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Jessica Ravitz

Freelance journalist and storyteller

Location icon United States

If I've learned nothing else in my years of reporting it's that everyone has a story to tell.

For more than a decade, I wrote longform narratives, profiles, first-person pieces and more at CNN Digital. This followed a number of years in newspapers, where most of my time was spent at The Salt Lake Tribune. Along the way, I've been recognized with awards and various fellowships.

My interests are vast, but by virtue of designated beats and needs I've often been drawn to stories related to women, health, faith and quirk. Now, as a freelancer, the doors are wide open -- and I'm excited to explore the writing possibilities both inside and outside traditional journalism.

I'm a proud native of Detroit, but I bounced around the country and globe before putting down roots in Atlanta, where I live with my husband and a goofball mutt named Yogi.

I hold a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

Since leaving CNN at the end of June 2019, I've done some freelancing, spent a few months ghostwriting a book proposal, explored several podcast ideas and revisited some passion projects that have been on the back burner for too long.

Below is a broad sampling of my published work, including freelance pieces that appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AARP.org and The Forward.

Portfolio

AMBITIOUS PROFILES

CNN
03/21/2017
The naked truth

Paulette Leaphart was the perfect hero: a cancer survivor baring her double-mastectomy scars on a 1,000-mile walk to Washington. But then her own words got in the way.

CNN
01/27/2015
Voices of Auschwitz

Liberated 70 years ago, only a fraction of the prisoners at Auschwitz survived. Beaten but not broken, they built new lives, new families. But wartime scars changed them -- and their children -- forever.

CNN
05/19/2012
Saving Aesha

Aesha's story of torture by the Taliban made her the iconic face of the oppression of women in Afghanistan. The world reached out to help, but the fairy-tale ending everyone hoped for has proven elusive. In this exclusive report, CNN's Jessica Ravitz documents the inspiring -- and beguiling -- Aesha and her nearly two-year quest for surgery, stability and a sense of belonging.

STORIES FROM ACROSS AMERICA

CNN
01/24/2017
Where Trump support and Obamacare use soar

Grant County, Nebraska, has the highest rate of Obamacare enrollees in the US. It also voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. A disconnect? Not to residents.

CNN
04/27/2013
Town devastated by fertilizer explosion is guided by the West way

Next to the 24-hour Czech Stop off I-35 in central Texas, travelers line up to get a taste of the pastries and breads that define this community. But to really know West, a small town catapulted into the news last week, you have to venture about half a mile east. There, past the Ole Czech Smoke House selling sausages and the flags flying at half-staff, the people tell the story.

CNN
07/24/2015
A young ballclub barnstorms the Deep South

The Anderson Monarchs, a Philadelphia baseball team that includes Little League phenom Mo'ne Davis, embarks on a bus tour to learn civil rights history.

MATTERS OF FAITH

CNN
04/14/2017
'I had an abortion': Shunning politics, finding a voice

A Boston-area pastor stood in a church parlor talking about abortion -- her abortion. By speaking about a subject so many deem unspeakable, she empowered others to come forward. She says it's always this way.

CNN Belief Blog
06/23/2012
A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...

If the friendship between a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president wasn't so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.

CNN
08/29/2011
For Muslim family, faith complicates grief for loved one lost on 9/11

Mohammad Salahuddin Chowdhury was one of 32 Muslim victims on 9/11. He left behind a daughter and a pregnant wife, who gave birth to their son two days after the Twin Towers fell. If there were a roadmap when it comes to grieving, the family's journey since then was unmarked.

CNN
03/23/2011
Road trip to the end of the world

If you thought you had less than three perfectly healthy months to live, what would you do? This group of faithful ambassadors hopped in a caravan of RVs to warn people about the end of the world.

SOMETIMES I GET PERSONAL

CNN
06/07/2014
Indian Awakenings

It's been a Hindu holy spot for millennia and a spiritual playground for Westeners since the Beatles put it on the map. CNN's Jessica Ravitz came to Rishikesh to try her hand at everything it offers. What she didn't see coming: How this place and its people helped her find wholeness.

CNN
11/19/2017
Honoring the soundtrack of my mother's life

As my mother lay dying last September, we surrounded her with song. Music had filled her life and often our household. Now it became our way to connect with her, when her deteriorating brain allowed for little else.

THE TOLL OF GUN VIOLENCE

CNN
01/10/2018
Shots rang out, and three lives collided

Three bullets hit Rachel Sheppard when a gunman opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas. A stranger and a woman she barely knew saved her -- and changed them all.

CNN
08/12/2016
The forgotten victims of gun violence

When children are killed by guns, the voices of the young brothers and sisters left behind are seldom heard. Theirs is the untold story of this American tragedy.

MY WORK ISN'T ALWAYS SO HEAVY

CNN
10/04/2013
'I'm the original voice of Siri'

Susan Bennett of suburban Atlanta says she is the voice of the original U.S. version of Siri on Apple's iPhone. CNN's Jessica Ravitz wasn't looking for Siri when she found her by chance.

CNN
12/13/2015
Meet the Gnomist: A force for good

She created a magical forest in a Kansas suburb. Her artistry touched the lives of others and sparked a short film. But who is she and what's she up to now?

WOMEN'S ISSUES AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

CNN
02/25/2019
They had abortions late in their pregnancies. These are their stories

Women who've had abortions later in their pregnancies are "bonded in a sisterhood through a club nobody ever wanted to be a part of," one woman said. Strangers have called them monsters, trolled them on social media and said their living children should be taken away.

RECENT FREELANCE PIECES

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
04/26/2020
A caretaker's dilemma

Hoke Edward "Ed" Benton is part of the first generation of people with Down syndrome who are reaching old age. But their newfound longevity is ushering in a host of challenges, including higher rates of physical health issues and dementia. As they begin to outlive their parents, many families are grappling with devastating questions: Who will care for them? And how will they pay for it?

Smithsonian Magazine
12/01/2019
These Scientists May Have Found a Cure for 'Bubble Boy' Disease

Approximately one in 40,000 to 100,000 infants is born with "bubble boy" disease, a rare genetic disorder that leaves patients without functioning immune systems. A simple cold can be deadly. Research scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, may have discovered a cure.

Smithsonian Magazine
12/09/2019
Honoring the Legacy of Brian Sorrentino

Brian Sorrentino, a hematologist and gene therapy researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, made it his life’s mission to cure a rare disorder known as the "bubble boy" disease. His widow reflects on his pioneering work and her late husband.

The Forward
01/02/2020
In Atlanta, the anti-Semitic flier wasn't real. The fear was.

On Monday, the Atlanta Jewish Times published an article about a flyer - featuring swastikas, a rat adorned with a Star of David and language denying the Holocaust - supposedly distributed in the city's Orthodox neighborhood. On Tuesday, the story was debunked.

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