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Journalism fellows promise in-depth portrayal of aging in a diverse America

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and New America Media (NAM) have selected 16 reporters for the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, now in its second year. They represent a wide range of mainstream and ethnic media, from Forbes to Mother Jones and from Univision Arizona to Korea Daily Atlanta.

The fellows will convene during GSA's Annual Scientific Meeting scheduled for November 18 to 22 in Boston and tap into over 500 presentations and 3,500 expert attendees to develop a major aging-focused story or series.

These proposed projects, to be published in 2012, will span such concerns as seniors drowning in debt, the growing number of prisoners aging in solitary confinement, the struggles of Iraqi and Afghan refugees in the U.S., and African American families facing Alzheimer's disease.

"This conference will present a comprehensive look at aging, from lifestyle issues to lifespan research to today's debates over the future of Social Security and Medicare," said GSA Deputy Executive Director Linda Harootyan, MSW. "Our new fellows will serve a vital role by cultivating public awareness of these issues."

The fellowship program funded by a $100,000 grant from the MetLife Foundation comes just as the first of the 78 million American baby boomers reach age 66, when they become eligible for full retirement benefits under Social Security. The nation's older population will almost double to 70 million by 2030, while by mid-century, the number of ethnic elders will grow to four out of 10 Americans age 65 and up.

"These journalism fellowships will bring critical stories about what it means to age in America to millions, who are getting too little information about an issue that affects all of us. Families need to know that aging affects every generation in every corner of our society, regardless of language or culture," said Sandy Close, founder and executive editor of NAM.

In Boston, the fellows also will report on new discoveries in aging and participate in a day-long workshop, where experts will discuss the latest research and provide insight on key issues facing older Americans. Travel grants also are being provided to allow last year's fellows to participate in the meeting.

Harootyan is co-directing the project with Paul Kleyman, senior editor of NAM's ethnic elders newsbeat. Kleyman is also the founder and national coordinator of the Journalists Network on Generations, which includes more than 1,000 writers on aging.

The new fellows:

Azadeh Ansari (assignment editor/writer, CNN International, Atlanta, Ga.) will produce a video documentary story with written website postings on the struggles of elderly Iraqi Arab and Christian refugees in America, mainly in Dearborn, MI. She was on the CNN team that earned a 2011 Peabody Award for covering the BP oil spill.

Hanah Cho (reporter/blogger, Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Md.) will author "Drowning in Debt," a two-part series on the major financial crisis facing older Americans.

Karla Gmez Escamilla (reporter/anchor, Univision Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.) will produce a series of reports on immigration challenges for Latino seniors.

Kerry Hannon (author/columnist/ broadcaster, Forbes and AARP, Washington, D.C.) will produce a series of three articles on work and retirement of the boomer generation.

Kay Harvey (independent journalist, MinnPost, Woodbury, Minn.), a former reporter on aging for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will write a four-part series on the economic insecurity and health challenges of aging Minnesotans.

Jongwon Lee (editor, Korea Daily Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.) will publish a three-part series on the strain of American traditional ways felt by elders in extended families, especially with family crowding in the current housing crisis.

Pamela MacLean (senior writer,, Larkspur, Calif.) will produce three multimedia articles on mental health issues awaiting aging boomers and their Generation X children. The veteran legal issues reporter will a focus on such developments as diagnostic changes that may affect insurance coverage; uncertain availability of mental health facilities; and legal and law-enforcement concerns, such as protecting mentally incapacitated elders from fraud.

Nadia Maiwandi (community and events editor, India Currents Magazine, San Jose, Calif.) will explore the plight of elderly immigrant women from South Asia, especially Afghanistan, who find themselves dependent on their families and the women who care for them, often while juggling multiple responsibilities both in and outside of their homes.

Araceli Martinez Ortega (Sacramento correspondent, La Opion, Los Angeles, Calif.) will develop a series on the struggles of Latino elders living solely on Social Security, especially those who are parents of incarcerated children.

Andrea Parrott (freelance writer, Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minneapolis, Minn.) will author a three-part series on Alzheimer's disease, with an emphasis on African American families.

James Ridgeway (senior Washington correspondent, Mother Jones, Washington, D.C.), a documentary producer, author/co-author of 16 books, and former political editor of the Village Voice, will concentrate on the rising tide of aging prisoners, especially those aging in solitary confinement.

Rebecca Rivas (staff reporter/video producer, St. Louis American, St. Louis, Mo.) will develop a three-part series on how social media and the Internet affect learning, isolation, and older-worker issues for older African Americans, such as a new breed of entrepreneurial grandmothers using online media to generate income for their families.

Johanes Rosello (reporter, Mundo Hispanico, Norcross, Ga.) will produce a series on language and cultural barriers facing growing population of Latino elders in Georgia, where the Hispanic population has doubled in the last decade.

Paula Spencer Scott (senior editor,, Kensington, Calif.) will produce a five-part series on caregiver syndrome, including what caregivers can do to reduce their heightened risks to their physical and mental well-being, work, and relationships.

Rochelle Sharpe (freelance reporter, New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Boston, Mass.) will investigate declining life expectancy for women in some low-income U.S. regions. Sharpe, who shared a 1991 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and has written for the Boston Globe, Business Week, and many other publications.

Vanessa White (contributing writer, Viễn Đng Daily News, Westminster, Calif.) will author a series titled, "Ethnic Minority Depression: Vietnamese American Community Focus."


Contact: Todd Kluss
The Gerontological Society of America

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