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McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarships awarded

Medill graduate students will report on preparedness for the next global pandemic in the aftermath of the Ebola virus.

June 30, 2015

Medill has named eight McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship recipients to participate in an innovative 11-week reporting program in fall 2015, based out of Medill’s Washington news bureau.

They will spend three months on an investigative and enterprise multimedia project that focuses on whether the United States and the global community are ready for a worldwide health emergency, ranging from another Ebola-type virus to a full-blown pandemic that could potentially kill millions of people. It will be done in conjunction with professional media partners, including VICE News.

The graduate students selected to receive $7,500 McCormick scholarships are Dawnn Anderson, Adriana Cargill, Tanni Deb, Ezra Kaplan, Nicole McGee, Aditya Prakash, Lydia Randall and Kulwant Saluja.

The reporting team will be supervised by Josh Meyer, director of education and outreach for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative and Medill’s McCormick Lecturer in National Securities Studies.

“This is a fantastic team of highly skilled and talented young journalists, and I’m excited to work with them on an issue of such huge national -- and international -- importance,” said Meyer, a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times who joined Medill in 2010. “Given that the Ebola virus raised serious questions about holes in the global disease surveillance and response safety net, this topic couldn’t be more timely.”

Ellen Shearer, William F. Thomas Professor of Journalism and co-director of the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, said she is “thrilled by the possibilities for great reporting and storytelling that this terrific group of students affords us.”

This year’s effort will be the sixth in which Medill collaborates with national media partners to publish a project across all media platforms while emphasizing the use of innovative multimedia and interactive journalistic techniques.

The project, formally known as the National Security Reporting Project, will focus on whether governments and health organizations are taking appropriate steps to respond to a fast-moving and potentially catastrophic virus or other communicable disease. Experts have been warning for years that the lack of U.S. preparedness and funding for responding to emerging global health problems, including Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the avian flu, are helping create one of the most urgent security threats the world has ever seen.

Despite being contained relatively quickly, last year’s devastating Ebola outbreak raised serious questions about whether an effective system of surveillance and response is in place, and whether huge advances in technology are being incorporated into that health safety net.

Experts say the conditions are ripe for another pandemic, or mass outbreak of disease across international borders. With globalization and the ease of international travel, the potential for pandemics to spread far, wide and fast is greater than ever, causing widespread death, destruction, economic chaos and political destabilization. Throughout history, such outbreaks have killed between 300 and 500 million people, according to best estimates. Students will travel globally to report out this story in its many forms.

The fifth quarter specialization program in national security reporting, launched in 2010, is part of Medill’s larger National Security Journalism Initiative, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Recent topics have included “Hunger Pains,” a comprehensive multimedia series about problems in the U.S. global food aid program that was done in a collaboration with USA Today, and “Deadly Debris,” about the lethal legacy of U.S. landmines and cluster munitions that remain scattered around the world, which was published by GlobalPost. The first National Security Reporting Project in 2010, “Global Warning,” was on the global security implications posed by climate and environmental change. It was published by The Washington Post, distributed by the McClatchy News Service and won a prestigious national award from the Online News Association. All of the projects have helped students launch rewarding and high profile careers.

For more about the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, check out its website at www.nationalsecurityzone.org.