USC Annenberg names 22 National Fellows, awards grants for reporting on health and child well-being

The Center for Health Journalism will welcome 22 journalists from around the nation on July 22 to the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism. 

The journalists will be at USC to participate in the Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship, five days of seminars, workshops and field trips that will run from July 22–26. This year’s program will focus on vulnerable children and families and the community conditions and life experiences that contribute to — or threaten — their well-being. 

The competitively chosen journalists will return home with reporting grants of $2,000 to $10,000 from the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being, the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and the Center for Health Journalism to assist them with the costs of undertaking ambitious explanatory or investigative reporting projects over the next six months. The Center will also provide mentoring by veteran journalists for six months, and up to five of the Fellows will receive additional $2,000 grants and specialized mentoring on community engagement. 

The 2018 National Fellowship is funded by generous grants from The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The California Endowment also provides core support to the Center’s family of programs.

The Center for Health Journalism and this Fellowship advance “impact reporting,” which marries powerful narratives, data and engagement to produce journalism that sets the stage for policy change. Since 2005, the Fellowships program has educated more than 800 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism, with an emphasis on the relationship between health and place.  

“At the Foundation, we are committed to improving the health and well-being of all Americans,” says Jordan Reese, director of media relations at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It is an honor to support the kind of journalism that will impact policy change and therefore impact the lives of so many deserving children in our community.”

Norris West, director of strategic communications for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said, “The Casey Foundation is proud to continue supporting the Center, which helps to shine light on important issues that otherwise might remain obscured. The Fellows examine systemic problems and often point to solutions that can improve conditions for children, families and communities.”

Michelle Levander, founding director of the Center for Health Journalism, praised Fellows and their newsrooms for tackling projects that will explore such pressing issues as the impact of domestic violence on children; the legacy of the deinstitutionalization of mental patients in Virginia; how San Francisco schools are helping children overcome trauma; how crumbling infrastructure affects health on a Navajo reservation; and how the last year’s devastating hurricanes affected healthcare systems and exacerbated income inequality in Puerto Rico and Texas.

“At a time of unprecedented federal policy change affecting children and families, it is more important than ever to support journalism that exposes conditions in underserved communities,” she said. “We are grateful for foundation and newsroom support that allows these talented reporters to provide their audiences with a deeper understanding of community challenges and possible paths to change.” 

Here are the 2018 National Fellows, along with summaries of their proposed projects:

Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being 2018 Grantees

Jonetta Rose Baras of Capital Community News will report on the successes and failures of trauma-informed education in three Washington, D.C. communities where there is documented evidence of high poverty, extensive violence and low academic achievement.

Amanda Curcio of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will report on how incarceration affects Arkansas children and youth and disparities between counties in supports offered to help them re-enter society.

Lee Hawkins of HarperCollins Publishers and the Wall St. Journal will explore how adverse childhood experiences, including corporal punishment, homicide, gun violence and the death of parents and relatives, have disproportionately affected black families in America. 

Jayne O’Donnell and E. Mabinty Quarshie of USA Today will investigate the impact of domestic violence on children, including increased risk for physical and mental health problems, and courts’ willingness to order visitation with their parental perpetrators despite the history of violence against their spouses and sometimes the children as well.

Lee Romney of KALW public radio in San Franciso will look into how the San Francisco schools are helping students cope with adversity. 

Neena Satija of the Texas Tribune and Reveal will investigate Texas’ failure to provide consistent and quality legal advocates for vulnerable kids and what it means for the kids.

Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism Grantees

James Causey of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will explore the roles that mass incarceration and untreated trauma play in the collective psyche of African Americans in Milwaukee.

Paul Demko of Politico will take an in-depth look at three states that are likely to pursue divergent paths under the new ACA landscape.

Katy Burnell Evans of the Richmond Times Dispatch will look at the legacy of the deinstitutionalization of mental patients, which left thousands of mentally ill Virginians in jail, in expensive hospital beds or on the streets because of the states’ failure to provide community-based treatment and supportive housing.

Michael Hill of NJTV and WGBO FM will explore the role that unaddressed trauma played in the lives of former prisoners.

Amy Linn of New Mexico Searchlight will investigate how crumbling infrastructure adversely affects the health of residents of the Navajo reservation.

Luann Rife of the Roanoke Times will report on the impact of poor access to health care in Virginia's coal counties, whose residents are among the poorest and least healthy in the U.S., and what a planned merger of two health systems and a mandate from two states to focus on prevention might mean.

Mc Nelly Torres of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico will investigate the ability of Puerto Rico’s struggling community health clinic network to serve the health needs of Puerto Ricans following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

Center for Health Journalism Grantees

Bailey Loosemore of the Louisville Courier Journal will identify Louisville’s hot spots for food insecurity and highlight promising solutions.

Binghui Huang of the Allentown Morning Call will report on how isolation, poverty, struggling hospitals and weak health infrastructure contribute to poor physical and mental health in rural Pennsylvania.

Erika Carrillo and Maria Sosa of Univision Miami will investigate how women in South Florida, mostly Latino, are being harmed by plastic surgery performed by unqualified doctors who don't carry malpractice insurance.

Dana Ferguson of the Argus Leader will investigate the systemic failure of the Indian Health Service in the Great Plains, where patients, families and inspectors continue to report cases of botched or negligent care.

Linda Jacobson of Education Dive will explore what difference California’s tobacco tax, dedicated to funding programs benefitting children 5 and under, has made 20 years after enactment and what direction it will take under a new governor.

Marina Riker of the Victoria (TX) Advocate will investigate how last year’s hurricane disproportionately hurt the region's low-income residents, who were already struggling in a region with severe income inequality.

Ke Xu of Sing Tao Daily will look into the health needs of undocumented Chinese immigrants in New York City and the ability of local organizations to meet them.

Past Fellowship projects can be found here

Information on our programs, the work of our Fellows, and upcoming application opportunities can be found by subscribing to the Center’s newsletter