Impressions from around the conference #ahcj13

Sally Abrahms

About Sally Abrahms

Sally Abrahms is an independent journalist in Brookline, Mass. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-Healthier Beat Fellowship, which is supported by the Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

After learning about the flaws in hospital ratings in one of Thursday’s sessions, I feel confident presenting my equally unscientific study of participants’ views — so far, from day one — of the conference.

As the reporter, I feel entitled to be the first to comment. The sessions were, blissfully, social media-heavy. Pros from the Boston Globe, Boston University’s journalism program and other experts showed participants how to find sources and stories, stay informed about trends, create multimedia graphics for posts, and follow health care thought leaders through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Good move, AHCJ committee! The standing-room-only audiences seemed eager to learn about tools and websites and hear tips. New websites to me: Newsu.org, timetoast.com, infogr.am, topsy.com and thinglink.com.

Millicent Ozdaglar, the special projects manager at KCRA-Sacramento, Calif., shared tips she gleaned from Adrienne Lavidor-Berman, the social media producer for Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com. Make social media part of your workday. Perhaps start the morning with Twitter and Facebook:

  • “Like” business, community and health websites
  • Engage by retweeting and make comments on tweets

Seem elementary? “I have never really engaged in Twitter,” Ozdaglar said. “As a field producer, I touch base with my local go-to contacts, but haven’t diversified my contacts.”

One fellow more comfortable online is 21-year-old Truman State University student Rebecca Smith. “The sessions were helpful to some,” said the communications and chemistry double major, who wants to pursue science journalism. “But, I’ve lived in a world of social media my whole life.”

She was impressed by the hospital ratings session. Smith had been speaking with Richard Asinof, a first-time attendee who writes for the Providence Business Journal.

What Asinof had hoped to find at the conference:

  1. A list of attendees and their contact information — I second that!
  2. A way to meet others who cover similar beats
  3. A session on the business of health care

“But for me,” Asinof said, “the value is not necessarily in the sessions but the connections, conversations and interactions” with other attendees.