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2019 Data Fellowship

Program Description: 


The 2019 Center for Health Journalism Data Fellowship is designed for skilled journalists who want to learn to mine data sources to reveal key insights essential to high-impact journalism. 

The program offers professional reporters an opportunity to learn to acquire, analyze and produce visualizations of data that can help their audiences understand key health and child welfare developments.  Applicants can be either beat reporters, focused on health or children's issues, or have a demonstrated interest in reporting on these themes.

Center for Health Journalism Data Fellows receive four days of 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 2019 Data Fellowship will provide two training tracks tailored to the skill levels of participating journalists. The lead trainers will be award-wining investigative and data joruanlists who are some of the best in the business: 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.

Each applicant is required to propose an ambitious investigative or explanatory reporting project to undertake in the six months following the training. Fellows will return home from the training with grants of $2,000 to support reporting and data acquisition costs.   For six months, Fellows will receive guidance from our expert data journalism mentors as they complete ambitious explanatory or investigative Fellowship projects built around data – reporting that impacts policy and spurs new community discussions. 

The Data Fellowship has identified priority areas for projects:

For National Applicants (Outside California)

The Center seeks proposals for projects that explore child welfare, juvenile justice and child health and well-being issues, including, but not limited to, the impact of chronic stress, poverty and childhood trauma on child development; juvenile justice; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; the role of policy in improving prospects for children; community violence; child illness, injury and mortality trends; the intersection of race/ethnicity and/or class in child and family outcomes; strengths-based approaches to improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families; creative financing and cross-agency strategies to treat and prevent the impacts of child maltreatment on children and families; and innovative solutions. 

For California Applicants

The Center seeks proposals for projects that explore how community conditions influence health and well-being including health-related environmental justice issues; the impact of community violence on health and well-being; racial, ethnic, economic and geographic health disparities; access to care for underserved communities, the performance of California’s safety net; the possible consequences in California of the federal effort to rollback the Affordable Care Act and current social supports for low-income people; health and mental health challenges for immigrants; and innovative solutions to the state's public health and health care challenges. We welcome project ideas that explore public policies -- or failings of public policies -- to address the high cost of housing, transportation challenges, air pollution, and neighborhood safety. Projects can explore the school environment and the emotional health of children, including trauma-informed approaches and efforts to ensure successful paths for youth. Proposals from California journalists can focus on children and families, but they should also meet one of the above criteria. 



Feedback from Recent Fellows


The 2018 Data Fellowship 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 training institute.  Click here  for a list of the Fellows and links to their profiles, blog posts and Fellowship projects.  Here's what some  of the Fellows had to say about the experience:

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.                                                                     

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 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 ReportI'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.                                                        

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.               






Who Can Apply: 

Applicants must demonstrate a minimal skill level in Excel or take an online course on Excel before coming to L.A. Since the Fellowship is highly interactive, Fellows must also bring a laptop to the sessions and pre-load it with the Excel and Tableau software that will be used during the training.

We prefer that applicants have a minimum of three years of professional experience; many Fellows 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. Students and interns are ineligible.

What You Will Gain

Knowledge and Skills: Fellows will receive intensive training in data acquisition, cleansing, analysis and visualization techniques from some of the best data journalists in the country.  Fellows will gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities.

Financial Support and Mentoring:  Fellows will receive grants of $2,000 to use for reporting and data acquisition costs.  Veteran data journalists will provide one-on-one mentoring for six months while Fellows work on substantive investigative or explanatory reporting projects. Up to three Data Fellows from California may receive supplemental grants of $1,000 to $2,000 for community engagement, as well as specialized mentoring on community engagement. 

How to Apply

Click here for details about what we're looking for in your application.  All applications must be filed through our online application, which will be posted in mid July. 

For general infornation about the Data Fellowship and to arrange a phone consultation with one of our data trainers (required before applying), write Martha Shirk at

California journalists are eligible to apply for a supplemental $1,000-$2,000 Community Engagement Grant.  Click here to read about the purpose of those grants and click on this link to apply. For more information about the Community Engagement Grants, write Danielle Fox, the Center's interim engagement editor, at  


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.






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In this season of giving, you can support journalism that saves lives by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Center for Health Journalism. For 15 years, the Center has made it possible for reporters to call attention to untold stories, highlight solutions and bring communities together around common aims. In today’s difficult news environment, the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism provides critical support so that reporters can produce ambitious, game-changing projects on health and well-being. You can text to donate. No amount is too small; just send a text to 41-444 and type the message CHJ for further instructions.

Got a great idea for a substantive reporting project?  Let us fund it! (And bring you to L.A. for five days of intensive training as well!)


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