Skip to main content.

2019 National Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Sunday, July 28, 2019 - 5:00pm to Thursday, August 1, 2019 - 3:00pm
Program Description: 

Each year we bring 20 or more competitively selected professional journalists from 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 conversations. Click here to read the hundreds of stories that our Fellows have produced over the years, leading to new policies and laws and winning journalism awards along the way.

Click here  for a list of the 2018 National Fellows and descriptions of 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 training 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.

The 2019 National Fellowship is designed for journalists who want to do groundbreaking reporting on vulnerable children and families in the United States and the community conditions that contribute to their well-being. Fellows 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 --  delve into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity. And we will examine the possible impacts on children's health and well-being of proposals in Congress to reduce social supports and health coverage. 

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. And they will receive advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. We challenge them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlets serve. 

The 2019 National Fellowship is supported 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 on domestic health and social welfare issues 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 Hunt Fund is supported by donations from The California Endowment and relatives and friends of the late Dennis Hunt, who co-founded the Center for Health Journalism.
  • 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 more about how we define community engagement and what we're looking for in community engagement proposals.  
Who Can Apply: 

The National Fellowship is open to professional journalists who work for or contribute to 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 preferential consideration, 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. 

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

Each applicant must propose a substantive report project that can be completed in the six months following the Fellowship session. For the 2019 National Fellowship, we will consider proposals for projects that:

  • Expose critical community health issues or explore the influence of social, economic and environmental factors on health, including social class; exposure to crime and violence; urban development, transportation or city planning; barriers to health care resources; exposure to toxins; 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 threats to the health and social welfare safety nets or illuminate health care innovations and reforms that benefit disadvantaged populations.


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 directly 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.


How to Apply

Click here  for details about what's required in an application.

What Some of our 2018 National Fellows Said about the Fellowship

Maria Sosa, Univision Miami: The Center does an extraordinary job of shedding a light on very important issues, not only locally, but nationally. By choosing great journalists, and giving them mentorship along the way, theguarantee the publication of great stories that will address very important matters.  It has helped me broaden the field of possibilities, and also it has been very inspirational to get to meet great speakers and veteran journalists. 

Mc Nelly Torres,  Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico: The National Fellowship has been a terrific experience and opportunity to focus on projects addressing important issues that affect our communities. I recommend this fellowship to anybody who wants to embark on an ambitious project. This program helped me to analyze the issues pertaining to the topic I chose to focus on in my project, while learning about other issues that are important for us as journalists to know about. I learned a great deal about trauma and the systemic problems in our criminal justice system, which is something I knew about, but having experts on this subject zooming in on issues and giving us facts was very eye-opening. 

Jonetta Rose Barras, freelancer for Capital Community News: Sometimes we can get stuck seeing our work through a narrow lens. The week of training provided by the Center helped open my mind to new topics and new approaches, creating along the way a deeper appreciation for the work we do. I learned about the issue of trauma from a scientific perspective from people who are doing deep dive research, greatly informing future work I may do in this area. There were various reporting techniques that I had not consider to which I was exposed; and I had the good fortune to meet an exciting, committed group of journalists, inspiring me to stay with the work. I learned how to build an investigative news package; how to handle government data to secure the information I actually need; how to build multiple sources using various platforms including social media; and how to fully engage those sources and impacted communities in my reporting. 

Lee Hawkins, Wall Street Journal: The National Fellowship has provided me with a much deeper understanding of childhood well-being issues, which I can apply immediately to a story I'm working on. I will go back to the office with a deeper understanding of the effects of adverse childhood experiences and long-term societal consequences. The presentations from scientists and doctors distinguish this program from those that only involve sociologists and policymakers. 

Ke Xu, Singtao Daily: The National Fellowship is informative, inspiring and very well-organized. It offers you a great training opportunity and support in your journalism career.  The concept of “social determinants of health”, which gave me a new angle in health reporting, especially how immigration status affects health conditions of undocumented immigrants, and how poverty, discrimination and the toxic political climate do harm to their health.  

Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today: The Fellowship provides fabulous training that we aren't getting at work, hands-on help and the opportunity to connect with other journalists. 

Marina Riker, Victoria (Texas) Advocate: I can't even begin to say how thankful I am for this experience. For anyone who cares about standing up for vulnerable populations and helping spur change in their communities, this program is incredible. Hearing about research to back up reporting on vulnerable children and families is very helpful. And most importantly, listening to the incredible journalists talk about their projects and how to be more impactful was amazing. I'll bring back information about research, audience engagement and reporting tools that can help ensure our reporting has impact. For me, the breakout sessions with other fellows and our mentors was possibly the most helpful. And listening to the other reporters talk about their projects was so incredible  I feel so, so lucky to be able to have learned from them. I made so many new connections and feel so lucky to have been able to meet so many phenomenal journalists. As someone just starting their career, I feel like I have grown so much from this experience, and will continue to learn from everyone I met. 

Luann Rife, Roanoke Times: This is a terrific program that is focused on impactful journalism, which is so refreshing in the current climate. Lots of great information to digest. Many of the discussions, both formal and informal, will help to shape and focus my project.  

Binghui Huang, [Allentown] Morning Call: Attending the Fellowship is like going through journalism school for investigative reporting in four days. You learn the steps of going after a big story and see a lot of examples of how it can be done.  All the reporters who talked about their project inspired me to plan projects better, and I will now approach stories with a better plan. Also, the lessons on trauma and engaging with vulnerable populations, I'll pass that on to everyone in my newsroom. I never thought about children inheriting trauma in their genes or in the womb. When I write about vulnerable families, I'll explain about the effects of trauma on their children's health.

Paul Demko, Politico: This is a valuable program that will provide the tools (monetary, professional, etc.) you need to deliver an in-depth reporting project that goes beyond the typical beat reporting. I will utilize reporting, writing and organizing skills that I learned – or had re-enforced – through this program. It deepened my understanding of child mental health and the profound ways that lives are shaped by forces far beyond their control. 

Mabinty Quarshie, USA Today: The National Fellowship is an amazing program that gives journalists the training and resources they need to report on pressing health issues that affect our lives. This is the kind of program that every journalist should get the chance to attend. This program has enabled to rethink how I approach my work as a journalist and all the change that is possible to impact through health journalism. I think that mostly what I will take back is that there are hundreds of untold stories that we can tackle if we are willing to look at data, or change how we do engagement, and go into underserved communities. Each session was great in its own special way. This has made me think more about what stories aren't being covered and what ways my newsroom and I can cover these stories.

Katie Evans, Richmond Times-Dispatch: In a time of increasing demands and uncertainty, having an opportunity to build your skills and learn from top notch journalists is crucial. Apply, apply, apply!  This program has challenged me, augmented my strengths and laid bare some blind spots. I’m ready to get to work. I’ll be using data to tell stories with more strength and clarity and working harder to engage communities about issues that impact them. I have a deeper understanding of the science behind childhood trauma and its relationship to other critical health conditions.

Amanda Curcio, Arkansas Gazette: The Fellowship is a great blend of informative sessions with experts, interactions with communities impacted by health issues and other journalists who can guide you through managing a tough project. It’s daunting to take on this task, but after the Fellowship sessions, I feel invigorated about setting out and tackling the issues at stake. I learned a lot of effective ways to engage people from communities that are often hard to reach. I found that invaluable. I will discuss some engagement techniques and ways to backwards engineer and plan these larger deep dives with people in my newsroom. I will also share how Senior Fellows and guest speakers were able to weave storytelling in with data.

Dana Ferguson, Argus Leader: The Fellowship is a great resource for learning more about health reporting and research as well as building the network you need to write a project with impact. It helped me hone my reporting and writing process and meet with others who inspired me to think big picture. I came away with a more informed understanding of the genetic and situational factors that contribute to our health. I also take away a better sense of how to highlight inequalities in health care with an eye toward solutions. I really enjoyed hearing from reporters who’ve gone through the Fellowship and worked on big projects. Their insight on planning and working through their projects were very informative. I now have a fundamentally different understanding of the factors that play into our health. Learning about how our surroundings can play such a key role in how our genes express themselves was at times scary but will really help me better inform my readers, especially in explaining how the decks are stacked against so many in our state. 

Linda Jacobson, Education Dive: The presentations are informative, and the journalist speakers inspire you to ask questions maybe you haven't thought about related to the project you have in mind. You leave the event feeling like you'll have the support and resources you need to do important work. I not only heard from speakers who were able to expand on the research with which I was already familiar, but I developed new angles and questions related to my project and was inspired to present the finished work in different ways. I will definitely take back knowledge of health topics and health research that can complement my writing on education and early-childhood education issues. I learned a few reporting strategies from listening to the other writers, including surveys and connecting with organizations that can share your work.

Bailey Loosemore, Louisville Courier-Journal:  The National Fellowship asks a lot from its participants, but it's tailor made to prepare them for intense projects that require a lot of support. I greatly value the Fellowship's investment and consideration and wish more programs offered the same guidance and care. This program made me want to think deeper about my subjects and to really identify realistic goals. It makes me want to work more creatively and to try new things without fear of failure. At a basic level, I'll take back a few new keyboard tricks to clean data faster. I'll also take back a better understanding of how interactives and graphics can display an important idea in a way the written word alone can't. I now have a large list of studies and sources that I can share with my colleagues. And I've learned to adamantly refuse to take "no" for an answer. There's always a way to keep a conversation with someone going. Hearing about the great lengths previous Fellows went to to get the best stories and necessary information was absolutely inspiring and made me want to do everything I can not to let the program down. It was very beneficial to learn that some had similar feelings of stress and intimidation at the start of their projects and that they were able to work through obstacles to produce great work. I was fascinated to learn that a mother's stress levels and nutrition during pregnancy can have lifelong effects on her child, putting them at risk for a variety of health issues. It made me think about my own childhood and how people can be naturally set up to succeed or fail.

James Causey, Milwaukee Journal: This was one of the most educational fellowships that I have ever been on. While I have worked on big projects, I learned new techniques that will help me moving forward.




The agenda for the 2019 National Fellowship is still being developed.

Journalists attending the 2018 National Fellowship took part in discussions about:

  • How conditions outside of the doctor’s office contribute to health and insights on the emerging science on fetal programming
  • How social and health policy under Trump affects children and families
  • How trauma in infancy and early childhood affects health, prospects and life expectancy and contributes to the development of chronic disease in middle age
  • Leading clinical interventions to address childhood trauma
  • How to report ethically on communities in crisis – with four veteran reporters
  • How to engage with communities and involve them in the storytelling, led by engagement specialists from ProPublica
  • How to manage big projects – with master storyteller Jacqui Banaszynski, editor of Nieman Storyboard  
  • The National Fellows also took a field visit to an innovative county program that seeks to address the unmet social needs of patients. Chronic problems – such as homelessness, hunger or domestic violence – can be the underlying causes of the symptoms that bring patients into county clinics.


Join us on April 23 for insights and suggestions from physician and author Dr. Sunita Puri that will deepen your understanding and coverage of palliative care and end-of-life issues. Sign-up here!


Follow Us



CHJ Icon