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KCUR’s Alex Smith awarded prestigious Nieman Fellowship to study health misinformation

The Nieman class of 2023
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
The Nieman Fellowship class of 2023 includes KCUR health reporter Alex Smith.

Smith has worked at KCUR for 16 years, and as health reporter since 2014. As a Nieman Fellow, Smith will study how journalists can effectively address health misinformation without causing it to spread further.

KCUR's award-winning health reporter Alex Smith has been selected to join the 85th class of Nieman Fellows at Harvard University. Through the fellowship, Smith will study how journalists can effectively address health misinformation without causing it to spread further.

Since 1938, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism has accepted more than 1,700 journalists from 100 countries for annual fellowships at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This year's class includes 24 journalists spanning from Myanmar to Ukraine, who will attend classes at the university beginning this fall, in addition to participating in Nieman seminars, workshops and master classes.

"These remarkable journalists are doing essential work, often in constrained or hostile
circumstances, and they are probing industry conventions in need of reimagining,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation, in a statement. “I am honored to welcome them to Harvard and to support their research and innovation."

Smith has been a part of the KCUR family for more than 16 years, and has worked as a health reporter since 2014. His influential journalism on health care policy, disparities and research is regularly featured on NPR, Kaiser Health News and other outlets, including The Washington Post, Scientific American and The Guardian.

"Alex is taking on one of the most significant journalistic challenges of our time, and his uniquely powerful storytelling gifts make him the perfect person to meet this moment,” wrote KCUR director of content-journalism C.J. Janovy in a statement.

“Time and again, his peers have recognized his excellence when it comes to making complex scientific ideas not just understandable for general audiences but actually a joy to listen to. Our entire profession will benefit from this next phase of Alex's work. Even though this means Alex will be leaving Kansas City and KCUR, we're so proud of him."

A man, Alex Smith, wearing a T-shirt and ball cap holds a microphone up to a woman who is wearing a T-shirt and sunglasses.
Alex Smith interviews a subject.

Smith got his start in radio as an intern at New Letters on the Air. He came to KCUR in 2006 to serve as assistant producer for KCUR’s then-magazine show, KC Currents.

Throughout his career, Smith has remained committed to empowering audiences by telling human stories — augmented with research and data — to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us.

His work became especially important as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation in 2020, and he won recognition for stories about the Kansas Health Department underreporting COVID-19 cases and the failure to track outbreaks at Kansas City businesses.

“As his editor for seven years, what’s distinctive about Alex’s brand of journalism is the way he’s able to humanize stories while not losing sight of the fact that anecdotes are not the same as data,” says KCUR health and legal affairs editor Dan Margolies. “He has a wonderful talent for being able to home in on stories that other people are not paying attention to.”

Recently, Smith’s work explored the intersections of climate change and health, the slow rollout of Medicaid expansion in Missouri, and efforts to combat the trauma of gun violence.

He has won two consecutive national awards for excellence in health reporting from the Association of Health Care Journalists, as well as an international fellowship to study the effects of social isolation on health and life expectancy.

In 2017, Smith won the national Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio Television Digital News Association, for a radio feature about a deaf man who regained his hearing through cochlear implants. And in 2018, Smith was awarded a week-long media fellowship at Harvard Medical School to support his reporting on the opioid crisis and pain management.

Karen Campbell is the Director of Institutional Giving & Communications for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at karen@kcur.org.
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