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2017 California Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Sunday, March 5, 2017 - 5:00pm to Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 2:00pm
Program Description: 

Taught by prize-winning journalists, community health leaders, policy analysts and health care experts, the 2017 California Fellowship focused on two broad themes:

  • How neighborhood life, social inequities, race, education and the environment influence health, and
  • Changes in the healthcare landscape. We will focus attention on the enormous implications for California of the effort by President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans and  to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

The Fellowship includes a $1,000 reporting stipend to participating journalists to defray costs associated with ambitious reporting projects. In addition, five California Fellows were chosen to receive an additional grant of $1,000 to $2,000 for community engagement, plus specialized mentoring. [Click here to learn more about our community engagement initiative.]

During five days of field trips, workshops and seminars, fellows learned about new data sources, hear about effective community engagement strategies and gain new perspectives on pressing health issues. During the Fellowship week, Fellows also got plenty of time to discuss with experts, and with each other, strategies for covering health news with authority and sophistication. We also brought in editors, at our expense, for an in-depth project conference. Fellows returned home with great sources and new ideas for how to tell complex health stories. Fellows also are receiving six months of one-on-one mentoring with veteran journalists who guide them through work on major Fellowship projects.

Here are the 2017 California Fellows and links to their  projects and blog posts:

Matthew Bajko, Bay Area Reporter:  An exploration of the possible ramifications of the state’s request to residents to provide details about their gender identities when signing up for state programs

Harvey Barkin, FilAm Star: An examination of how the ACA benefitted Filipino American children in the Bay Area and what the likely changes may mean for their continuing care

Antonia Cereijido, Latino USA: An hour-long radio documentary on the struggle to bring safe drinking water to a mobile home park in the Eastern Coachella Valley, where high levels of arsenic have been found in the well water

Sandra Cervantes, Univision, Sacramento:  Two stories on the likely impact of the dismantling of healthcare reform on Latinos and an investigative piece about possible health hazards for installers of artificial turf

Kelly Davis, Voice of San Diego: An investigation of how well San Diego’s “housing first” program has worked

Merdies Hayes, Our Weekly, Los Angeles: An exploration of how the likely dismantling of Obamacare will affect Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital’s care of residents of Watts

Suzanne Hurt, Press-Enterprise, Riverside: The challenges that the public employees who survived the San Bernardino terrorist attack face getting needed care

Kerry Klein, Valley Public Radio, Fresno: The effects on health of the doctor shortage in the San Joaquin Valley and promising solutions

Mackenzie Mays, Fresno Bee and Vida en al Valle: The ramifications of a controversy over sex ed in Fresno and two adjoining counties

Jeff Mitchell, The Salinas Californian and El Sol: How low wages to farmworkers in the Salinas Valley contribute to poor nutrition, health problems and lack of social mobility

Padma Nagappan, The Cancer Newsletter and New America Media: The multiple barriers that prevent immigrants from getting cancer screening, care and access to trials

Marissa Ortega-Welch, KALW, Oakland: The health impacts of crude oil extraction, transportion and refining oil

Molly Peterson, High Country News, KCRW: The health effects of climate change-related urban heat in the LA area

Harold Pierce, Bakersfield Californian: A hidden epidemic in Kern County: toxic stress

Jeremy Raff, The A video documentary on the concerns in the disabled community about proposed cuts to Medicaid

Denisse Salazar, Orange County Register and Excelsior:  A three-part series on the direct and indirect effects of gang violence on children

Liliana Sunn, KFPK, Los Angeles: A three-part series on how Obamacare has benefitted Latinos in Los Angeles and the possible impacts of likely changes

Monica Velez, Merced Sun-Star: An examination of the systemic barriers that prevent Medi-Cal clients in Merced County from getting timely care

Nick Welsh, Santa Barbara Independent: Three stories on community clinics, recuperative care for the homeless and the shortage of psychiatric beds in Santa Barbara County

Who Can Apply: 

USC Annenberg is looking for journalists who think big and want to produce stories that have an impact. 

This Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast, and online media throughout California, 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.

We prefer that applicants have a minimum of three years of professional experience; many have decades. Journalists writing for ethnic media are strongly encouraged to apply. Proposals for collaborative projects between mainstream and ethnic news outlets receive preference, as do projects produced for co-publication or co-broadcast in both mainstream and ethnic news outlets. Freelancers who apply should earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Please contact Martha Shirk at with questions about your eligibility.

Why Apply?

Knowledge and Skills: During field trips and seminars, participants hear from respected investigative journalists and leaders in community health, health policy and medicine.

Workshops provide practical reporting tips, expert sources, community engagement strategies and informed policy perspectives on the circumstances that shape health or ill health in communities across America. Participants also gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities through innovative storytelling and data visualization techniques.

Financial Support and Mentoring: California Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $1,000 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism. Journalism fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.

How to Apply

Click here for details about what we're looking for in your application.  

Click on the link to our online application to apply. Note:  If you encounter technical problems when you're trying to apply, please email Jesse Wang at

Click here to access the supplemental application for a Community Engagement grant. Only journalists who are selected for the California Fellowship will be eligible to receive a Community Engagement grant.


Highlights of the 2017 California Fellowship

“From Food Stamps to the Opioid Epidemic: An Intimate Approach to Covering Health,” the keynote address by Eli Saslow, reporter for the Washington Post

“Health Disparities: The Root Causes of Sickness and Health,” a talk by Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., senior vice president of Healthy Communities at The California Endowment

“A Brief History of Obamacare,” a panel discussion featuring  Michael Cousineau, D.P.H., professor of clinical preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine at USC; Laurel Lucia, manager of the healthcare program at UC Berkeley Labor Center; and Michael Lujan co-founder and chief sales officer at Limelight Health

“A Vision for the Future: Republican Plans for Repeal and Replace,” a talk by Lanhee Chen, Ph.D., David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

“The Dismantling of Obamacare: Reporting on Health Care in a Time of Uncertainty,” a talk by  Noam Levey, health reporter, Los Angeles Times

“Preparing for Trumpcare: Scenarios for a Radically Different Healthcare Model,” a conversation with Peter Long, Ph.D., president and CEO, Blue Shield of California Foundation, and Frank Meza, M.D., a consultant to AltaMed Health Services        

"Challenges to a Fragile Safety Net," a panel discussion featuring  Kimberly Dixon, M.D.,  a pediatrician with Clinica Sierra Vista in Baksersfield, and Pia V. Escudero, L.C.S.W., director of School Mental Health Crisis Counseling & Intervention Services at the Los Angeles Unified School District

“Telling Health Stories with Context and Balance,” a workshop led by Robert J. Davis,  Ph.D., M.P.H., president and editor-in-chief, Everwell

“Health Reporting Datapalooza,” a workshop led by Meghan Hoyer, data journalist, The Associated Press

“Data Reporting: Chronicling the Opioid Epidemic in California Communities,” a workshop led by 2016 California Fellow Leo Castaneda, a reporter at inewsource

“Reframing the Conversation: a Workshop on Engaged Journalism,” led by Cole Goins, Reporting/Reveal, and Jesse Hardman,  freelance radio reporter and founder of WWNO’s  “Listening Post”

A tour of the ER at LAC+USC Medical Center followed by a discussion about possible impacts of Trump’s healthcare agenda on a county ER, featuring Edward Newton, M.D. professor of emergency medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Carl Richard Chudnofsky, M.D., chair and professor of emergency medicine at Keck











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