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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 leading 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 discussions. Click to read the hundreds of stories that our Fellows have produced over the years, spurring new policies and laws and winning journalism awards along the way.

Click here for a list of the 2017 National Fellows and links to their profiles and blog posts about 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 critical resources 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, 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 2018 National Fellowship was designed for journalists who want to do groundbreaking reporting on vulnerable children and families and the community conditions that contribute to their well-being. Fellows gained 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 --  delved into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity. And we examined the possible impacts on children's health and well-being of changes to the Affordable Care Act and reduced federal funding for social supports.

We also explored the connections between health and place, or how neighborhood, work and home environments impact health, well-being and life expectancy. Fellows learned about innovative prevention and clinical programs that suggest ways to address chronic ills. And they received advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. We challenges them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlets serve. 

We are looking for journalists who think big and want to use the resources provided by the Fellowship to produce a marquee project.  The Fellowship is open to all journalists interested in health reporting, not just those on the health beat. We view health broadly; health cuts across many traditional journalism beats, including education, local government, public safety, criminal justice and the environment. In each Fellowship class, we strive for a balance of participation from print, broadcast and multimedia journalists working for or contributing to mainstream, ethnic and indepdent media outlets anywhere in the United States.

The 2018 National Fellowship was underwritten by generous grants from The , the , and 

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting and a third fund that underwrites community engagement efforts:

  • The  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 and relatives and friends of the late Dennis Hunt, who co-founded the Center for Health Journalism.
  • The  supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and First 5 LA, 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.  

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 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.



Who Can Apply: 

The National Fellowship is open to professional journalists from 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 preference, 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.

Each applicant must propose a substantive report project that can be completed in the six months following the Fellowship session. For the 2018 Fellowship, we will consider proposals for projects that:

  • Illuminate or expose critical community health issues. Proposals can focus on a specific health topic or delve into a confluence of circumstances and conditions that impact health in a community, including environment; social class; crime and violence; urban development; access to health resources; school absenteeism; transportation or city planning; 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 the likely consequences of the rollback of healthcare reform


How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply.  Before applying, we strongly encourage you to talk with us about your idea for a Fellowship project. Please Martha Shirk at [email protected] to arrange.


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.


If you're a journalist with big ideas who wants your work to matter, the Center for Health Journalism invites you to apply for the all-expenses-paid-- five days of stimulating discussions in Los Angeles about social and health safety net issues, reporting and engagement grants of $2,000-$12,000 and six months of expert mentoring.