I was so pleased to hear word this week that the “Shortened Lives” series of reports about how where you live affects your health will be honored with the Edgar A. Poe Award from the White House Correspondents Association. On May 1, President Obama will present the award, which recognizes excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance.
The idea for this series was proposed by two Bay Area News Group reporters, Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman, when they applied to participate in Health Journalism Fellowships program funded by The California Endowment at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Their idea turned into Shortened Lives, which included reporting on the differences in life expectancy among people who live in three Bay Area ZIP codes — including a striking 16-year difference in neighborhoods just 12 miles apart. The series also highlighted how certain illnesses, such as asthma, vary by neighborhood and how local residents are working to address these disparities.
Shortened Lives, which took more than a year to produce, ran on the front pages of The Oakland Tribune and other Bay Area outlets for four days in December 2009.
It’s great to see committed journalists like Suzanne and Sandy honored for their excellence. Congratulations! And I’d like to add my thanks to Michelle Levander and Martha Shirk of the Health Journalism Fellowships program who nurtured the development of this story through the fellowships program, and to the Bay Area News group for giving these journalists the time and space for such an ambitious project.
This also gives me a great excuse to promote the upcoming May 12 application deadline for the next Health Journalism Fellowships training session, an all-expense paid program open to all journalists (and their editors) who have great ideas for health reporting projects. And to mention the May 5 application deadline for the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Healthy Journalism, providing grants of up to $10,000 for reporting on critical health issues facing underserved communities.