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2020 Data Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Monday, November 30, 2020 to Friday, December 4, 2020
Program Description: 

The 2020 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.  Fellows  can be  beat reporters focused on health, education or children's issues or general assignment reporters with a demonstrated interest in reporting on these themes.

Data Fellows receive five 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 2020 Data Fellowship will provide two training tracks tailored to the skill levels of participating journalists. The lead trainers are award-wining investigative and data jouralists who are some of the best in the business: Meghan Hoyer, data editor at The Associated Press; Paul Overberg, 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 return home from the training with grants of $2,000 to support reporting and data acquisition costs.   For six months, Fellows 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. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Data Fellowship will be held online through the Zoom platform.  

The Data Fellowship has identified priority areas for projects:

For National Applicants (Outside California)

From journalists from outside California, we're especially interested in proposals that investigate and explore:

  • The racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities that are emerging each day as the pandemic continues and how they impact vulnerable children and families
  • The role of systemic racism in influencing child and family well-being
  • Unequal access to economic and social welfare and health relief and recovery opportunities 
  • The performance of local, state and federal government health agencies and nonprofit organizations during the crisis on issues including child welfare, juvenile justice and child health and well-being issues
  • The impact of chronic stress, poverty and childhood trauma on child development
  • The intersection between partner violence and child abuse
  • The role of policy in improving prospects for children 
  • 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 
  • Innovative solutions, and
  • Policy options to address the longstanding weaknesses in our social and health safety net that have been thrown into sharp relief by this crisis and that create uneven outcomes and opportunities. 

For California Applicants: 

For our 2020 Data Fellowship, the Center seeks proposals that explore:

  • Risks born by “essential workers” and the racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities that are emerging each day in health outcomes and health systems as the pandemic continues
  • The role of systemic racism in influencing health and health care
  • The health and mental health effects of unequal access to economic relief and recovery opportunities for communities of color, including undocumented immigrants  
  • The health, welfare and well-being of children under 5 in Los Angeles County
  • The performance of health agencies and nonprofit organizations during the crisis on access to care for underserved communities, homelessness, mental health, addiction services and physician shortages as well as innovative policy options to address longstanding weaknesses in our safety nets exacerbated by this crisis. 

We also welcome proposals on non-COVID-19 health topics, including:

  • Health-related environmental justice issues
  • Health system performance and quality of care
  • Issues around mental health and opioid use
  • Health effects of housing insecurity, evictions or homelessness; lack of transportation;  air pollution; and neighborhood violence
  • The school environment and the emotional health of children, including trauma-informed approaches and efforts to ensure paths to success for youth
  • Mental health and substance abuse
  • Health care costs and health care financing
  • The patient experience
  • The health care workforce
  • Health care coordination
  • End-of-life and palliative care
  • Telemedicine and the use of technology in health care delivery
  • Data transparency and the health care industry
  • Maternity care, and
  • Cancer care. 



Who Can Apply: 

Applicants must demonstrate a minimal skill level in Excel or take an online course on Excel. Since the Fellowship is highly interactive, Fellows must have access to a computer and pre-load it with the Excel and Tableau software that will be used during the training. (If you don't already have this software, we will provide advice about how you can get it for free.)

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-$10,00 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 late September. 

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 here to submit a separate applcation. For more information about the Community Engagement Grants, write Danielle Fox, the Center's engagement editor, at  


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.


A global pandemic, a national reckoning with racism, botched school reopenings and leadership vacuums — it's not an easy moment to be starting out as a journalist. Join us as we hear from three youth journalists from around the country as they discuss the massive challenges confronting their generation. Sign-up here

Ready to take your journalism to a new level by honing your data analysis and visualization skills?  We're offering our highly acclaimed annual Data Fellowship through Zoom from Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

Do you have a great idea for a potentially impactful reporting project on a health challenge in California?  Our 2020 Impact Fund can provide financial support and six months of mentoring.


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