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USC Annenberg awards fellowships, health data reporting grants to California journalists

USC Annenberg awards fellowships, health data reporting grants to California journalists

Picture of Michelle Levander
[Photo via iStock]
[Photo via iStock]

The Center for Health Journalism  at USC Annenberg will bring 10 California journalists to Los Angeles this month for the 2017 California Data Fellowship. The program gives seasoned reporters the skills to become investigative health data reporters through an intensive series of workshops, led by some of the best investigative health reporters and data journalists in the country.

The California Data Fellows—from newspapers, radio and television stations and online news outlets – will take part in our training institute over the course of four days, beginning Oct. 25. 

The Fellowship is designed for reporters who want to learn how to harness and analyze data that can shape health care decision-making, policy and legislation across California and beyond.

Among the topics the fellows will explore in their projects are the likely costs of a single-payer health system in California; the prevalence and impacts of shootings near schools in Los Angeles; youth homelessness in the Bay Area; medical care for inmates in state prisons and county jails; and how income disparities influence treatment options for people addicted to opioids.

The Fellowship helps journalists take a leap forward in their reporting, gaining the tools to analyze data sources themselves, rather than relying on others for pre-packaged analysis. We’ll be taking reporters through a rigorous step-by-step process. They will hear tips on how to obtain data from reluctant sources, clean, standardize and analyze it, and find stories that others do not see. Participants will have a host of health data sources on everything from health reform to public health – all aimed at helping them to identify a path to original and incisive reporting.

The Fellowship is funded by generous grants from two of California’s leading health foundations, the California Health Care Foundation and The California Endowment, the center’s founding funder.

"Having access to high quality, timely data is crucial to improving California’s health policies and programs,” said Sandra R. Hernández, M.D., president & CEO of CHCF. “The California data fellowship helps reporters build new analytical muscles, which benefit their reporting in the communities they cover."

"California journalists have a unique opportunity to develop original investigative and explanatory projects about conditions in a bellwether state for health and health policy, said Leticia Alejandrez, Director of Communications at The California Endowment. “We look forward to the projects that emerge from this program."

Program speakers include Pulitzer Prize Winner Mike Berens of the Chicago Tribune; Sarah Cohen, the former data editor at the New York Times and now the Knight Chair in Digital Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School; Meghan Hoyer, a data journalist at The Associated Press; Elizabeth Lucas, data reporter at Kaiser Health News; and Charles Ornstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning health reporter at ProPublica.

Admission to the program is competitive and each Fellow — and his or her newsroom — commits to a major investigative or explanatory project.

For six months after their time with us at USC, Fellows receive one-on-one mentoring from our two Senior Fellows, both award-winning data journalists: Cheryl Phillips, the Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at the Stanford University Department of Communication and Paul Overberg, a data editor at the Wall Street Journal. Through the mentoring and reporting process, Fellows have a chance to put lessons learned into practice immediately and to produce a major project that can illuminate important issues for their community.

The Center is also providing reporting grants and engagement grants to help reporters connect with their audiences and communities in more intimate and meaningful ways.

Here are the 2017 California Data Fellows and summaries of their proposed projects:

  • Susan Abram, a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News, will analyze data to compare the number of emergency room visits and admissions to California hospitals following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  
  • Claudia Boyd-Barrett of the California Health Report will report on children’s access to mental health care in California. 
  • Jerome Campbell, a reporter for the Homicide Report at the Los Angeles Times, will explore how the perceived danger of violence around schools disrupts students’ understanding of their surroundings, causing mental and developmental issues.  
  • Angela Hart, a political reporter for The Sacramento Bee, will investigate California's efforts to create a single-payer health care system. 
  • Sandy Mazza of the Daily Breeze will collect data from personal air-quality monitors in communities around the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which residents call "cancer alley" because the area is the single largest fixed source of air pollution in Southern California.
  • Chris McGuinness of the New Times, a weekly newspaper serving San Luis Obispo County, will focus on medical care for inmates in California’s state prisons and county jails. 
  • Mark Noack of the Mountain View Voice will examine youth homelessness in the Bay Area, as well as the health consequences of rising numbers of young people lack stable housing.
  • Jill Replogle of Southern California Public Radio (KPCC), will focus on opioid use among the elderly in Orange County and socioeconomic disparities in treatment. 
  • Joe Rubin, a freelance reporter for Capital & Main, an online outlet, and KCRW-TV in Sacramento will look at lead poisoning cases among workers across California and the response by public health officials. 
  • Jocelyn Wiener, an Oakland-based freelance writer, will investigate screenings and services for children with developmental delays.

Since 2005, the Center for Health Journalism has educated more than 800 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism, with an emphasis on the relationship between health and place. Past Fellowship projects can be found here


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Are you a journalist who wants your work to make a difference?  Apply now for our all-expenses-paid National Fellowship, which provides reporting grants of $2,000 to $10,000 to 20 journalists from around the country (and community engagement grants of up to $2,000 for five), plus six months of expert mentoring.  Deadline: March 23.


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