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Lessons from the Field

TOPICS IN HEALTH: The backstory on key health issues from noted journalists and experts.
(Image by Smoobs via Flickr/Creative Commons)
Black women have higher hysterectomy rates than white patients, especially in the South. I wanted to find out why.
(Photo by Adria Malcolm/New Mexico In Depth)
"As an Anglo reporter little versed in this science and history, I had a lot of catching up to do."
(Photo by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash)
A new law meant to curb domestic abuse runs up against judges who know little about it.
(Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds via AFP/Getty Images)
“As people start to age they feel invisible, discarded, even,” said Priscilla Essert, during our phone interview in late March....
(Photo by Michael Brown via Flickr/Creative Commons)
A reporting duo shares nine pieces of advice to keep in mind when covering childhood mental health.
(Photo by Durant Weston via Flickr/Creative Commons)
"I was used to seeing homeless men and women leaving the shelter. This was different. Why so many children?"
Hygiene stations and toilets in LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood.
A freelancer's neighborhood walks give rise to a story on LA's failure to maintain hygiene stations.
A teacher leads students through an activity at Freedom Elementary School in Buckeye, Arizona in 2021.
"I was so fixated on finding a Latino student it hadn’t dawned on me that there might be another way to tell the story."
Kevin White points to his mother in a family portrait. Her Medicaid expenses led to a $128,000 lien on his family home, which he
Loopholes allow wealthier families and attorneys to avoid estate recovery, and in some counties the program disproportionately affects people of color.
(Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
How one reporter used data to assess school climate in California.
Luz Vazquez Hernandez, 18, pulls out the shirt she wore for roofing last summer.
Nonprofits were less helpful than expected, but Florida school districts helped a journalist find families.
(Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images)
A reporter pivots between experts and data to try to understand why still so little is known about premature births.
The Cherokee County Department of Social Services in Murphy, North Carolina.
An investigative series on the state's child welfare system was powered by "a fairly simple data analysis that anyone can do if they have the right tech skills."
Photo credit: (Derek Gavey via Flickr/Creative Commons)
Who is checking to ensure these systems work as intended?
A student adjusts her facemask at St. Joseph Catholic School in La Puente, California in November 2020
Patience, persistence and relationships all prove key in reporting the story.
(Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)
Journalist and long COVID support group founder Fiona Lowenstein shares timely advice for reporters.
(Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting and Molly Mendoza)
Reporting on sexual harassment and assault allegations at a Bay-area high school tested a reporter's understanding around when to grant anonymity, and power and control in storytelling.
Attendees at an online panel discussion on Asian American gender-based violence in May.
A reporter finds people are hungry for spaces to talk about the mental health challenges confronting their communities.
(Photo by Andreas Gebert/Getty Images)
A state health department issues an unusually restrictive response to a reporter's public records request.
A young girl places pinwheels in the ground with a detective at the Bentonville Police Station at a rally to raise awareness of
When reporting on trauma and death, strategies for coping become essential.
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
A reporter explains how she found women willing to speak out about substandard maternity care in south Texas by posting messages on Facebook.
(Photo by Nenad Stojkovic via Flickr/Creative Commons)
By last fall, the pandemic's brutal toll on youth mental health had become clear.
Romeo, 8, and his sister Victoria, 3, play in their mobile home. The family was among those profiled in the reporter’s series on
Don't give up. Follow these tips to overcome data deserts in your reporting.
Olga Contreras teaches students remotely from her classroom at Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Chicago in September.
A reporter finds the limits of reporting from the living room and sets out for a Chicago classroom. The story she found made it all worth it.
Tim O’Shei interviews the owner of Mogadishu Food, a Buffalo, New York restaurant that is operated by refugees from Somalia.
A reporter relfects on lessons learned while covering the mental health challenges confronting regufees in Buffalo, New York.
Francisca Porchas, the founder of the Latinx Therapist Action Network
"The stress of my own personal experiences led me to dig deeper into how immigrant women were faring through the pandemic."
 (Photo by justin lincoln via Flickr/Creative Commons)
"For years, I avoided stories I deemed too personal. Until the day I couldn’t."
Tanya Gan Lim teaches a “newcomer class” in Maryland’s Prince George’s County school district.
How are school systems coping with large influxes of immigrant children? A reporter reflects on lessons learned.
An immigrant makes a call from a cell at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, California.
A reporter reflects on lessons learned from an especially challenging story.
Two women embracing
A reporter shares what she learned about taking care of yourself while reporting on grief-filled topics such as teen suicide.
Jessica Miller
Are you staring down a daunting list of public records requests? Here are a few tips that can help.
(Image by Annelise Farquar)
Emerging research on toxic stress sheds light on entrenched disparities and points to new interventions. It’s fertile ground for powerful human stories.
(Image by Alex Zuniga)
Consolidation is changing heatlh care — and how much it costs — in almost every corner of the country.
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Hard-won lessons from an investigation into ICE's failure to provide adequate medical care to detainees on its privately chartered jets.
Sexual assault survivor Dominique Green joined a “cohort” of survivors who helped inform and shape CapRadio’s reporting on the i
Why the traditional journalistic process does not always work well for those repeatedly betrayed by people they thought had their best interests in mind.
A volunteer serves food during a community meal event for the one-year anniversary of the November 2018 Camp Fire.
For the survivors of the deadliest blaze in California history, the pandemic was a disaster upon a disaster. A reporter reflects on lessons learned while reporting on food insecurity after the 2018 blaze.
Burning building
A bill that would increase workplace protections for domestic workers is now before California's governor.
(Photo by William Murphy via Flickr/Creative Commons)
Through my reporting and listening to young sexually active LGBTQ people, I learned there would still be big hurdles to obtaining preventive medication at a pharmacy.
Telling the real story of homelessness — and busting the biggest myth
"The experience of working with our subjects for more than a year changed my own ideas about homelessness and how to report on it."
(Photo: San Luis Opisbo Tribune)
Step one: listen to community questions before asking your own.
Chris Stewart, right, checks the blood sugar levels of his daughter, McKenzie Stewart, 6, center, after her jazz dance class
A reporter learns to diversify her tactics to find more diverse families for a series on the rise of Type 1 diabetes.
Carl and Malette Young struggled for more than a decade to find help for their adopted son, Marc, who has fetal alcohol syndrome. Marc spent most of his adolescence bouncing between inpatient facilities for children with behavioral issues and his home in rural North Dakota....
One of the residents of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, who was interviewed for the story.
Finding a fixer to connect with reluctant sources was the first step.
The Navajo Reservation near Many Farms, Arizona.
The Navajo Nation's high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses have taken on a new urgency: COVID-19 has hit the community worse than any other tribe in the country.
Jimmy McCullough, principal of Horry County Education Center, talks to students leaving the alternative school.
"My grief and frustration over JJ’s fate were compounded by all I learned about the effects of toxic stress on a developing brain."
Dustin Wallis, a nonsmoker who has stage 4 lung cancer, plays with his children in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.
Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the nation, yet the biggest source of cancer deaths in the state is lung cancer. How can that be?
Mother and child
North Carolina has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. As is the case in the rest of the country, African-American babies die at twice the rate of white babies.
How I uncovered decades of abuse at a “model” reform school — and spurred sweeping state policy change
How a reporter used data and documents to show how the state of Pennsylvania failed in its duty to oversee the nation's oldest reform school and juvenile justice programs like it.
Different stories, common plight: Reporting on California’s remaining uninsured
While many uninsured individuals are low-income residents, upper-middle-income Californians also struggle to afford high-priced private health care coverage.
Univision reporter Jose Gonzalez speaks to an undocumented Fresno woman
Many immigrants see America as a paradise full of opportunities, but find another reality: a series of obstacles, which at times put them on the brink of death.
Shasta County jail.
Reporting on county jails and jail deaths? Use these tips from Matt Brannon of the Redding Record Searchlight to sharpen your efforts.
Luther and Shirley Sterrett care for their son Josh who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. While the family is supposed to get 92
The crisis is expected to dramatically worsen as the nationwide demand for in-home nursing skyrockets — just as experienced nurses prepare to retire in record numbers.
Leticia, an undocumented 53-year-old mother of three, spent months on the waitlist for a knee surgery. The untreated injury not
In quick-hit coverage of health policy, it’s easy to skip the tough task of tracking down real families struggling to afford insurance and find health care. But their stories are essential.
Wikimedia Commons
Two brothers-in-law who live next door to one another in rural Northern California have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Yet crucially only one has access to palliative care.
Kate Green is a 30-year-old who’d rather roll the dice without insurance than face steep out-of-pocket costs. (Photo by Autumn P
How two reporters used data to explore how California's ambitious health care initiatives could shape the lives of working residents already strained by the state's high cost of living.
Leslie Mullowney, who was contacted after responding to our call-out. Here she feeds the chickens at the Napa home she and her f
"I ultimately found a handful of good sources who were willing to share their personal housing struggles. But it took a lot more work than I expected to get there."
Berenice Palmer’s experience in a long-term nursing home bed was actually quite positive, but perhaps not what listeners should
Reporting this story really opened my eyes to how important it is to collectively think about how we ought to care for seniors — and how little we actually do that.
Levi Lundy reflects beside recovered molten metal from his father's truck, which melted in the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.
In the fires that devastated Paradise and Santa Rosa, kids were often the most vulnerable.
A wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes in Redding, California, in 2018.
"Here I was, a stranger dropping into people’s lives, asking that they tell me their deeply personal stories from a traumatic event."
Elder abuse is on the rise, but persuading seniors to share their stories is a challenge
"People talk to me about all sorts of health issues, even addiction and sexual assault. Elder abuse was different."
A nurse checks on inmates as they receive dialysis treatment at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County. (Photo by
A reporter shares five key sources to help others exploring health care problems in California jails, and some critical caveats you should keep in mind before turning to them.
(Photo by Don J. Usner/Searchlight New Mexico)
Roads are a key to everything, a reporter quickly finds out while traveling through the Navajo Nation.
What I learned reporting on an opioid crisis in a community that didn’t perceive it as a crisis
A reporter shares a handful of investigative reporting techniques that proved essential in overcoming blind spots among local health experts who were largely unaware of opioids' toll in their communities.
Ashley Peterson’s story was told through a five-part series published in April in The Indianapolis Star.
How do you know when someone is ready to be interviewed about a trauma she has endured? And what do you do if she wants to back out just before publication?
Karoline Vázquez Díaz got emotional as she described the pain she endured when she got sick with leptospirosis as she sat next t
A journalist shares key lessons from reporting on the Puerto Rican government's failed responses to a dangerous disease that spread after two hurricanes ravaged the island.
(Photo by Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star)
A story of why it pays to keep analyzing the data, even if it isn’t cooperative at first.
Adianet Galván died after botched cosmetic surgery in Florida.
"As fellow news junkies, we talked about the increasing number of cases we reported on a daily basis about women dying from cosmetic surgeries in Florida, and people who were arrested for not being actual doctors."
Evelyn West, great grandmother of Kee'Mayah West, 2nd grader, of North Braddock, Pa., dresses children at Great Start Day Care i
Some life journeys start at a good day care center and end at the heights of academia. Some journalistic journeys go the other way.
Dr. Tolbert Small helped spread awareness and treatment of sickle cell. (Photo by Drew Costley)
There was a lot going on in my head when I started reporting — was I the right person to write the story? I am not African American, and I did not know anyone with sickle cell.
As a journalist, I was out of my depth and definitely out of my comfort zone. But after weeks of furious planning I looked around the Hall of Culture — a gorgeous ballroom in San Francisco’s African American Art and Culture Complex — and realized we had pulled it off....
Photo by Briana Sanchez/Argus Leader Media
Over the last decade, Congress has repeatedly flagged the abominable conditions in the South Dakota facilities but they’ve failed to make meaningful change.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Finding people who are willing to talk about their STDs publicly can be a tall order for journalists. But these ideas and tips will help you tackle the reporting challenge — and remind you why you should.
One-month-old baby Alexander rests in his mother’s arms during a group therapy session for women and mothers dealing with substa
What happens to the growing number of drug-exposed babies? Answers "proved maddeningly difficult to tease out — much harder than we expected," writes reporter Teri Sforza.
Latrelle Huff with her ex-boyfriend and their twins at the babies’ baptism in 2014. (Photo: Family photo via USA TODAY)
How a reporting team overcame countless hurdles to tell a new story of how children are affected by the family violence they experience, from the time they are in utero through childhood and after.
Cristine Pagan helps her son Dean with reading homework at a local library. When Dean started first grade at Comly Elementary la
A dynamic team blended traditional street reporting with innovative scientific testing for a hard-hitting series on how the city's schoolchildren are being poisoned by lead.
What I learned reporting on housing and economic inequality after Hurricane Harvey
In the months after Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf Coast, residents of small towns and rural communities felt ignored and forgotten. Here's what I learned telling their stories.
MJS photo
James Causey returned to his old neighborhood in Milwaukee to take a sustained look at how young people are impacted by trauma, and how a community garden is trying to buffer against that damage.
Richmond residents helped design and build the amenities at Elm Playlot, and created the programming for kids and adults. (Photo
Who could possibly have any sort of objection to renovating a park? Those pushed out of their neighborhoods by such "improvements," for starters.
How a story about childhood trauma in Paradise became one of community trauma
A reporter set out to discover why trauma rates were so high in the community of Paradise, Calif. Then the deadliest wildfire in state history destroyed the town.
(Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
For 20 years, First 5 has used the tobacco tax revenue to finance health, education and other programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. What have we learned?
Mo Chao Yang sits in her garden in North Sacramento, remembering the ways she survived the secret war in Laos. (Photo by Scott T
There is no way for an outsider to just parachute into a different culture and start writing about something as complex as refugee trauma. It takes building trust in that community.
In Fiddletown, California, many older residents live alone and struggle to access social activities and mental health resources.
CapRadio’s health reporter Sammy Caiola spent six months exploring the reasons behind the high suicide rate in rural Amador County. She shares how community engagement aided her reporting.
Dr. Brian Wansink, left, visits elementary students in Ithaca, New York. Revelations about Wansink’s research methods led to his
BuzzFeed reporter Stephanie Lee explains how she went about obtaining crucial emails between Cornell researcher Brian Wansink and colleagues, showing a long history of troubling practices.
Photo by Damon Dahlen/Huffpost
Finding the right people for your story is one of reporting's eternal challenges. One reporter decided to get creative — with fliers.
Julie Swann-Paez, a survivor of the San Bernardino shooting, works with a Pilates instructor to strengthen muscles during her re
Among the key takeaways: "Establish your credibility early and often with all of your potential sources."
Getty images
An investigation into a Sacramento gun range ultimately spurred new legislation to better protect workers from lead poisoning.
Adela Carranco, left, with her mother Olga Maldonado. Adela’s story of unmet mental health needs helped put a human face on the
One consistent memory I have from reporting on California’s mental health system for low-income children is repeatedly asking myself, “Why is this so hard?”
Photo by Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee
California has problems serving young children with disabilities. Reporter Jocelyn Wiener explains how she tracked down the story.
[Photos by Arizona Daily Star]
Since the Great Recession, Arizona has cut programs that help poor families and spent more money on foster care and adoption services. The results have been tragic.
Image credit: Alex Zuniga/New Times
In California’s county jails, a reporter finds far more obstacles to getting data on health care than expected.
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
In California, Medicaid coverage among undocumented immigrants dropped, even as the broader Medicaid population grew. Experts say hostile political rhetoric is driving the dip.
(Photo: Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register)
A reporter discusses the difficult decisions that have to be made between telling deeply personal stories of violence and loss, and respecting families' wishes for privacy and safety.
(Photo-Antonia Gonzales)
Two reporters share their tips and insights from reporting on health issues in Indian Country.
The Affirmation Wall in the fourth-grade classroom of teacher Cindy Herrera. Students can write positive notes to each other. (P
A reporter recounts his journey to find the stories that shed light on how Trump’s rhetoric and policies are impacting the health and wellness of kids of undocumented immigrants.
A FiveThirtyEight reporter on how she tackled an ambitious series on a huge, overlooked health crisis.
[Photo by Bradley Gordon via Flickr.]
“Have a plan, but expect to ditch it,” a news mentor drilled into my head 25 years ago. “If you’re well prepared but open to wherever the story leads you, the journalism gods will reward you.”
A mysterious cluster of rare, fatal birth defects has devastated families in three rural counties in Washington state. JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times shares key lessons from how she reported her award-nominated fellowship series.
Photo by Kerry Klein
"By the time I was finished, my reporting had covered not only the Valley’s marketing problem, but also federal and state laws dating back decades, executive orders, bills in Congress, visa programs, and more local, state-level and national trends than I could count."
Photo credit: Openhouse
In an era when good data about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community remains elusive, reporter Matthew Bajko unearths currently available sources.
Reyna Maldonado, 24, was born in the Mexican state of Guerrero and crossed the border with an uncle when she was six years old.
Even when persistence and dedication enable a reporter to find undocumented communities willing to share their stories, outside events can tempt sources to withdraw. One reporter shares how she overcame this challenge.
[Photo by Marie. L. via Flickr.]
"The magic is in how we listen and how we ask," writes reporter Gisela Telis. "When reporting on people who are struggling or have struggled, give them space to let you in to their world, and be vulnerable enough to say: Help me understand."
Photo credit: Jesse Pratt Lopez
In Georgia, thousands of students are taken out of their schools and sent to centers where they are supposed to receive an education and therapeutic treatment for behaviors linked to their disabilities.
Photo: Clarence Williams/WWNO
Many New Orleans children come from tough backgrounds and have been thrust into a new school system that’s pushing hard to fast-track achievement.
Mackenzie Piascik, then 2, was flown to a hospital after she accidentally shot herself. (Tampa Bay Times file photo 2010)
Data allowed reporter Kathleen McGrory to show gun accidents involving children were a growing problem in Florida. But it was the story of one family that really made the difference.
A view of the Petersburg power plant located just miles from Washington, Indiana, which is located in the Indiana county.
For reporter Giles Bruce, it wasn't until he jettisoned all his preconceived notions about what was driving Indiana's high infant death rate that he found his real story.
For an ambitious project on lead in Chicago, City Bureau started with the question: "How do we as journalists meet people where they are?" The answer included a text-message service that responds with lead test data for the user's community.
The story of heroin in New Mexico's Rio Arriba County had been told too many times by the national media, leaving residents wary. But no journalist had invested the time to tell the personal stories of the community.
Photo by Maria Grazia Montagnari via Flickr.
Experts believe one reason the word gap is so prevalent is because it starts so early in life. But what if new programs could get all kinds of families to talk to their young kids in a richer, more varied way?
Photo by Richard Bammer
Reporter Richard Bammer set out to explore how overlooked migrant education centers are addressing the education and health needs of migrant families in Calif.'s Solano County. Here's what he learned.
[Photo by Dan Tuffs/KPCC]
It can be hard to find new, compelling ways of telling stories about well-known health issues. But as reporter Elizabeth Aguilera discovered in her series on type 2 diabetes, that shouldn’t stop you.
Photo: Ana Venegas/The Orange County Register
In many Asian communities, mental illness remains mired in stigma. A reporter in Orange County, Calif. explores how members of Korean, Vietnamese and Arab communities are affected by this barrier to care.
Photo: Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun
For some Californians living near the border, Mexico offers the promise of reliable health care at a cheaper price. Here's how one journalist reported the story, and the lessons he learned along the way.
[Image courtesy Leo Castaneda/inewsource]
A data-driven look at opioid addiction in San Diego found that old assumptions about addiction hotspots were outdated. Reporter Leo Castaneda shares this and other field lessons he learned along the way.
In California’s Central Valley and rural north, more than a dozen hospitals have closed since the early 2000s. The closures often limit care options and inflict economic misery — some communities never recover.
After living there for over a decade, I know San Francisco is uniquely situated when it comes to HIV and AIDS. But I wondered, How are other counties in California fairing in their prevention efforts?
Guadalupe Vargas with her daughter Jaylani, 1, outside their mold covered bedroom window at the Walnut Creek Apartments.
Bad housing has emerged as a key issue in California's Sonoma County races for elected office since The Press Democrat published a four-part series investigating the prevalence of substandard housing across the county.
Rochelle Nishimoto recounts the death of her son Jason with her other son Adrian.
Two reporters set out to answer a question: Was the horrific death of a mentally ill inmate in a California jail an anomaly or evidence of systemic deficiencies that could lead to more deaths?
Children play in water infested with blue-green algae at Silverwood Lake in San Bernardino County.
"I had fair warning that gathering data on blue-green algae toxins in California was going to be an uphill battle," writes reporter Stephanie Baer. Her effort started with records requests to each of the state's 58 counties.
"Finding families touched by the death of a child was hard," writes Sammy Caiola of the Sacramento Bee. "And convincing them to talk to me was even harder."
A year after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, a reporter returned to the neighborhood and spent months talking with families about how they cope with toxic levels of stress and violence.
High drug prices are an issue in Medi-Cal coverage
The secretive world of pharmaceutical pricing is mired in opacity. To investigate how pricey drugs are impacting California’s budget, reporter Pauline Bartolone found she had to be creative, flexible and persistent in her data sleuthing.
A look at what happens to children who've lost parents to death, mental illness, addiction and other causes yielded some notable lessons for one reporter.
For a reporting project on food insecurity in Native American communities, finding the data was the easy, writes Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton. But finding families willing to talk candidly about the problem was much harder.
In the southern U.S., tropical diseases such as Chagas disease, toxocariasis, leishmaniasis can cause debilitating illness, disfigurement and even death. Dr. Seema Yasmin shares how she took on the topic.
"Finding women who would be candid about their stories of abuse was incredibly difficult," writes The Atlantic's Olga Khazan, whose fellowship series explored interventions designed to curb child abuse.
Journalist Lottie Joiner recently set out to explore what happens to young African American men who don't have a father present in their lives. Here she reflects on some of the lessons she learned along the way.
The health disparities between Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas are real. Reporter Alex Smith explains how he "sought to depict not just the struggles these people faced, but also their humor, their hope, their wisdom."
In Asian American families, where the subject of sex is particularly taboo and parents may lack sex education themselves, discussions about sex are less likely to happen. Reporter Thy Vo set out to document the consequences for young Asian Americans.
On Tuesday, National Fellow Michael LaForgia and two colleagues received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. In this essay, he shares some of the lessons he learned while reporting the series.
"There were a few times when I felt I had reached a dead end," writes Patricia Wight. "I worried that my stories would be missing the critical first-person experiences needed to bring the issues surrounding obesity to life."
Most families didn't want to talk to SinoVision reporter Melody Cao about autism in their families. Then she turned to the messaging app WeChat, and found parents suddenly were willing to talk about their challenges.
"It’s around 10 p.m. when I call a crisis worker for victims of domestic violence in remote Northern California," writes reporter Emily Cureton. "I’m panicking, 150 miles away in Oregon. I’m really afraid someone is going to get hurt tonight."
The percentage of babies born to women who didn't receive prenatal care had increased dramatically in Bexar County, Texas, over four years. What was driving this? Sometimes the lack of answers becomes part of the story.
Hawaiian parents were describing a foster care system that was biased against Hawaiians, yet they had trouble providing solid examples. As a reporter, how was I to find an entry point to a system cloaked in confidentiality? Here's what I learned.
As journalist Ada Calhoun "started casting around for potential good news in the child welfare world," she began delving into the country's "baby courts," where judges take a far more active role in bringing families back together.
A view from the inside of a youth lockup facility.
How one reporter overcame closed courts and bad data to get the scoop on Arkansas' juvenile justice system, where minor offenses can result in children locked up with far more serious offenders.
It started as a series of reports on the dangers Latino children face when they're not placed in car seats. It bloomed into a full-scale public awareness campaign. Here’s how one dogged reporter made it happen.
KCRW reporter Avishay Artsy set out to report on ethnic disparities in cancer outcomes. After originally planning on covering three groups, he found he was able to tell more compelling stories by narrowing his focus to African-Americans and colon cancer.
For her three-part series on the health effects of rising violent crime in Merced County, reporter Ana Ibarra interviewed victims and family members struggling with pain and raw emotion. Here she shares a few of the reporting lessons she learned along the way.
The infections that patients pick up inside hospitals can be debilitating and even deadly. Yet many hospitals fail to follow simple protocols, and access to information is limited. Here are five tips for reporting on hospital infections.
If you're pitching a story that’s going to take you off deck for dailies, it helps to have two things: a great character and a clear wrongdoer. When I decided to look into a shortage of residential addiction treatment facilities in California’s Imperial County, I thought I had those ironed out.
A year after Thomas Eric Duncan died from Ebola after seeking care at a Texas hospital, what’s different about health preparedness in the U.S.? Reporter Anna Almendrala set out to answer that question, and found a series of heartbreaking stories of loss along the way.
In the fields of Calif.'s Ventura County, some workers only speak Mixteco. The cultural and language barriers make it difficult for them to access health care. Reporter Julio Vaqueiro Borbolla tells the story of how he went about the difficult task of gaining their trust and telling their stories.
As a journalist, both homelessness and mental illness are uniquely challenging topics to report on. When combined, the reporting challenges double, but so do the potential insights. Claudia Boyd-Barrett shares lessons from her experience reporting on the issue in California's Ventura County.
Nearly 60 hospitals have closed in the U.S. since 2010. In reporting on how hospital closures affect poor patients in Rust Belt towns, reporter Sean Hamill found first-person accounts to be crucial. But backing up those stories with data and geographical comparisons also provided essential context.
"As a journalist and as a person, there’s something therapeutic about being entrusted with someone’s personal rock bottom, and being a vessel for their story," writes journalist Jazelle Hunt. "There’s something therapeutic and powerful about standing with someone in his or her pain."
Despite the numbers of Floridians stranded in a health policy no man’s land – earning too much for Medicaid but not enough for subsidies – the “coverage gap” was getting little attention from policymakers and media. A reporter at the Miami Herald set out to change that, by telling their stories.
Advocates for a bill to provide health care to undocumented immigrants rally in at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Photo by LA Times/Hector Amezcua)
When LA Times reporter Soumya Karlamangla started looking into health care policies affecting immigrants, she had no idea how fast the California policy landscape was about to change. Reflecting on her reporting journey over the past year, Karlamangla offers key tips for staying ahead of the story.
For three months this year, I spent time with some of the sickest, most expensive patients in America — the so-called "super-utilizers." During that time, I’ve learned about the great promise of programs to help such patients, and why innovations that both improve health and save money are so rare.
Raymond McElfers has his throat examined by his doctor. (Photo by Emily Maxwell | WCPO)
Reporter Lisa Bernard-Kuhn tackled an ambitious project looking at how doctor offices and hospitals in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are working through the growing pains and gains ushered in by the ACA. Along the way, she learned a number of useful reporting lessons, shared here.
The strategy of using cell phones and texts to nudge people toward healthier decisions makes a lot of sense. But as L.A. Times' Eryn Brown discovered in reporting her series on "m-health," the promise of these programs is still far ahead of the reality.
(Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News)
There's little data available on in-home caregiving, which makes reporting on the issue challenging. Unlike nursing homes, in-home care suffers from little oversight. But that's why it's such an important topic to cover. Here are some essential resources and tips to get started.
Two Herald reporters are being honored with the Selden Ring Award this week for their "Innocents Lost" series that chronicled the abuse and neglect deaths of 477 Florida children. Here they share how they reported the project.
Stuart Hodes with his wife Helen, who has Alzheimer's. (Photo credit: Amanda Inscore/The News-Press)
Reporter Frank Gluck recently spent five months reporting on how Alzheimer’s disease has affected Southwest Florida, where the population of seniors is twice the national average. Here he shares some essential reporting lessons and tips for others tackling the topic in their region.
In Baltimore, violence has marred countless lives. But Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea McDaniels wanted to explore the deeper, long-lasting effects of violence. Her extended reporting crystalized in an award-winning three-part series. Here she shares the challenges she faced and lessons learned.
Last year marked a turning point for people living with chronic hep C and public radio reporter Kristin Gourlay led the way in documenting the bittersweet promise of new treatments. In this post, she shares how she reported the series and the resources she found invaluable.
We've all heard the stories of hospital closures, but what about when hospital beds go unfilled? Kristen Schorsch of Crain's Chicago Business examined the trend of "overbedded" hospitals in Illinois and shares tips and resources on how to report similar stories in your region.
The challenges are different in many rural areas, such as Eastern Montana.
When I started reporting on Montana's "aging tsunami," I wanted to know what solutions held the most promise. But as I delved into the issues, I was forced to reexamine my assumptions. Sometimes the best stories take a fresh look at what we think we know.
Dennis Kreisher, an Allentown 'super-utilizer' of the health care system. (Tim Darragh/The Morning Call)
A strongly reported series examining a new program targeting 'super-utilizers' in Pennsylvania debunks a number of myths about the system's sickest and most vulnerable patients. Timothy Darragh tells the story behind the story and the lessons he learned along the way.
Despite Wendy Davis' filibuster, Texas lawmakers passed strict new abortion regulations in 2013. Here's what one reporter on the front lines learned from covering the changing landscape of women’s health and abortion in the Lone Star State.
The Michael Brown case has come to symbolize popular disillusionment with finding justice, but it's also about quality-of-life issues and resources for poor residents in places like Ferguson, a majority black suburban city where poverty is prevalent.
Orange County isn't the first place you'd expect to find child malnutrition.
Southern California's Orange County has a reputation as an affluent playground, making the county's food insecurity stats all the more surprising. That kind of juxtaposition between a locale's perception and reality can make for powerful stories that grab audiences and start conversations.
Approaching Fallon, Nevada
A reporting trip that set out to investigate the causes behind a mysterious childhood cancer cluster turned into a valuable lesson in embracing a truer kind of complexity — not the twists and turns of a mystery novel’s plot, but the unpredictable emotions that guide real people’s lives.
Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred
When I tackled the topic of loneliness as a 2013 National Health Journalism Fellowship project, I honestly didn't think it would be hard to find people who were lonely so that I could write about the issue. I was right and wrong.
By 2012, when I started my fellowship project, several journalists -- in Philadelphia and nationally -- had written extensively about the “built environment,” food deserts and healthy food access. For my project, I looked to answer the question: “What else in a neighborhood matters to health?”
The U.S. locks up more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. We have 2.2 million people behind bars – up 500% from 30 years ago. This situation raises important questions for policy makers, and it’s a rich area for journalistic exploration.
We already knew about air pollution's link to asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and shorter lives. But few of us have given much thought to its effect on the brain. Research in one of the most polluted places -- Mexico City -- sheds light on what might be happening in Inland Southern California.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking -- using water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure to crack shale formations and release oil and gas -- is practiced in more than 30 states. But we’re still learning about how communities may be impacted by the practice.
Federal health reform will leave out California's two million undocumented immigrants, a dilemma for multi-status families like Norma Navarro's. Her 7-year-old son Angel is a citizen, but her 10-year-old daughter Aneth is not, meaning they'll have significantly different health care experiences. Photo by Brian Myers, Media Arts Center San Diego
I had a sense that care for the undocumented took place in the shadows of the U.S. health system. How did people find care? Who provided it? Did barriers to care make them sicker? Perhaps most pressing to me as a reporter, why would any undocumented immigrant talk to me?
Four 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalists give an inside look at "Prognosis: Profits," a series about North Carolina's nonprofit hospitals, the huge sums of money they're making, and the impacts on patients.
One of the public health trends these days appears to be a focus on the built environment. Here's how I reported on the connection between improving where people live and bettering their health.
Photographer and multimedia journalist Alison Yin, a 2012 National Health Journalism Fellow, shares how she chronicled the “invisible” struggles of children with asthma through photos and audio.
Why does mental health seem to get hit so much harder by cuts than other arenas? What do these cuts look like on the ground?
Asthma is the most common cause of hospital stays for children. It can strike anyone, but has a disproportionate impact on low-income and African-American children. Katy Murphy, a 2012 National Health Journalism Fellow, shares lessons learned from her Fellowship project for the Oakland Tribune
The Affordable Care Act establishes national standards for health insurance benefits. Should the standards be different for children than for adults? Here are the lessons that 2012 National Health Journalism Fellow Elaine Korry learned during her reporting for The California Report.
With all the media coverage of health reform, there has been surprisingly little reporting about community health centers. Their story is an important one -- and can be told from anywhere in the U.S. I started with many ideas, but quickly set them aside and let the reporting dictate the stories.
Volunteers and residents in the East End take a fitness walk
Recent developments in Richmond, Va., made a story looking at how where you live affects your health a timely endeavor. Through the lens of housing projects in the city's East End, Tammie Smith explains how she reported that residents there have a lower life expectancy than other Richmonders.
Indian country is a very different world from the one most of us mainstream reporters inhabit. Here are some ways to make stories about Native Americans easier to put together and more accurate.
The tobacco industry may not have the commercial presence in the U.S. it once did, but cigarette makers remain some of the most profitable companies in the world. Ricardo Sandoval examines their lobbying and marketing tactics, particularly in the developing world, and offers reporting tips.
Minimally-regulated residential care for the elderly is a fast growing, less expensive alternative to nursing homes. Seattle Times investigative reporter Mike Berens explains how state agencies saved money by placing poor and vulnerable adults in these facilities, then ignored problems, like abuse.
Help wanted. Pay not so great. Excellent chance of injury. You’ll never see an ad like this in the classifieds, but it’s a good description for many jobs. Get tips for reporting on occupational health.
It’s not easy for journalists to undertake testing on humans, nor should it be. But there are stories and situations where it is definitely warranted. Veteran journalist Janet Wilson draws from her own reporting experience to offer tips for your own work.
Journalist Paul Kleyman, who has covered aging issues for more than 20 years, offers tips for covering aging as health reform gets underway.
Get tips for covering the brave new world of personal genomics from a genetic scientist and writer who had his own genome sequenced — then wrote a book about it.
Angelo Solis, a homeless alcoholic, racked up nearly $1 million in medical charges over three years. His case represents the immense health care costs associated with homelessness. Sarah Arnquist offers advice on how to report on this important topic.
Rusting oil drums
Environmental health reporting sheds light on some of the most important decisions a person can make – about their health, their ability to have children, the health of their children, the health of their world. But first you have to get the story right.
Veteran food policy journalist Christopher Cook offers context on "food deserts" and how to identify and report on them in your community.
Like writing about abortion or animal rights, writing about vaccines inevitably raises the ire of certain readers. It is not for the timid. Journalist Amy Wallace writes about being sued by an anti-vaccine activist and offers tips for covering this controversial and emotionally-charged topic.
Two journalists offer tips for your reporting from their award-winning series on the striking gap in health and life expectancies between rich and poor neighborhoods.
Health information technology is a complex and challenging topic to cover, and it's easy to get lost in the jargon. Veteran journalist Neil Versel offers background and story ideas for covering this issue in your community as health reform rolls out. 
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Here's a recap of the latest developments on the health reform front, along with some helpful resources and story ideas for your community.March 21, 2010, 10 p.m. PST
Media coverage of health care quality often hinges on a doctor's personality, rather than measured quality outcomes. Here's a quick primer for journalists looking to do better reporting.
How do you tell the stories of children or teenagers who have stigmatizing health problems without causing harm once the story is published? Laurie Udesky offers tips for reporting with sensitivity — but still getting the story.
Follow the money. That simple phrase – though never uttered by Bob Woodward’s most famous source – has propelled countless reporters to dig deeply into all manner of news stories. And nearly four decades after Woodward and Carl B
My odyssey into the world of tuberculosis began with a simple remark by a well-connected friend in the summer of 2007: "Have you heard that the county TB clinic is overwhelmed with cases?"
When it comes to climate change, the most important impacts of the emissions from our cars, power plants and factories are likely to be broad and indirect. Global warming needs to be examined not just from the perspective of medicine, but from public health.
A "show-me-the-evidence" health journalist offers tips on covering alternative medicine without dismissing all of it out of hand.
Probably every health reporter in the country has been asked at one time or another to write a story about live organ donors. But is the obvious benefiit for the recipient really worth the risk to the living donor?
Eleven million Americans have eating disorders. Here are tips on covering this complex disease from a veteran journalist who faced the issue in her own family.
The national story of poor dental health and its implications — former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher called it a "silent epidemic" in 2000 — isn't getting the attention it deserves. Journalist Eric Eyre lays out the issues and offers tips for covering dental health in your community. 
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Although scientists and public health officials have long worried that an avian flu virus would spark the world's next influenza pandemic — and developed emergency plans for it — it is a mutated swine flu virus that has emerged as the bigger threat. The current swine flu outbreak, which appears t
Imagine if your doctor asked your 12-year-old son to explain to you that you had just been diagnosed with cancer. Get tips and story ideas for covering medical translation, a critical service for millions of patients who don't speak English well.
With the rise in MRSA  and other antibiotic-resistant infections, the few that prove dangerous or deadly invariably make headlines or lead the evening news. Because even basic reporting can stir panic each time a cluster of infections arises, here are tips on presenting these stories with... more »
Where Health and Economic Issues Collide
Not many reporters want to write about homeless people – and not many editors want to read about them. The subject is considered too depressing, too intractable. But there are few crises that are more important to cover – right now.
Journalists have to ask hard questions about where sources get their money – and about the science they are promoting. Following the money trail can be daunting. But journalists and whistleblowers are doing just that and uncovering important connections. Here's what to look for.
Journalist Emily Schmidt had a rare opportunity to humanize the often-hidden story of domestic violence, and some of the systemic judicial problems that arise in connection with it. Here's what she learned.
doc giving care
Native Americans experience higher disease rates than other Americans for problems ranging from diabetes and heart ailments to mental illness and suicides, which contribute to their lower life expectancy. Get tips from a veteran journalist for covering these health issues.
It started on March 20, 2006, with what I thought was a one-shot story about the health care language gap. Two and a half years later, I am still writing follow-ups (more than 40 articles in all) about the story behind the original story — the long-hidden practice of some insurers of retroactively... more »
Obesity is visible — walk down the street and you bump into it. Diabetes, on the other hand, is silent and tragic. Here are tips for reporting on the links between them.
The best HIV/AIDS coverage goes beyond the latest statistics of how many people are infected or the publication of a new national plan. Get tips for your own HIV/AIDS reporting from a veteran science journalist.


The nation's top infectious disease specialist will join us for a conversation with national health reporter Dan Diamond of The Washington Post. We’ll talk about the evolving threat posed by monkeypox, the current state of the COVID pandemic, and broader lessons on how we respond to emerging diseases. Sign-up here!

The USC Center for Health Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is seeking two Engagement Editors and a social media consultant to join its team. Learn more about the positions and apply.


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