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2018 Data Fellowship

Program Description: 


The 2018 Center for Health Journalism Data Fellowship was designed for skilled journalists who want to learn to mine data sources to reveal key insights essential to high-impact journalism. 

The 2018 program brought 16 competitively selected professional journalists from leading print, broadcast, ethnic and online media outlets throughout the United States to the University of Southern California campus for an all-expenses-paid, four-day data journalism institute.  Click here  for a list of the Fellows and links to their profiles, blog posts and Fellowship projects. After the training, Fellows returned home with reporting grants of $2,000 to $4,000. For six months after they return to their newsrooms, fellows will receive guidance from some of the best data journalists in the business as they complete ambitious explanatory or investigative Fellowship projects built around data – reporting that impacts policy and spurs new community discussions. Our 2018 Data Fellowship mentors are Meghan Hoyer, data editor at The Associated Press; Paul Overberg, data reporter at the Wall Street Journal; and Cheryl Phillips, Lorey I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and a founding member of the California Civic Data Coalition.

Center for Health Journalism Data Fellows receive intensive training on data acquisition, cleaning, analysis and visualization, as well as an introduction to important data sets that can serve as the basis for groundbreaking journalism.  They hear from leading data journalism experts about how to make successful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and gain insights on how to pair original data analysis with compelling narratives.

The 2018 Data Fellowship provided two training tracks tailored to the skill levels of participating journalists.

Each Fellow was required to propose an ambitious investigative or explanatory reporting project to undertake in the six months following the training.  

Here is a list of the 2018 Data Fellows, with links to their profiles, blog posts and published projects.



Here's what the 2018 Data Fellows had to say about their experiences:

Cassandra Jaramillo, Dallas Morning News: Training in newsrooms can be hard to get at this level, but the Center for Health Journalism helps invest in data skills for promising journalists. I have really enjoyed meeting so many other local news journalists for this project. A lot of us are going through challenges given the financial obstacles within the industry, but it's inspiring to be surrounded by so many people who are committed to their communities.

Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: This was a great opportunity to get hands-on training in intermediate-level data tools, plus insights and one-on-one interaction with some of the best in the business. This program was immediately helpful. I quickly and substantially improved my Excel skills, Census savvy and (to a lesser extent) ability to use Tableau. I am already using spreadsheet and visualization techniques that I could not have used a week ago. I have picked up or improved use of pivot tables, if statements, vlookups and other Excel functions, and Tableau.

Deirdre McPhillips, U.S. News & World Report: I've heard creative ways to find my way into the information I need for a story, both in data and other sources.  I’m taking home new sources/resources and a more organized approach to using data in reporting and investigating.

Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times: The things I learned during the data fellowship were extremely valuable. I'm sure the tools I picked up will inform not just my data-based stories in the future – but also all of my reporting. I've learned to better understand how to identify the data I need to tell a story and how to go about obtaining that information. I particularly enjoyed how each of our speakers is so dedicated to finding and telling important stories that make a difference.

Nicole Hayden, The Desert Sun/USA Today Network: The fellowship is great for newsrooms that may not have a large data team or any data team. It arms the fellows with their own data skills to tackle a huge, intimidating project. It also offers a strong, supportive structure that feels as if it is just built for you and your project. The most compelling part of the program are the senior fellows we are matched with – top data editors throughout the country who I have dreamed of working with are now advising me on a data project that wouldn't be possible without this grant.

Michelle Faust Raghavan, KPCC, Southern California Public Radio: This is the most valuable training that I have done in many years. I know much more about where to find and how to use and visualize data in ways that are specifically useful in my job. I will be able to clean and analyze data at much higher level than I have ever done before.  I will be a better journalist moving forward.

Jared Whitlock, San Diego Business Journal: I’m walking away with nifty new data and research skills, but also a new mindset for tackling stories. Stories rich in data mean impact, something we strive for in this line of work. I’ve added to my Rolodex some of the best data journalists in the country.



Here are some  highlights of the  2018 Data Fellowship: 

  • Paul Overberg, a data journalist at the Wall Street Journal, and Mary Jo Webster, data editor for the Minneapolis StarTribune, provided in-depth overviews on navigating spreadsheets.
  • Paul Overberg and Angeliki Kastanis, a data journalist with The Associated Press, taught sessions on how to exploring U.S. Census data to report on children and families 
  • Cheryl Phillips, Lorey I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and a founding member of the California Civic Data Coalition, and Ben Joneschief evangelist for Tableau Public, provided instruction on using Tableau to create data visualizations.
  • Meghan Hoyer,  a data editor for The Associated Press,  led workshops on datasets instrumental to good health and child welfare policy reporting.
  • Sarah Cohen, Knight Chair in Data Journalism at Arizona State University and former editor of the computer-assisted reporting group at The New York Times, shared tips about how reporters can use FOIA and its cousins to access death records, hospital payments and lobbying by health care companies. Afterwards, Cohen and Phillips led an interactive workshop that helped Fellows gain a better understanding of the roadblocks they might face in acquiring data.
  • Jim Neff, deputy managing editor for investigations for the Philadelphia Inquirer, shared insights from years of editing investigative projects, including three Pulitzer Prize winners, about how to develop an investigative state of mind.
  • Chad Terhune, a reporter for Kaiser Health News, provided tips about how to find usual data when covering the business of health.
  • Cary Aspinwall, a 2016 National Fellow and investigative reporter at the Dallas Morning News, talked about how she built her own data set for her Fellowship project, "Overlooked," which chronicled the effects on children when their mothers are jailed without anyone ensuring that they are being taken care of.






The Center for Health Journalism is dedicated to supporting journalists covering two of the biggest stories of our time -- the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism and inequities in America. We provide reporters with intensive training instituteswebinars and tips about craft and content and are providing deep and sustained support for reporters and their newsrooms in this historic and difficult moment. You can donate through the USC web portal at this link:  Pressed for time? You can also text to donate! No amount is too small; just send a text to 41-444 and type the message CHJ for further instructions.


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