Our stories win awards, shift conversations, change laws and policies, and highlight communities that are striving for social justice.
We care about the people behind our stories. We want to make life better for the communities we cover. That’s what we strive for with each story, and the details below demonstrate the breadth of our impact.
- We won seven awards from the California News Publishers Association in 2023, including First Place for Coverage of the Environment for our story on solutions to wildfire smoke that affects rural Californians who are pregnant. We also won First Place for Health Coverage for our story on how abortion is not accessible for many rural Californians, especially impacting low-income residents and those experiencing domestic violence.
- We won the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Breaking Barriers Award in 2022 for our stories on water justice in the Central Valley.
- We won 23 awards from the California News Publishers Association in 2022, including First Place for Public Service Journalism in the open division, the association’s highest honor for a story, awarded for our story on water justice in the Central Valley. We also won First Place for Coverage of Youth and Education for our reporting on how climate change is affecting children with disabilities, First Place for Video Journalism for a portrait of a domestic violence survivor, First Place for Enterprise News Story for our reporting on how some Native Americans are embracing tradition to counter domestic violence and First Place for Story Presentation and Design.
- We won 18 awards from the California News Publishers Association in 2021, including First Place for General Excellence, First Place for our story on alternatives to calling the police for domestic violence survivors, First Place for our racial equity columns and First Place for a story on assistance to foster youth during the pandemic.
- We received an honorable mention for the Breaking Barriers Award from the Institute for Nonprofit News in 2021 for our story on Californians who speak an indigenous language who are hospitalized with COVID-19.
- We received the 2020 National LION Award for Investigative Report of the Year for our story on how California counties are leaving millions of federal dollars for mental health programs on the table, contributing to discrepancies in mental health funding across the state. The same year, we were a finalist for LION awards for Coronavirus Coverage for our reporting on low-wage workers during the pandemic; Best Solutions Project for our story on housing solutions for domestic violence survivors; and Best Coverage for Underserved Communities for our reports on Californians who are are immigrants, foster youth and children with disabilities.
Examples of Our Impact
Domestic Violence Healing and Prevention
We partner with domestic violence survivors to share their lived experiences and help identify paths to healing and prevention.
- Our story on alternatives to calling the police for domestic violence survivors was widely cross-published and led to a 2021 state law that is funding pilot programs on this issue. The story also won multiple awards from the California News Publishers Association. We continue to follow the pilot programs and other alternatives to police intervention.
- Our story on prioritizing housing for survivors of violence and their children has given momentum to the “housing-first movement” and has been referenced by policymakers. The story was cross-published nationally and was a finalist for a LION Publishers award.
- Our reporting on how Native American groups are using traditional practices to counter domestic violence has helped broaden the national conversation to include these perspectives in policy and funding. A related op-ed by one of our Advisory Board members has also influenced policy around helping Native victims of violence.
- Our reporting on how colleges are supporting students leaving abusive relationships has provided a solutions framework for what universities can do to help keep students safe.
- An eye-opening feature about how California officials often lack the resources to take guns away from known domestic violence perpetrators has given impetus to gun-reform legislation. After our story, California leaders enacted Assembly Bill 3129, which created a lifetime ban on owning guns for people convicted of domestic violence. Legislators also approved eight other gun control bills over that summer. We continue to follow this issue.
Racial Justice and Health Equity
Writing about racial justice and health equity is central to our mission. These solutions-driven stories often win awards and influence the national conversation.
- Our award-winning health equity columnist, Denzel Tongue, has shared his family’s story of redlining and how it’s time for housing justice for our Black communities.
- He’s also written about defunding the police, health coverage for undocumented seniors and the racially unjust medical debt crisis.
- In the midst of the pandemic, we wrote about how young adults in foster care were faring, and offered ways to help. This was also a racial justice issue, because Black and Native American children are three times more likely to be in foster care than white children.
- We wrote about how some California counties were continuing to illegally levy juvenile legal fees, hitting low-income families of color hardest. To the best of our knowledge, counties have since stopped levying these fines.
- Early in the pandemic, we were among the first to report on how Asian Americans were experiencing a spike in racism, and we offered solutions. Much of this reporting was later echoed by the national media.
- During the pandemic, we wrote about how allowing those with food stamps to shop for groceries online could help close equity gaps. Online grocery purchasing with food stamps has since expanded.
- We’ve written about disparities affecting pregnant people, and how midwives are working to end them.
- In 2018, we wrote about how doctors often fail to listen to Black mothers, increasing risks for them and their babies. Many news reports have since cited our story, including Romper.
Water Justice in the Central Valley
For the past three years, we’ve focused on how Californians living in the Central Valley, many of whom are people of color from low-wealth communities, can have access to clean water — a basic human right.
- We’ve collaborated with the Institute for Nonprofit News and other newsrooms nationwide on two investigative projects. Our latest story tells about a town that has a carcinogen in the water and asks why officials have been so slow to implement solutions, which are discussed in the piece. Our first story looked at a town near Bakersfield where the water has high levels of arsenic and other contaminants. We partnered with the South Kern Sol, a Spanish-language news site, to translate and publish the stories. As a result of this reporting, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation aimed at expediting water repairs.
- Early in the pandemic, we wrote about how COVID-19 was impacting those who don’t have access to clean water in their homes. The story was cross-published widely, including by Spanish-language media, and picked up by public radio. Soon after its publication, California officials began a water delivery program to the area we wrote about. The story was part of a group that was a finalist for a LION Publishers award.
Disability Rights and Equity
We write about how to make our society more inclusive of people with disabilities and their families.
- Our stories on how racial justice intersects with disability justice have helped ensure these families are included in policy and community conversations. Our story on how families are fighting racism and disability discrimination won two awards from the California News Publishers Association in 2021.
- For the past four years, we’ve been writing about how California centers that serve those with disabilities spend less on Spanish-speaking families than English-speaking families, an equity issue that has broad repercussions for these families. Our stories explore solutions, and we continue to follow this issue. These stories are widely cross-published.
- We’ve written about how growing up is hard, especially for people with disabilities, helping to illustrate solutions for this population. This story will be published in a forthcoming anthology for college students published by McGraw Hill.
- An investigative story revealed that some long-term care facilities kept medically-fragile children from seeing their families for more than a year, citing COVID-19 concerns. Our story offered solutions for future lockdowns and health considerations.
- Early in the pandemic, we were the first to write about how supply shortages meant medically-fragile children weren’t able to get the equipment they needed. Months later, we followed up and found that our reporting had contributed to some improvements, but more were needed.
- Jennifer McLelland is our disability rights columnist, who writes regularly about raising a child with special health care needs and what solutions could help families like hers. She’s written about how the COVID vaccine is a health equity issue and how we should improve infrastructure for people with disabilities.
- In 2016, we wrote about how parents and advocates of children with special needs were fighting to ensure the children could keep their doctors when the state changed their insurance program. Later that year, California enacted a law enabling the children to stay with their doctors for the next year.
Climate Change and Solutions
Our reporting ensures that communities of color and low-wealth Californians are included in climate change discussions and solutions.
- We collaborated with The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and newsrooms across the country to investigate how disasters are affecting mental health. This award-winning story was published by Mother Jones, among many other outlets.
- We were among the first to write about how California’s power blackouts and wildfires are impacting people with disabilities, and to suggest solutions, some of which are being implemented by state and county officials. We continue to follow this issue.
We’ve been a leader in reporting on how communities of color and low-income Californians are affected by environmental hazards, and we always focus our reporting on solutions.
- We were among the first to write about how wildfires affect undocumented Californians. Our reporting led to several aid programs and a state disaster relief fund for this population
- We wrote about how California banned the pesticide chlorpyrifos, but how farmworkers continued to be exposed. Recently, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would also ban the pesticide.
- A story profiled an Oxnard community that is fighting pollution from a port expansion, giving voice to an underrepresented group and leading to a shift in the larger conversation about air quality and port locations.
- We wrote about a community that was trying to prevent a third fossil-fuel power plant from being built near homes. Shortly after the story ran, three state lawmakers urged the Energy Commission to reevaluate the Oxnard project, citing social justice concerns mentioned in our story. In 2018, the energy company announced that it would withdraw the proposal to build the power plant. A new state law now requires the Coastal Commission to consider the environmental impacts on vulnerable communities when making decisions.
- In 2016, we wrote about how a state bill that would have granted farmworkers overtime pay failed by four votes. However, legislators resurrected the proposal a few weeks later, it passed and was signed by the governor.
We shine a light on how Californians who speak languages other than English are too often not given proper translation services in hospitals, doctors offices or with medications.
- In the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, our reporter wrote how hospitals often were failing to provide translation services for patients who speak indigenous languages. This story was translated into Spanish and cross-published widely.
- Early in the pandemic, we were among the first to write about how community groups were serving as a lifeline to residents who spoke languages other than English, providing them with essential information when no one else was.
- In 2014, we wrote about how many pharmacies in California did not provide translated instructions with prescriptions for people who don’t speak English, despite the fact that 44 percent of the state’s population spoke a language other than English at home. Our reporting helped spur a state law that now requires pharmacists, upon request, to provide medication instructions in the five most common languages in California after English.
Mental Health Access
We’re a leader in writing about how to remove barriers to mental health care, particularly for people of color and those enrolled in the state’s low-income health program, Medi-Cal.
- An award-winning investigative story we wrote showed how California counties are leaving millions of federal dollars on the table that could be used to fund mental health care. After our story, some counties made significant progress in applying for the funding. We continue to follow this issue.
- We wrote about how therapists want to provide affordable mental health care, and illustrated solutions. This has been a top story on our site, helping to influence policy.
- We’ve written about how there aren’t enough doctors to treat low-income mothers with depression and anxiety, and offered ideas to help.
- A profile of a family with a medically fragile child who also needed mental health care was a solutions story that showed how providers can meet both needs.
- Early in the pandemic, we wrote about the mental health impacts of isolation, and how calls and texts to mental-health hotlines were surging. Our early pandemic reporting helped influence the mainstream media’s coverage.
- Our investigative series detailed how California is failing to provide needed mental health care to low-income children. The Institute for Nonprofit News listed the story as one of the most remarkable nonprofit news stories in 2018.
Access to Health Care for Low-Income Communities
We’re often the first to report on how health care policies impact Californians who are enrolled in the state’s low-income health program, Medi-Cal, or who lack health coverage.
- For years we have been reporting on how racism affects health, and discussing solutions.
- After a months-long investigation, we discovered that directories of doctors given to low-income patients across California were highly inaccurate, making it difficult for them to get the health care they’re entitled to under state law. Our investigation spurred a state audit – which backed up our reporting – and led to a California law that now requires insurers to update their lists of doctors weekly. We continue to follow this issue.
- We wrote about how children, many of whom are low-income, are missing out on developmental services because of the state’s labyrinth system.
- We wrote about a tech project that is aiming to reduce disparities in who can access electronic health records.
- Early in the pandemic, we were among the first to write about how it was impacting low-wage workers who didn’t have sick pay. State and federal officials later instituted mandatory sick pay for these workers.
- In 2015, we reported that the Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal health plans in Alameda, Contra Costa and Kings counties had consistently failed the state’s quarterly assessments by scoring below 40 percent. Alameda and Contra Costa’s plans had been below the minimum performance level since 2011. Our reporting led to improvements, and all three health plans are now above the minimum level.
- In 2014, we reported that the agency that oversees Medi-Cal had seen an 82 percent increase in complaint cases that year, and the office that handles the complaints was not equipped to manage the complaint volume. Our reporting spurred a state audit, and in 2015, the California State Auditor found that Ombudsman office was understaffed and had a telephone system that couldn’t handle the volume of calls it received. The office said it would upgrade its phone system and improve data collection. In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 97, which requires the office to to release quarterly reports with data from calls and emails.
- In 2014 we reported that the office that handles complaints about health plans for low-income Californians hadn’t produced a quarterly report since September of the previous year, despite seeing a huge increase in enrollment due to the Affordable Care Act. This story spurred state legislators to question the agency about the quarterly reports, and since February 2014 the agency has produced quarterly reports on schedule.
- We discovered through a public records request in 2014 that the California agency that oversees the state’s low-income health plan vastly overstated the number of doctors who accepted patients through the program in 2013, even as the number of people enrolled was set to skyrocket under the federal Affordable Care Act. After our questioning the state said it would update the list. We continue to follow this issue.
- In 2014, after a months-long investigation, we discovered that directories of doctors given to low-income patients across California were highly inaccurate, making it difficult for them to get the health care they’re entitled to under state law. Our investigation spurred a state audit and led to a California law that now requires insurers to update their lists of doctors weekly.
We write about children’s health from a solution’s focused lens, and our Doctor’s Notes column helps bridge the gap between the clinic and the community.
- Our columnists have written about postpartum depression, California’s marijuana law, children with autism, gun violence, youth suicide, dating violence, fear of deportation and many other topics.
- Pediatrician ChrisAnna Mink wrote about her experiences caring for LGBTQ children in Los Angeles’ foster care system, and the unique challenges they face. The Center for American Progress cited our story in their report on how discrimination against LGBTQ parents hurts children in the system.
- In 2017, we wrote about how youth with mental illnesses were sometimes detained in juvenile hall interminably, without proper care. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1214, which gives timelines and rules for young people who are mentally incompetent to stand trial.
- In 2013, we wrote about how a number of California nursing mothers had had their requests for a breast pump denied by their insurance companies that year, a violation of the then-new Affordable Care Act. Our reporting helped to usher in change in the insurance process, and insurers now readily provide breast pumps for nursing mothers.