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USC Annenberg center aims to elevate California’s health reporting

Journalists analyze data that could shape future stories on key policies and legislation

by USC Annenberg Public Relations staff

The Center for Health Journalism at USC brought 11 California journalists to Los Angeles for its first California Data Fellowship aimed at elevating health reporting.

The journalists from newspapers, radio stations and online news outlets throughout California took part in training on how to procure, clean, analyze and visualize health data over the course of four days. Each fellow also received a $1,000 reporting grant and six months of mentoring by senior data journalists while they work on ambitious health reporting projects.

The fellowship is designed for reporters who want to analyze data to identify and report on trends that can shape health care decision-making, policy and legislation across California and beyond.

Among the topics explored on Dec. 2 were how high-cost drugs are affecting California’s budget and patients’ access to treatment; why African-American youth in Sacramento are twice as likely to die as other youngsters; the reasons behind rising incarceration rates for the mentally ill in county jails; and disparities in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and outcomes.

“Journalists now can access and standardize health data with an array of tools and take advantage of accessible ways to share data with readers,” said Michelle Levander, director of the Center for Health Journalism based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “With this new fellowship, we will help reporters learn to ‘interview the data’ to glean insights that form the backbone of important and incisive stories about their communities.”

Key supporters

The new fellowship is funded by grants from two of California’s leading health foundations, the California HealthCare Foundation and The California Endowment, the center’s founding funder. (Until recently, the Center for Health Journalism was known as The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.)

Journalists play such a vital role in raising awareness of issues affecting health and health care in communities across California.

Andy Krackov

“Journalists play such a vital role in raising awareness of issues affecting health and health care in communities across California, and data are a key ingredient in helping them assess how the state is faring,” said Andy Krackov, associate director of external engagement at the California HealthCare Foundation. “We’ll all benefit by giving journalists tools to make the most of the growing amount of data that are becoming available.”

Mary Lou Fulton, senior program manager at The California Endowment, added: “Data provides a compelling way to enrich journalism and storytelling about health. We’re pleased to see this new area of focus for the Center for Health Journalism and look forward to high-impact projects from these journalists.”

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USC Annenberg center aims to elevate California’s health reporting

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