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About AHCJ: General News

AHCJ seeks consistency in medical meeting policies for news media coverage Date: 03/18/10

March 18, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Felice Freyer, chairwoman, AHCJ Right-to-Know Committee; felice.freyer@cox.net, 401-277-7397

Len Bruzzese, AHCJ Executive Director, 573-884-5606, bruzzesel@missouri.edu

A previous version of this news release said that eight medical groups have policies that ban photography and recording at their meetings. In fact, only four have outright bans. Other groups have varying levels of restrictions.  

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Association of Health Care Journalists has asked medical organizations to end  policies that bar journalists from recording or photographing the meetings where new scientific research is presented. 

Such policies make it difficult for journalists to provide complete and accurate information to the public. Most medical societies do not bar recording and photography.

"At medical society meetings, speakers often present extensive methods and volumes of data at a rapid pace," said letters to the medical groups from AHCJ. "It is not physically possible to write fast enough to get it all down.  It is easier for everyone, including your staff and presenting researchers, if writers can record and photograph what they need."

The letters note the difficulties that these stringent policies create for all concerned. Writers have to chase down speakers after the fact, the press room staff has to connect speakers with reporters who need to clarify information, and speakers have to take time to repeat what they had already said.

"We understand the need to protect copyrights and proprietary information, and to avoid disruption of meetings," said AHCJ President Charles Ornstein. "But medical groups can achieve those goals without making it so hard for reporters to do their jobs."

The American Heart Association is cited as a group with rules that work. AHA requires reporters to obtain credentials, ask for permission and sometimes have an escort before they make recordings or videotapes. These more reasonable restrictions still allow reporters to get what they need to report fully and accurately. (See the AHA guidelines.)

"AHCJ members just want to get it right," said Felice J. Freyer, chairwoman of the AHCJ's Right-to-Know Committee. "I don't see how any medical group could object to that." She credits longtime journalist Daniel Keller for leading AHCJ's efforts on this issue. He will be involved in working with the medical organizations to arrange mutually beneficial guidelines.

These organizations ban photography and recording at their meetings:

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • The American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy
  • The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • The American Society of Nephrology

The Association of Health Care Journalists represents about 1,000 health journalists from around the United States and the globe. It holds national and regional training sessions, hosts an extensive Web site of reporter resources and provides networking opportunities for reporters, editors and producers wishing to learn from each other. AHCJ has taken the lead in calling for openness in health care and its professional standards are cited as a model in avoiding conflicts of interest.