About AHCJ: General News

Board adjusts scope of exhibit hall Date: 05/01/10

A limited number of trade associations and partisan foundations will be al­lowed to exhibit at next year's AHCJ con­ference under a pilot program approved by the group's board of directors at its April meeting.

The action, one of several key decisions made by the board, came in response to concerns that the exhibit hall could offer a more complete exchange of ideas while not being turned into a commercial ba­zaar.

Fundraising rules governing the as­sociation and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, first adopted in 2004, prevented any sponsorships, grants, exhibitors or advertisements from health-related businesses, trade associations and anyone else with a commercial or lobby­ing interest in health care.

With the growth the organization's ex­hibit space into a rather large networking center, some board members felt excluding trade associations - particularly those that offer useful sources and tools for journal­ists - should be revisited.

Ivan Oransky, M.D., board treasurer, repeatedly sought feedback from mem­bers on AHCJ's electronic discussion list and found that a clear majority favored allowing more groups to exhibit.

AHCJ's board decided to take a cau­tious approach, allowing trade groups and philosophically aligned foundations to apply for a limited number of slots at the conference, explaining what resources and sources they can offer journalists.

Staff will determine how many slots may be available based on the size of the venue and the ability to serve traditional exhibitors. The finance committee will then review applicants for those spots and assign them with an eye toward diversity and what complements the meeting. The pilot will be re-evaluated next year.

The board did not change its policy prohibiting ads or other support from these groups.

"I think the board struck a reasonable balance between our desire for a diversity of voices with our mandate to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest," AHCJ President Charles Ornstein said.

As part of a member-based fundrais­ing effort, board members and the execu­tive director pledged to match conference attendee pledges and donations made during the Chicago conference. The match was to be up to $2,000. Generous attendees came through with $4,301 in cash and pledges.