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2019 Data Fellowship

Program Description: 


The 2019 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 program offered 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.  Fellows included can be either beat reporters focused on health or children's issues and general assignment reporters with a demonstrated interest in reporting on these themes.

The Data Fellows received 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 heard 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 provided 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 Fellow is required to propose an ambitious investigative or explanatory reporting project to undertake in the six months following the training. Fellows returned home from the training with grants of $2,000 to support reporting and data acquisition costs.   For six months, Fellows received 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 sought  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 sought 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. 


The 2019 Data Fellowship brought 18 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.  Here are the 2019 Data Fellows:                   

2019 California Data Fellows                                                                                                                                           

Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle

Larry Buhl, Capital & Main

Meredith Cooper, Chico News & Review

Cynthia Dizikes, San Francisco Chronicle

Lindsey Holden, San Luis Obispo Tribune

Peter Johnson, New Times

Jason Kandel and Lolita Lopez, NBC4 Los Angeles

Ida Mojadad, SF Weekly

Teri Sforza, Orange County Register

Matt Tinoco, Southern California Public Radio


National Data Fellows

Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

Sarah Macaraeg, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune

Ginny Monk, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Erica Morrison, Oregon Public Broadcasting

Terrell Ross, Georgia Public Broadcasting

Marina Starleaf Riker, San Antonio Express-News 







Here are some highlights of the 2019 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.


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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