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About AHCJ: General News

President’s Corner: You don’t have to fear missing out; take advantage of AHCJ’s resources Date: 09/24/18

By Ivan Oransky, M.D.

Raise your hand if you’ve had the pleasure of listening to Karl Stark’s annual AHCJ conference session on hospital finances. Equal parts education and standup, 80 or so packed minutes will leave you laughing but also much-better equipped to report on your local hospital, on a national hospital chain, or frankly on financial issues at any nonprofit.

Well, if you’re now experiencing a sense of FOMO — that’s “fear of missing out,” for those of us not up on the latest lingo — AHCJ has now bottled Stark and put him online. OK, not exactly, but head to hospitalfinances.org to see what I mean. There, you can, as I just did, look up your local hospital to find out its budget, how much charity care it provides, how much it pays its CEO, whether members of the board of directors have financial relationships with the hospital, and much, much more. You can even search for just those hospital officials who make more than $1 million, if that’s your bag.

The site is yet another way AHCJ is creating tools for our members, and increasing transparency. All of that information — collected by mining hospitals’ 990s — is freely available to the general public as well as to our members, thanks to generous funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The site — which we’ve wanted to create for a while, ever since we rolled out hospitalinspections.org, where you can find Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspection reports — took a village, from Karl as expert guide to special projects director Jeff Porter and a team of programmers.

Speaking of taking a village, Health Journalism 2018 in Phoenix went swimmingly. More than 700 of us gathered in Arizona for a fantastic mix of panels, hands-on sessions, and keynotes. I hope you found yourself as humbled, alarmed, and inspired as I did by our speakers — and by our fellow members. What a treat to celebrate our 20th anniversary as an organization, complete with a slideshow featuring one Al Gore, and a trivia quiz on our historic highlights. For me, our annual meeting is like a summer camp reunion, but with only people I really want to see.

Here’s a quick sampling of quotes from attendee evaluations:

“This is the most worthwhile event I attend every year. I always learn a lot from the sessions, but also learn from the other health reporters I meet. I left the conference inspired, energized, and with a list of fresh story ideas.”

“I always find the panels and speakers to be engaging and thought-provoking, and the PitchFest has brought me new work. But I am most impressed by the wonderful support and encouragement I get from fellow freelancers. I work in a home office with no co-workers, so this is my chance to have colleagues--and they couldn’t be better. I look forward to it every year.”

“This is one of the best journalism conferences out there and well worth the money and time away.”

“I loved this conference. As a student, this conference helped me think about health care and reporting and how important these issues are. I loved the inclusivity of the conference, because there were so many people at different experience levels that it made me feel as though I could relate to anyone there without feeling intimidated.”

I’m delighted that we can continue to offer this kind of career development experience for our members.

So what’s on tap for the fall? In October, we’ll be holding our first urban health workshop in 10 years, in New York. The workshop is just one of several training opportunities this fall, including the AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research and the National Cancer Reporting Fellowship.

Can’t make any of our in-person events? Don’t worry, healthjournalism. org is more vibrant than ever. Did you know that we now have eight core topics, from aging to social determinants of health care? Or that if you’re a freelancer, you can sign up to appear in the AHCJ freelancer directory, showcasing your experience, clips, and areas of expertise? Head over to the site for much more, including news about how AHCJ is advocating for your right to know.

Of course, mark your calendars — if you haven’t already — for May 2-5 for Health Journalism 2019 in Baltimore.

Ivan Oransky, M.D., president of AHCJ’s board of directors, serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute. He blogs at Retraction Watch, which he co-founded.