to win the trust of undocumented families for their projects.
Picture of Claudia Boyd-Barrett

As a journalist, both homelessness and mental illness are uniquely challenging topics to report on. When combined, the reporting challenges double, but so do the potential insights. Claudia Boyd-Barrett shares lessons from her experience reporting on the issue in California's Ventura County.

Picture of Arielle Levin Becker

A growing body of evidence suggests that a child’s exposure to trauma and stress can have profound mental and physical health consequences later in life. Arielle Levin Becker recently set out to explore that link and collected some key reporting lessons along the way.

Picture of Alonso Yañez

Pretending that people only should consume cookie-cutter content is detrimental for our audience, our profession and our democracy.

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Announcements

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.

Let us support your next ambitious health reporting project through our National Fellowship program. Apply today.

Nowhere was the massive COVID wave of winter 2021 more devastating than in America’s nursing homes, where 71,000 residents died in the surge. In this webinar, we’ll hear from the lead reporter in the USA Today series "Dying for Care," who will show how an original data analysis and an exhaustive reporting effort revealed a pattern of unnecessary deaths that compounded the pandemic’s brutal toll. Sign-up here!

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