Presenters and fellows collaborating at the 2018 Health Journalism California Fellowship.
Photo by: Jeff Skeirik

USC Annenberg awards fellowships, health data reporting grants to 18 journalists

Eighteen journalists from around the nation will be at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism this week to take part in the Center for Health Journalism’s 2019 Data Fellowship. The highly selective program, which runs from Oct. 23-26, helps reporters gain investigative data skills through an intensive four-day series of workshops. It also provides six months of one-on-one mentoring by some of the best data journalists in the country and grants of $2,000 to help underwrite reporting and data acquisition.

The Data Fellowship is designed for reporters who want to learn how to gain a deeper understanding of data needed to produce original journalism that can shape decision-making, policy and legislation on health policy, community health and child and family well-being. Each fellow and his or her newsroom commit to a major investigative or explanatory project that is completed with help from the center’s data journalism mentors.

Topics the fellows will explore in their projects include water quality issues in the burn zone of the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California; the link between air pollution and health problems in California and Tennessee; the effectiveness of San Francisco’s safety net health program; missed opportunities to prevent the deaths of homeless people in Los Angeles; reasons for low vaccination rates in the Mountain West; the deaths of children with previous abuse histories in Arkansas and California; and how gaps in services hurt the health of newborn babies in Texas’ border counties.

“We’re delighted to welcome this talented group of journalists to the USC Annenberg School of Journalism to explore with us how they can harness and analyze data to develop investigations and explanatory reporting on pressing topics for California and the nation,” said Michelle Levander, the founding director of the USC Center for Health Journalism.

The fellowship is funded by generous grants from two of California’s leading health foundations — The California Endowment, the center’s founding funder, and the California Health Care Foundation — and by the New York-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Program speakers include Ellen Gabler, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, Sarah Cohen, the Knight Chair in Digital Journalism at Arizona State University and former data editor at the New York Times, and Kathleen McGrory, deputy investigations editor at the Tampa Bay Times, who received the 2019 George Polk award for local reporting for “Heartbroken,” a series of reports on hospital problems that led to the deaths of at least 11 children.

In addition, fellows will benefit from the expertise of three distinguished data journalists who will lead skills sessions during the training program and serve as mentors as reporters complete data projects. They are Meghan Hoyer, data editor at The Associated Press; Paul Overberg, data reporter at the Wall Street Journal; and Cheryl Phillips, Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University. Through the mentoring and reporting process, fellows put lessons learned during workshops into practice to produce a major project that can illuminate important issues for their communities.

Up to three of the fellows also will receive engagement grants to help them connect with their audiences and communities in more intimate, meaningful and impactful ways as part of our ongoing commitment to advance and support “engaged journalism.”

Since 2005, the Center for Health Journalism has educated more than 900 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism, with an emphasis on the relationship between health and place. Past fellowship projects can be found here

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