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2018 Data Fellowship

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

More and more, great journalism is based on melding careful data analysis with compelling storytelling. USC Annenberg's Center for Health Journalism is looking for skilled journalists who want to learn to mine health data to reveal key insights essential to high-impact journalism. 

Our 2018 Data Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast and online media who are interested in learning to acquire, analyze and produce visualizations of data that can help their audiences understand key health and child welfare and well-being challenges.  Applicants do not need to be full-time health of children's issue reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in these issues.

Each Data Fellow will receive four days of intensive training on data acquisition, cleansing, analysis and visualization, as well as an introduction to important health and child welfare and well-being data sets that can serve as the basis for groundbreaking journalism.  They'll hear from journalistic experts about how to make successful Freedom of Information requests and pair scrupulous data analysis with compelling narratives. We'll send them home with reporting grants of $2,000-$4,000 and six months of mentoring by some of the best data journalists in the business.

Each Fellow is required to propose an ambitious investigative or explanatory reporting project to undertake in the six months following the training. 

From applicants from California, we are seeking proposals for projects on health policy topics such as mental health and substance abuse; health care costs and health care financing; the performance of California’s safety net; the patient experience; the health care 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. The deadline for California journalists is August 27.

From applicants from states other than California, we are seeking proposals for projects that explore child welfare, juvenile justice and child health and well-being issues, including, but not limited to, the impact of chronic stress, poverty and childhood trauma on child development; juvenile justice; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; the role of policy in improving prospects for children; community violence; 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 strategies; cross-agency strategies to treat and prevent the impacts of child maltreatment on children and families; and innovative solutions. The deadline for journalists from outside California is September 7.

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate a minimal skill level in Excel or be asked to take an online course on Excel before 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 training.

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:  Fellows will receive grants of $2,000 to $4,000 to use for reporting and data acquisition costs, with the actual amount dependent on demonstrated need.  Veteran data journalists 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 will receive supplemental grants of $1,000 to $2,000 for community engagement, as well as specialized mentoring on 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.

 The 2018 Data Fellowship receives support from the California Health Care Foundation, and the Doris Duke Foundation.

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."

Angela Hart, 2017 Fellow and Sacramento Bee political reporter:  "The training helped me to cultivate an investigative state of mind with daily beat reporting, work towards longer investigations. It’s going to help me to analyze and visualize data for context in broader stories. I helped me understand in a very detailed way the financing mechanisms for America's health care system, cost control mechanisms in place, the complicated relationships between providers, hospitals and insurers and the very complicated world of ERISA. It has given me a foundation to take on complex health and political stories and to be able to write with authority on health care financing and delivery systems, as well as reforms underway across the nation."

Sammy Caiola, 2015 Fellow and health reporter, Capital Public Radio: "Data was the driving force behind my USC Fellowship project on black child mortality in 2015. Thanks to the mentorship I received at the conference, I was able to request thousands of death records from the state health department, enter the data in Excel, and manipulate it to pull trends around race, ZIP code and specific cause of death. I quickly noticed a huge disparity in rates of death from birth conditions and unsafe sleep, so those became the topics of my first two pieces. Since then, my data experience has remained vital to my health reporting."


Who Can Apply: 

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.

How to Apply

Click here for details about what we're looking for in your application.  All applications must be filed through . 

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 on to apply. For more information about the Community Engagement Grants, write Olivia Henry, the Center's engagement editor, at [email protected].  

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 [email protected]

 The agenda for the 2018 Data Fellowship is still being developed. 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.












Want to improve your data journalism skills?  Apply now for the 2018 Data Fellowship -- four all-expenses-paid days of training on data acquisition, analysis and visualization, a $2,000-$4,000  reporting grant and six months of expert mentoring.  Dates:  October 17-20. Deadline: August 27 for California journalists, Sept. 7 for journalists from other states


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