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2018 California Data Fellowship

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 9:00am to Saturday, October 20, 2018 - 5:00pm
Program Description: 

The California Data Fellowship will introduce competitively selected California journalists to a wealth of data sources that can inform and elevate their health reporting. The all-expenses-paid program, funded with generous grants from the  and , includes a $2,000-$4,000 reporting grant, with the actual amount dependent upon the likely cost of the project. The grants support projects on health policy topics including mental health and substance abuse; healthcare costs and healthcare financing; the performance of California’s safety net; the patient experience; the healthcare workforce; health care coordination; the use of opioid drugs; 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.  We also welcome proposals from California journalists that are focused on children and families, but they should also meet one of the above criteria.Up to three of the 10 Fellows will also receive community engagement grants of $2,000.

The Fellowship was designed for reporters who want to harness and analyze data that can shape health care decision-making, policy and legislation across California and beyond. It will help skilled journalists to mine health data to reveal key insights essential to high-impact journalism. 

Over the course of four days, Fellows will learn how to integrate the growing wealth of California health data – on procedures, providers, costs, conditions and demographics -- into reporting about health issues in their communities.  Their editors will be invited to participate in a half-day project brainstorming session with other Fellows and editors. Over the six months after the training, our highly skilled Senior Fellows, , a distinguished data journalist at the Wall Street Journal, and  Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University and a member of the California Civic Data Coalition, will provide guidance as each Fellow works on a substantive data-informed health journalism project of importance to his or her community. 

Click here for a list of the 2017 California Data Fellows and links to their bios, projects and blog posts.

The Community Engagement Fund provides grants of $2,000 to three of the California Data Fellows to underwrite innovative community engagement strategies. Click here to read more about the community engagement grants. 





Who Can Apply: 

USC Annenberg seeks journalists who think big and want to have an impact. 

This Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast and online media who are either based in California or who  contribute to a national outlet that has a California footprint. The projects need to be primarily reported in California on topics of concern for Californians. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health issues, broadly defined to include the health of communities. 

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 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

Applicants should be able to demonstrate competency in using a spreadsheet. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate a minimal skill level or be asked to take an online course on Excel usage befeore coming to L.A. Since the Fellowship is highly interactive, Fellows must also bring a laptop to the sessions and pre-load it with the software that will be used during the trainiing.

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 business.  Fellows will gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities.

Financial Support and Mentoring: California Data Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $2,000-$3,500 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism, including data acquisition. Journalism fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.  Up to three California Data Fellows will receive supplemental grants of up to $2,000 for community engagement.

Click here for a list of 2017 California Data Fellows and descriptions of their Fellowship projects.  Click here for a list of our inaugural class of 2015 Fellows and links to their Fellowship projects.


Here's what some of our previous California Data Fellows had to say about their experiences:

2017 Fellow Jill Replogle, Orange County reporter for Southern California Public Radio: "It's one of the most worthwhile fellowships I've done--four days of extremely useful tools that you can use in your daily job immediately, inspiring speakers with great tips. The obligation to tie a project to the fellowship makes sure you don't lose the skills you learn. I would encourage any reporter to do the fellowship, even if you're not a health reporter."

2017 Fellow Jerome Campbell, a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, now at the Boston Globe: "The Excel workshops were a game-changer for me because I can make first steps at data analysis. It's really going to help me work better with my newsroom."

How to Apply

Click here for details about what we're looking for in your application.  All applications must be filed through .  If you're also seeking a supplemental $1,000-$2,000 Community Engagement Grant, click on  to apply. For general iinfornation about the Data Fellowship and to arrange a phone consultation with one of our data trainers (required before applying), write Martha Shirk at [email protected]. For more information about the Community Engagement Grants, write Olivia Henry, the Center's engagement editor, at [email protected].  








Here are some highlights from the 2017 Data Fellowship:

  • Mike Berens, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune, gave the keynote dinner address at the The 2017 California Data Fellowship, exhorting journalists to ask themselves, “Is there potential for change or reform?” before embarking on an investigative project.
  • Charles Ornstein, Senior Reporter, ProPublica gave a talk on "Cultivating an Investigative State of Mind."

  • , a data journalist at the Wall Street Journal, provided a primer on the basics of spreadsheet analysis and the census.
  •  Hearst Professional in Residence at Stanford University's Department of Communication, provided instruction on standardizing data. 
  •  a data journalist for The Associated Press, led workshops on evaluating the success of Obamacare and on datasets instrumental to good health reporting. 
  •  editor of the Computer-Assisted Reporting Group at The New York Times, talked about how reporters can use FOIA and its cousins to access death records, hospital payments and lobbying by health care companies.  
  • Cheryl Phillips and Paul Overberg, who serve as mentors to Fellows for six months, led brainstorming sessions involving the Fellows and their editors.


Got a great idea for an ambitious reporting project on a California health issue?  Let us fund it.  Apply now for the 2019 California Fellowship, which provides $1,000 reporting grants and six months of expert mentoring to 20 journalists, community engagement grants of up to $2,000, specialized mentoring, to five.


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