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2017 National Fellowship

Event Type: 
Date and Time: 
Sunday, July 16, 2017 - 5:00pm to Thursday, July 20, 2017 - 2:00pm
Program Description: 

Note: Deadline Extended to Monday, March 27

The 2017 National Fellowship is designed for journalists who want to do groundbreaking reporting on vulnerable children and families and the community conditions that contribute to their well-being. Fellows will gain insights into the latest research on how a child’s  development over a lifetime is affected by early experiences of trauma, including abuse, neglect, parental stress and community violence. Other workshops and discussions – with distinguished journalists, researchers, clinicians and community case workers -- will delve into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity. And we will examine the likely impact of the rollback of healthcare reform on children's health.

Each year, we bring 20 or more  competitively-selected professional journalists from leading print, broadcast, ethnic and online media outlets to the University of Southern California campus for an all-expenses-paid journalism institute. Each Fellow returns home with a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000, and for up to six months afterwards, senior journalists guide them as they complete ambitious explanatory or investigative Fellowship projects that impact policy and spur new community discussions. Click here to read the hundreds of stories that our Fellows have produced over the years, spurring new policies and laws and winning journalism awards along the way. Click here for a list of the 2017 National Fellows and links to their profiles and blog posts about their reporting projects.

At a time of dramatic change in the media landscape, our National Fellowship offers journalists a chance to step away from the newsroom to learn new ways of thinking about what shapes the health and well-being of vulnerable children and benefit from critical resources that can elevate their journalism to a new level.  In workshops, field trips and discussions, Fellows learn from nationally renowned health experts, policy analysts and community health leaders, from top journalists in the field and from each other. Participants "graduate" with a multitude of story ideas and sources, plus a thorough understanding of the root causes of ill health, including trauma during childhood, barriers to health care access, the built environment, parental unemployment, lack of education, exposure to community or domestic violence and lack of access to healthy food. The program is practical and inspiring, focusing on content as well as craft.  We emphasize solutions journalism, journalism with impact and community engagement approaches that help journalists to make a difference.

We will also explore the connections between health and place, or how neighborhood, work and home environments impact health, well-being and life expectancy. Fellows will learn about innovative prevention and clinical programs that suggest ways to address chronic ills. They will also receive advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. We will challenge them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlets serve. 

We are looking for journalists who think big and want to use the resources provided by the Fellowship to produce a marquee project.  The Fellowships are open to all journalists interested in health reporting, not just those on the health beat. We view health broadly; health cuts across many traditional journalism beats, including education, local government, public safety, criminal justice and the environment. In each Fellowship class, we strive for a balance of participation from print, broadcast and multimedia journalists working for or contributing to mainstream, ethnic and indepdent media outlets anywhere in the United States.

The 2017 National Fellowship is underwritten by generous grants from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting and a third fund that underwrites community engagement efforts:

  • The Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism is a competitive grants program that supports substantive reporting on community health issues in underserved communities. Each Hunt grantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship’s $2,000 stipend, to support reporting on a community health topic. The Hunt Fund supports investigative and explanatory projects that will broaden the public's understanding of community health – examining how poverty, race, ethnicity, pollution, crime, and land-use and urban planning decisions influence the quality of life of residents as well as innovative ways to address these disparities. Past grantees have explored themes including environmental health; chronic disease and its disproportionate toll on certain communities; access to care for diverse communities; health reform innovations and challenges; and transportation challenges that interfere with prospects for good health. 
  • The Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, underwrites substantive reporting on vulnerable children and families. Each grantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship stipend, to support investigative or explanatory reporting on the impact of poverty and childhood trauma. Reporters may also choose to examine the performance of the institutions and government and private programs that serve these families. We’re interested in proposals for projects that look at child welfare and child health and well-being, including, but not limited to, the impact of toxic stress; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; the role of policy in improving prospects for children, including those in juvenile detention; and innovative approaches to the challenges that children in underserved communities face.
  • The Community Engagement Fund provides supplemental grants of $2,000 to underwrite innovative community engagement strategies.  Click here to read a blog post by Center Director Michelle Levander and watch a video about the goals of the grants.

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, with a focus on children. 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:  National  Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $2,000 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism or grants of $2,500 to $10,000 from our two topic-focused journalism funds. The grants are payable either to the Fellow or his or her media outlet. Journalism fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.


What Past Fellows Say about the Fellowship

Carol Marbin Miller, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald: The Fellowship offers a deep dive into the world of child health, particularly the traumatic consequences of poverty, ongoing stress and environmental pollution. The Fellowship did an excellent job of combining scholarship - at a very high level - with the testimony of people who have experienced poverty and hardship.”

Eve Troeh, New Orleans Public Radio: “This Fellowship gave me a renewed mission to report persistent poverty, and its health effects, as news. By reporting poverty as a health issue, newsrooms can use new data, new research, and new programs as "pegs" if needed. I'm coming away from my time in Los Angeles understanding that involving key stakeholders in the community on the front end will strengthen the project.”

Michael LaForgia, Investigative Reporter, Tampa Bay Times:  It's one of the best one of these programs I've ever attended. The Fellowship showed me how to pursue social issues as public health stories and also taught me about the types of people to seek out as expert sources.

Seema Yasmin, Health Reporter, Dallas Morning News: The mentorship and networking opportunities are amazing. It's great to have the time to focus on planning a big reporting project and to have input from some of the best print and broadcast journalists and editors. I finally understand what community engagement really means and what it looks like. 

Rob PerezInvestigative Reporter, Honolulu Star-Advertiser:  Coming from an isolated place like Hawaii, this was a great opportunity to recharge my batteries andexchange ideas with top journalists from other states. I'm returning home better equipped to serve our readers.

Melody CaoReporter, SinoVision:  I think the most important thing I learned from the program is that health is not only about health care. It's about everything from social services, to politics, to culture. exchange ideas with top journalists from other states. 

Lottie Joiner, Senior Editor, The Crisis magazine: The information on brain development and the impact of toxic stress and trauma on children was eye-opening. This program was packed with information, tools and resources. I met wonderfully passionate and talented journalists who I know will change their communities with their projects.

Who Can Apply: 

The National Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast and online media outlets throughout the United States, including freelancers. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health, social welfare or child and family issues, broadly defined to include the health of communities (see more below). 

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 are welcome, but need to have a confirmed assignment and should earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Each applicant must propose a substantive report project that can be completed in the six months following the Fellowship session. Click here for a list of the 2016 National Fellows and links to their reporting projects.

For the 2017 Fellowship, we will consider proposals for projects that:

  • Illuminate or expose critical community health issues. Proposals can focus on a specific health topic or delve into a confluence of circumstances and conditions that impact health in a community, including environment; social class; crime and violence; urban development; access to health resources; school absenteeism; transportation or city planning; and racial, ethnic, economic or geographic disparities.
  • Explore child welfare, juvenile justice and child health and well-being issues, including, but not limited to, the impact of chronic stress and childhood trauma on child development; inequities in the juvenile justice system; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; childhood obesity; the role of policy in improving prospects for children; and innovative solutions to the challenges facing children in underserved communities.
  • Investigate the likely consequences of the rollback of healthcare reform

Please contact Martha Shirk at if you have questions about your eligibility or what we're looking for in a project proposal.

How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply. 

Which Fellowship Is Right for Me? 


Among the highlights of the 2016 National Fellowship week:

  • Anne Fernald, Ph.D.director of the Center for Infant Studies at Stanford University, on the "word gap" between infants in different socioeconomic groups
  • Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., senior vice president for Healthy Communities for The California Endowment,  on health disparities 
  • Alice Kuo, M.D. professor of pediatrics at UCLA's John Geffen School of Medicine, and Laura Speer, who oversees the annual KidsCount report for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, on child health trends
  • Pat Levitt, Ph.D., provost professor at USC Keck School of Medicine, on how experiences in early childhood lead to structural and biological changes in the brain
  • Field Trip to Children’s Institute to observe evidence­‐based interventions and two-generational approaches to family trauma and violence 
  • A hands-on half-day workshop on data analysis and data visualization led by Paul Overberg, data journalist at the Wall Street Journal, and Ben Jones, director of Tableau Public
  • A session on community engagement featuring Terry Parris Jr., community editor for Pro Publica, and Lindsay Green-Barber, director of strategic research at  Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal
  • A "toxic tour" to a neighborhood polluted by fallout from local industry
  • Bruce Lanphear, M.D., M.P.H., of Simon Fraser University on the threats to children of toxic exposures
  • Glenda Wrenn, M.D., M.P.H.,  director of behavioral health for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Moorehouse School of Medicine, a Johnny Madrid, an advocate for foster youth, on resilience
  • Nancy Cambria, a 2015 National Fellow and reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on challenges in reporting on children living in poverty


Do you have a great idea for a data-informed health reporting project?  We'll give you four days of intensive training, a $2,000 grant and six months of expert mentoring to help produce it. Click here to find out more.


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