Award Winners Announced for Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism
Ambitious stories will tackle critical community health issues such as industrial contamination, the environmental factors that contribute to obesity, and the underlying causes of health disparities in urban environments.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, Oct. 7 -- The USC Annenberg School of Journalism's Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism is proud to announce its 2009 grant recipients. The Hunt Fund provides grants of between $2,500 and $10,000 over one year for investigative or explanatory journalism projects on community health issues. Projects examine the social and environmental factors that contribute to poor health in specific communities, as well as policy and other potential solutions to address them.
The fund honors the legacy of Dennis A. Hunt, a visionary communications leader at The California Endowment who was dedicated to improving and supporting high-quality reporting on the health of communities. Hunt died unexpectedly in a car crash in 2007 at the age of 60. The fund is a project of the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, which Hunt was instrumental in establishing during his tenure at The Endowment. The fund is financed by memorial contributions from Hunt's friends and colleagues, as well as The Endowment and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Grants also will be offered in 2010 and 2011.
Nearly 80 journalists applied for this year's grant competition. A panel of judges that included veteran health reporters, editors, health policy experts and health communications leaders selected five winners from mainstream and ethnic media.
In a statement regarding the winners, Hunt's family praised the fund. "We are very heartened by your work to promote the awareness and understanding of today's critical community health issues. Given the current state of the debate on how to make Americans healthier, the role played by journalists will be essential for any reasonable progress. In Dennis' memory, we appreciate all of your efforts."
Michelle Levander, director of the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, said: "With the fund's support, journalists now have the resources to investigate pressing community health concerns. I can't think of a better way to honor the memory of Dennis Hunt, whose vision led to the founding of our program."
Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO of The California Endowment, said: "The Dennis A. Hunt Health Journalism Awards represent a terrific way to honor an extraordinary professional, journalist, and civic leader. The awardees certainly reflect the brand of insightful and impactful journalism that Dennis exemplified."
2009 AWARD RECIPIENTS
RECIPIENT -- $10,000: Janet Wilson, freelance journalist, Modjeska (Orange County), California
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: An examination of the history and health impacts of industrial contamination in a small California city and the federal and local attempt to forge solutions.
BIO: Janet Wilson is a veteran environmental journalist based in Southern California. She was formerly with the Los Angeles Times, where she was a frontline reporter on the team whose coverage of the 2003 wildfires won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Wilson was a senior fellow this year at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, reporting on urban environmental pollution. She freelances for numerous print and online outlets. She was a Harvard University Nieman Fellow in 1995 and holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor's degree from Yale University.
RECIPIENT -- $7,000: Robert Joiner, reporter, St. Louis Beacon
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Despite its world-class medical schools and thriving biotechnology industry, the St. Louis region ranks among the nation's worst in the prevalence of health problems that disproportionately affect its minority populations: infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity-related illnesses, and lead poisoning. The St. Louis Beacon will explore the underlying causes of these health problems, suggest solutions from experts, community activists and readers, and share its findings in creative ways with decision makers and those most affected by these disparities.
BIO: Robert Joiner is a staff reporter for the St. Louis Beacon, a not-for-profit online-only publication based in St. Louis, Missouri. He joined the Beacon in 2008 after 30 years as a reporter, editor and editorial writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has covered stories on topics including health care, homelessness, the scourge of lead paint, gun control, police brutality, public education, AIDS, famine in Darfur and genocide in Rwanda. Joiner has won the Con Lee Kelliher Award for Excellence in News Reporting from the local chapter of Sigma Delta Chi and editorial writing awards from the Greater St. Louis Black Journalists Association. In 2002, he was inducted into the Association's Hall of Fame for lifetime dedication to the profession and to the cause of social justice.
RECIPIENT -- $4,000: Sara Shakir, freelance journalist, Radio Bilingue
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Limited access to parks, fresh produce, and bicycle and jogging paths are contributing to the spread of obesity and diabetes, particularly in minority communities, researchers have shown. The project will explore the interrelationship between obesity and diabetes and environmental factors in several cities. The project also will explore recommendations and innovative solutions to the obesity epidemic in low-income communities.
BIO: Sara Shakir first studied journalism and communication in her native México City at Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, and later at Cal State University, Northridge. She has worked as a news producer at KPFK, a community-based radio station in Los Angeles, and as managing news producer at Radio Bilingue, where she oversaw two daily news bulletins, a weekly news journal, and a weekday talk show, all in Spanish. She now works as a radio consultant and freelance journalist in Los Angeles. Shakir holds a bachelor's degree in environmental health and occupational safety from Cal State University in Fresno.
RECIPIENT -- $5,000: Rong Xiaoqing, reporter, Sing Tao Daily (New York)
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: An examination of three community health topics affecting Chinese Americans: domestic violence against seniors, rising rates of HIV/AIDS and the high suicide rate among women.
BIO: Rong Xiaoqing is a reporter in New York for Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese language newspaper, where she covers health issues, social services, immigration, politics, and business. She has contributed to English-language publications in the United States and Asia, including the New York Daily News, the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. She previously covered nonprofit organizations for City Limits, a grassroots English language magazine in New York. Rong holds a master's degree in business journalism from Baruch College/City University of New York and a bachelor's degree in Chinese language and literature from Nanjing University in China.
RECIPIENT -- $2,500: Victoria Colliver, health reporter, San Francisco Chronicle
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: An exploration of the extreme life expectancy differences - as much as 15 years - in the Bay Area based on race, ethnicity and class, with particular focus on Oakland. While the numbers have been reported, little attention has been paid to why these disparities exist.
BIO: Victoria Colliver has been writing about health for the San Francisco Chronicle since 2001, primarily focusing on the health care industry, but more recently concentrating on policy and reform. Prior to joining the Chronicle, she worked for the San Francisco Examiner, the Oakland Tribune, and the Stockton Record. A graduate of UC Davis, Colliver received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. She previously received an Inter-American Press Association Scholarship to Venezuela and a Fulbright Scholarship to Spain.
About USC Annenberg's California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships
Since hosting its first seminars in 2005, The Fellowships, a program funded by The California Endowment, has educated more than 400 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism. The program also provides mini-grants to foster coverage of health issues through the Hunt grants and its National Health Journalism Fellowship. Last spring, it launched ReportingonHealth.org, an online community of journalists committed to improving the craft by sharing ideas and resources.
About the USC Annenberg School for Communication
Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the USC Annenberg School for Communication (annenberg.usc.edu) is among the nation's leading institutions devoted to journalism and communication and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than 1,900 graduate and undergraduate students, USC Annenberg offers degree programs in journalism, communication, public diplomacy and public relations.