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Engagement Grants FAQ

Tell me about the Center for Health Journalism’s engagement grants.

The Center for Health Journalism has offered community engagement grants since 2012, along with mentoring by our Community Engagement Editor. The grants are usually $1,000 to $2,000. Only journalists selected for a reporting fellowship or a grant from our Impact Fund are eligible to receive a community engagement grant. Equipment, supplies, travel, food for community members and compensation for speakers represent common expenditures for fellows who have received engagement grant funds in the past. Engagement grants are supported by a generous grant from The California Endowment and our engagement mentoring is supported by a generous grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation. 

What is engagement?

Engagement is journalism. It is journalism that explicitly provides community members with avenues to participate in, contribute to or shape the reporting prior to publication. Engagement can also involve decision-makers in new and creative ways.

This kind of storytelling can take many shapes, but here are some examples: Soliciting community questions or concerns to shape a story, inviting residents to participate in testing for pollution in their homes and schools, creating a platform for people to tell their own stories, or bringing together diverse constituencies to launch conversations about solutions. This approach can help journalists find sources, discover new angles, learn about a topic, build an audience, tell richer stories and — most importantly — spark impact and connection.

Here are some examples of engaged journalism projects supported by the Center for Health Journalism:

Noting that teenagers’ voices are often sidelined in conversations about sex ed, Fresno Bee reporter Mackenzie Mays used several engaged journalism techniques to anchor her reporting in their experiences. A survey of teens distributed by student government leaders, listening booths at youth organizations, and focus groups with students connected Mackenzie with her community in news ways. Read her essay on how engaged journalism transformed her relationship to reporting.

Arizona Republic reporter Bob Ortega combined deep investigative reporting on the disproportionate rates among Latino children of injury and death from traffic accidents with a community engagement campaign that raised awareness of the importance of using car seats.  Ortega built a coalition of community groups to disseminate the findings from his reporting and ran a public education campaign, which included the distribution and installation of free car seats.

How do I apply?

Email cehjf@usc.edu to learn about upcoming grant opportunities. Please put "engagement opportunity" in the subject line.

What makes a good application?

We encourage you to:

  • Keep it simple. You have limited time to complete this project.

  • Have a good idea of how the impacted community of story will actively shape the journalism.

  • Have a sense of how you will continue engaging with participants after the reporting is done.  

We discourage you from:

  • Focusing on translation or presentation.

  • Proposing a panel, at least not without a larger plan.

  • Overemphasizing the role of engagement tools. We're more interested in your vision than your tools. 

Here’s what engagement grantees said about their experience.

“I wanted the stories I did to actively involve the community they were about, as well as serve as a catalyst for further change in a community where discussions of mental health issues are often considered taboo.” —Melissa Noel, a freelancer for NBC BLK, developed an event series to bridge siloed groups that care about the wellbeing of Caribbean “barrel children.” Read more.

“Reporting typically ends at publication. But when you engage the community, as this fellowship encouraged me to do, that’s not so much the case.” —Molly Peterson worked with California residents to track the urban heat burden in homes and workplaces, first at KCRW and then at KQED. Read more.

“Community engagement and journalism go hand in hand. Why sink tons of time and effort into a topic only to let it fade away after the stories have been published?” —Las Vegas Sun journalist Jackie Valley convened a community conversation on about children and mental health in Nevada. Read more.

“Probably the best thing we did with this project was to build in time and space to listen.” —KBBF’s Edgar Avila and KRCB’s Steve Mencher used stakeholder meetings, dozens of surveys and about 80 street interviews to ground their reporting in community priorities. Read more.

Check out more essays about engagement here

Here are some more resources to explore.

"Public-powered journalism in practice" Bridget Thoreson

"Don’t be an Askhole: Toward an ethical framework for engagement" Jennifer Brandel

Listening Post Collective’s Playbook

"Making the case for engagement" Jackie Hai

"The best ways to build audience and relevance by listening to and engaging your community" Mónica Guzmán

The Engagement Manifesto: Part I: The audience's perspective

The Engagement Manifesto: Part II: Management's perspective

The Engagement Manifesto, Part III: The newsroom's perspective

"The Continuum of Engagement" Andrew DeVigal

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