Jessica Ravitz

Freelance journalist and storyteller

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 Bulletin and The Forward.



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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


'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.

Defying the KGB: How a forgotten movement freed a people

December marks the 25th anniversary of a massive rally that helped change the world. The Soviet Jewry movement once enjoyed the support of top-tier politicians, congressional wives, Catholic nuns, actors, musicians and civil rights icons, including Martin Luther King Jr. Now, it stands largely forgotten. If a new coalition has its way, the movement's story will find its place in history books and serve as a model for change in a time when global human rights abuses continue.

CNN Belief Blog
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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


'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.

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?


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.

Her Son Says She Was a Victim of Nursing Home Dumping. A Court Agrees

Gloria Single was 82 and had dementia when the Sacramento nursing facility where she lived with her husband, Bill, sent her to the hospital and, later, barred her from returning — a move often referred to as resident “dumping.” She's since died, but her son is on a mission to make sure what happened to her doesn't happen to others.
A Son Recounts His Mother's Tragic Death

A brain aneurysm and massive stroke did not stop Arline Chesley after she suffered both more than 21 years ago. Then she contracted COVID-19 at her nursing home in Maryland and died, after 17 days on a ventilator. Nine months later, he still struggles to accept her death and mourns that he couldn't give her the funeral she deserved.

AARP Bulletin
A Tale of Two Nursing Homes

As COVID-19 began to roil through nursing homes, facilities across the country scrambled to keep it at bay. They girded themselves for battle against this unprecedented scare with one goal in mind: to protect their residents. How they've fared has varied wildly. Some facilities have emerged unscathed, while others took a beating. This is a look at just two nursing homes, equally committed to those they serve. Their journeys, however, could not have been more different.
Older Adults Share Their COVID-19 Vaccine Stories

Most older Americans in generally good health may not get the vaccine for months. But many of those getting the first vaccinations are older health care workers. After more than nine months of battling the virus, the significance of this turning point isn't lost on them.
These Nursing Home Workers Are COVID's Unsung Heroes

Frontline workers in nursing homes have remained, for the most part, overlooked and underpaid. But they have put their lives at risk to protect the most vulnerable, people who often feel like family.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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
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
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
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.